Analytical Spirit Enlivens Catholic Schools

Article excerpt

Byline: Diana Wallace Daily Herald Staff Writer

The Rev. Charles Bolser often has to remind parents that - sometimes to their chagrin - Catholic schools are not what they once were.

"Parents who went to the old school will introduce me to their son or daughter and say, 'He'll straighten you out,'" said Bolser, the president of St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights. "That's the image they have of Catholic schools, that, 'By God, we'll make them toe the line.'"

"But that's not our task," he said. "Our task is to invite our students - and I use the word 'invite' intentionally - to look at the human spirit."

Exploration of the human spirit is, indeed, a far cry from the stereotypes that portray Catholic education as a way of inculcating children into subservience through strict authoritarianism, the inducement of guilt and the suppression of individuality.

And while some parents may be surprised by the relative openness of schools like St. Viator, it's also these changes that have helped Catholic education remain vital, relevant, and an attraction for a growing number of non-Catholic parents.

Sure, many parents who choose Catholic education for their children say they've done so because, as Tracy Teah of Rolling Meadows said, "I feel like he's getting a far better direction, more of a structured-type upbringing."

Teah and fellow St. Colette's School parent Robert Vavrik of Palatine also said they like the freedom Catholic schools have to address issues of religion that are banned in public institutions.

Educators say parochial schools not only allow discourse on such issues, but are more open about them than ever before.

In the Contemporary Catholic Issues course at St. Viator, for example, no viewpoint is left unexplored, said instructor Jeanne Sattler. …