Too Apologetic: An Open Letter to a University Admissions Office

Author’s note: I started writing this article over three years ago. It’s been sitting in my drafts folder ever since. I have removed all identifying information about the university in question and respectfully request that any comment-box discussion does the same; I am considering forwarding this to the university administration so that they can plan future admissions events with this in mind. But as college-tour season is in full swing, this has been on my mind lately. I wanted to publish it and invite discussion.

When I take a high-school student to visit a Catholic college, I don’t expect the tour guides to genuflect at every statue in the quad. That’s just not reasonable.

It’s also not reasonable for a student tour guide at a Catholic university to stand in the chapel with a group of high-school seniors and their parents and say, “We don’t force religion on you here, except for the 2 or 3 religion classes everyone has to take.”

Why is this university apologizing, through its tour guides, for its Catholic character–a Catholic character which is evident not only in the statues on campus and religious art in the classrooms, but in its huge commitment to community service and in the presence and participation of an impressive number of Religious who are not only professors but also administrators, counselors, support staff, and (in some cases) dormitory dwellers?

Doing so weakens the very foundation upon which Catholic education is built. Excuses should never be made for offering religion classes, community-service opportunities and religious services or for encouraging students to take part in them.

Perhaps our tour guide, who was quite competent in the art of giving a tour and in her knowledge of the University, its history, and what it offers, was acting on her own when she made this statement. I certainly hope that this is the case, because I would hate to think that a university with a long history of Catholic character and community service that encompasses all the corporal and spiritual works of mercy would deliberately downplay the very character that makes the University stand out among the other institutions of higher learning in the same city.

The University’s Catholic character is to be celebrated, not swept under the chapel rug. No one expects the University to force religion down its students’ throats, but neither should you pretend that it is not an important part of both academic and community life there.

"Too Apologetic: An Open Letter to a University Admissions Office" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscannmom
NOTE: This campus image is deliberately not from the college described in this article. Photo via Pixabay (2011), CC0 Public Domain.

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This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.
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College Prep

There’s outrage all over the Internet right now over the cancellation of a kindergarten student performance because it would take away instructional time needed for the kids to become “college- and career-ready.”

I’d like to join my voice to the disagreement with the school administration; I’m all about encouraging students to participate in the arts. But I take issue with what a lot of people are saying:

“KINDERGARTNERS ARE GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE?”

Well, yes. Yes, they are. That’s why the arts, and recess, and physical education are so important. College is not all about performance on the SAT or ACT. It’s about using your knowledge, skills, abilities and interests to learn even more.

I had a school principal tell me once that kindergarten students are not preparing for college. That was in response to my concern that my daughter and her classmates were not being taught at all for an entire month while the kindergarten teacher was caring for a terminally-ill parent and the school failed to provide substitute teachers. Instead, whatever grownup (or, in some cases, eighth-grade girl) was available for the next half-hour would babysit the kids. They watched movies and played all day for a month.

Because the principal would not take calls from kindergarten parents and the situation was never addressed, we removed our daughter from that school. Suddenly the principal had time for a meeting with me, in the form of an exit interview. She defended her decision not to provide the class with a substitute teacher by telling me, “It’s kindergarten. It’s not like we’re getting them ready for Harvard.”

wpid-0112141301b.jpgNot surprisingly, that school only lasted two more years before closing due to lack of enrollment. Here’s what the school looked like the last time I saw it.

Schools do need to find a good balance between instructional time, play time, physical activity and the arts–on every level of education. Emphasizing one of these at the expense of the others is disastrous for the students and does no service to society.

Yes; kindergarten students are preparing for college–maybe even Harvard. They do this by learning reading-readiness skills, counting and doing simple math, looking at the clouds in the sky, drawing pictures with sidewalk chalk on the playground, practicing music for a show, and perfecting their kickball skills. It’s all important, and good teachers and principals are needed to keep it all going and support that learning. Like the building blocks the kindergartners use to make towers and castles, the skills the children practice as five-year-olds lay the foundation of the work they’ll do later.

 

Psychic Hotline

Now that she’s a sophomore in high school, Middle Sister’s been getting a bunch of college mail.  Most of it is postcards directing her to visit college websites, but yesterday she got a big envelope with a folder full of papers inside.

That impressed her.  She actually opened it instead of just tossing it aside like she does with the postcards.  She asked me if I knew where this university was, and I told her that it’s near where TheDad works and that one of Big Brother’s friends had gone there, as had the friend’s older brother.

She asked what the friend had studied at this university.

“Psychology, I think,” I replied.

“What IS psychology?” asked Little Brother.

“The study of the mind,” I answered in a fake-mysterious tone.

“He’s gonna be a PSYCHIC?”

If It’s From the Fightin’ Irish, It Can’t Be Junk Mail

Little Brother noticed the pile of junk mail I’d tossed on the table (with the intention of ignoring it for a while before tossing it into the recycling bin.)  “Notre Dame!  You got mail from Notre Dame!”

“They’re just asking for money.  You can throw it out,” I told him.

He misunderstood.  “They’re sending you MONEY?”

“No, they’re asking me for money.  You can go ahead and open it if you want.”

“Why don’t you send them some?” he asked while tearing into the envelope.

“Because right now I send money to your school, Middle Sister’s high school and Big Brother’s college.  I don’t have extra to give to Notre Dame right now.”

Inside, he found a letter and a reply envelope.  He peeked in.  It was empty.

“Awww–a trick envelope!  I hate those!”