Education


I’ve been piecing together the history of Catholic boarding schools for girls in New York City and came across a story about one that opened in South Carolina, “Catholic boarding school came to Greenville in 1900“:

Overwhelmingly Protestant, Greenville probably was not the most welcoming location for a Catholic boarding school, even though the city’s Catholic population was growing thanks to the prospering textile industry. (Religious tolerance was not a local hallmark.)But business leaders rationalized that a Catholic school might attract new white residents or shoppers whose daughters attended the school and who lived on farms or in small towns without a Catholic church or religious instruction for young women.

In fact, women’s education, traditionally ignored in the South, was flourishing. With a population of nearly 12,000, Greenville had three women’s schools with boarding facilities: the Greenville Women’s College, Presbyterian Chicora College, and the Greenville Baptist Female College. And like Sacred Heart, these colleges also offered primary education to both boys and girls and provided both preparatory and “academic” classes.

The boarding school was founded by the Ursulines, a religious order dedicated to educating young women and the first nuns to come to the United States to teach.

If you know about other Catholic boarding schools, especially in the New York City area, please tell me about it—and your experience—here. Looking forward to hearing from you!

I’ve never seen this show, but happened upon this clip in a Google search using the key phrase “boarding school.” Not only is this world so far from my own in New York City, but the description of the boarding school by these two women makes my jaw drop. The place she’s sending her daughter to sounds like a country club. You couldn’t bring a horse to either of the schools I was sent to. Why, we weren’t even allowed to have as much as a dime in our possession. (I was punished for having money–one dime in each of my penny loafers.)

Ever notice that some boarding schools are always referred to as an “elite boarding school”–as if the words were inseparable?  My boarding school certainly wasn’t elite. Mine was Dickensian. But elite or not doesn’t get to the essential question.  Caffeine Court blogs about this particular episode of The Real Housewives of New York City and observes, “I have friends who went to boarding school, and they didn’t like going. Even though the schools were the “best of the best” they felt that their parents sent them away.”  [her italics, not mine]

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In a previous post, I wrote of the decreasing number of Catholic schools in the US. But perhaps one solution might help to continue the educational standards set at these schools. “Mayor and Bishop Propose a Plan to Save Schools,” in The New York Times, Feb.  8, 2009, provides details of  a proposal to turn four Catholic schools in Brooklyn into charter schools. According to the Times, “It would be the first time such a plan was undertaken in New York and could serve as a model for converting other Catholic and private schools.”

I’ll be interested to see how this works. The proposal is in its early stages, with many decisions, etc., to be made. The best outcome would be one that ensures the best education for the children.

Classroom, Notre Dame School, Greenwich Village, NY

Classroom, Notre Dame School, Greenwich Village, NY

In “For Catholic Schools, Crisis and Catharsis” in today’s New York Times, reporters Paul Vitello and Winnie Hu write about the steady decline in enrollment that Catholic schools are experiencing–“more than half from its peak of five million 40 years ago.” They add:

“A series of major studies in the past few years, including one by the White House Domestic Policy Council, have described the dwindling presence of parochial schools as a crisis not just for Catholics but for society.

The losses have already been deeply felt in impoverished urban neighborhoods, where parochial schools have attracted poor and minority students — including non-Catholics — seeking havens of safety and order from troubled public schools. Roughly 20 percent of parochial school students are not Catholic, according to experts.”

I think this issue goes beyond the priest scandals. One reader commented on the NYT’s site: “It is well established that abuse of children is no more common among Catholic priests than ministers and rabbis, but the centralized Catholic system makes it more vulnerable to crippling lawsuits.” Other readers’ posts discuss possible reasons for decreasing enrollment, including financial woes, Americans’ break with the Vatican, marketing, declining number of people entering the priesthood or becoming nuns, etc. In the end, I think it’s some mix of all of the above.

My mother couldn’t afford to send me to private school in Manhattan, but Catholic school was better than going to public schools in the sixties and seventies. I’m a lapsed Catholic–a status I had pretty much by high school–but greatly appreciate the education I received. My last grade school lacked good faculty, but my high school was a superb nurturing environment. In fact, Notre Dame nearly shut down in the late eighties, but ended up selling its Upper West Side property (for a retirement fund for aging sisters) and relocating to Greenwich Village. With the help of alumnae, teachers and parents, the school found a way for it to continue operating. The grade school was run by a parish, while the h.s. was run by an order of nuns. I wonder whether that made a difference.

I’ll have to consider that question and others some more. What do you think?