Catholic Education is Not the Same Thing as Catholic Schooling

I sometimes hear people speak about "Catholic education" in a way that makes me think that they have in mind what I would call "Catholic schooling."

If we are in fact using two different terms to discuss the same thing, there's some confusion present in the current usage. I'm fully prepared to conclude that it might be me who is confused about something. 

But let me first lay out some of what I'm thinking, so that readers can help me sort things out in the comment boxes.

At the end of it all, maybe I'll see that I'm the one who's confused, or maybe this little post will help work towards eliminating a sloppy way of speaking (i.e., simply equating Catholic education with Catholic schooling) by making readers more aware of the potential confusion.

The Proposition and Its Implications

First, I think the following is a reasonable proposition:

Catholic education is not the same thing as Catholic schooling.

Second, I think that that reasonable proposition has some implications for practical decision-making:

  1. You can send your kid to a Catholic school, but that does not necessarily mean that your child will receive a Catholic education.
  2. Your child can receive a Catholic education even if your child does not attend a Catholic school.

For personal reasons, that second proposition is more interesting to me. So here are some additional elaborations of that proposition:

  • You can send your kid to a Great Hearts School as part of that kid's Catholic education.
  • You can homeschool your kid as part of that kid's Catholic education.
  • You can send your kid to a district-based public school as part of that kid's Catholic education.

Some of My Reasons for Thinking This Way

Why do I think all of the above? 

Well, here are some attempts to express my sense of the terms "education" and "schooling":

The Term Education

  • Education is a broader, messier, more natural process than schooling. 
  • Education happens at all hours of the day and night.
  • Education happens in all sorts of places.
  • Education happens for a lifetime.

The Term Schooling

  • Schooling is a more specific activity than education (in fact, schooling tends to be a part of a person's education); schooling is structured and deliberate (when it's being done well); and schooling is artificial (in the sense that it's not spontaneous: it's happening because someone is directing the activity of schooling).
  • Schooling happens at specific, preset times.
  • Schooling happens within organizations (and usually within institutions).
  • Schooling happens for a relatively brief period (from the age of 5 or 6 to the age of 18 or 22).

As soon as I lay out the above, it seems very clear to me that my original proposition is true and sensible: 

Catholic education is not the same thing as Catholic schooling.

Is There a Controversy Here?

Here's another way of expressing it:

A person can receive a Catholic education outside the context of Catholic schooling.

Is that controversial? It doesn't feel controversial.

Well what about this one:

You can send your kid to a Great Hearts School as part of that kid's Catholic education.

Is that controversial? It feels like that could be a little more controversial. But why?

Parents as the Primary Educators

None of this seems kooky. It seems rooted in what I take to be a solid Catholic principle:

The parents are the primary educators of the child.

Here's my authority for that proposition:

"The fruitfulness of conjugal love extends to the fruits of the moral, spiritual, and supernatural life that parents hand on to their children by education. Parents are the principal and first educators of their children. In this sense the fundamental task of marriage and family is to be at the service of life." (Catechism of the Catholic Church at ¶ 1653)

Conclusion: Let Me Hear From You in the Comments

Please let me know in the comments if anything I've written above seems to you false, incomplete, or imprudent.

If I hear nothing, I'll presume that the Internet unanimously consents to the truth and practical wisdom of my words.

Jamie Hanson