Terry McLaughlin: Why a Catholic school education?


Named after the great English writer, philosopher and convert to the Catholic faith, GK Chesterton, the first Chesterton Academy opened in Edina, Minnesota, in 2008.

Today, 33 Catholic schools providing classical education within the Chesterton Schools Network in the United States and Canada, one in Iraq, a sister school in Italy and more than a dozen are expected to open next year.

The good news is that one of these schools will be opening right here in Grass Valley. As many parents in our community are looking for an alternative to public school for their students, the Chesterton Academy of St. Patrick, which will open to high school students in the fall of 2022, may be their answer.

Why a Catholic school education? Catholic schools understand the multidimensional nature of child development and are heavily invested in the well-being of their students. They seek to develop the whole of the child by meeting the human need for physical, mental, social and spiritual nourishment.

Chesterton Academy schools encompass three pillars of training for each student: intellectual, learning what is good; character, forming habits of virtue; spiritual, man is made for more.

They use a proven approach to classical education that has stood the test of time and provides the best and most nutritious food for the mind. Each grade’s teaching builds on the previous one, and the results are that students recognize the order of things and understand cause and effect; think more logically and rationally; become more aware and more sensitive to beauty and truth; and are articulate, far-sighted, well-balanced and, most importantly, cheerful.

Students at Chesterton Academy enjoy a cohesive, content-rich classical education. They enjoy wide exposure to many disciplines, which helps them broaden their interests and capacity for critical thinking. History, literature, philosophy and theology are woven together. The sciences and the humanities are intimately linked so that the logic of mathematics is seen in philosophy.

The program is impressive and rigorous. The first year literature courses will focus on Homer, Aeschylus and Virgil. In their final year, students will have been introduced to Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Goethe, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Orwell and more.

The story begins with the study of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and Persia, ancient Greece and Rome, continues with the beginning of the Middle Ages, the Crusades, the High Middle Ages , Renaissance, Reformation, and Counter-Reformation, and culminates with a focus on Colonization and Exploration, the American Civil War, the Two World Wars, the Communist and Cultural Revolutions, and the Cold War.

In Philosophy, first year students will study Socrates, Plato, and Formal Logic, arriving at the study of Rationalism, Idealism, Liberalism, Utilitarianism, and Marxism in their final year.

The science program will take the student from astronomy and physical sciences to biology, chemistry, and physics, including Newtonian physics, electricity, and magnetism. Mathematics education will include analytical geometry, algebra, trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus, and statistics.

Equal importance is given to language and the arts so that each student gains an appreciation of music and art, and learns to draw and paint, sing in choir, perform on stage, give speeches and participate in debates.

The Chesterton Schools Network has shown incredible resilience during nationwide shutdowns due to Covid-19. As schools across the country closed, nine new Chesterton Schools were opened in fall 2020.

A sign of the growth of the school network came from an unexpected place. Last September, the Chesterton Academy of St. Thomas the Apostle opened in Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

In the summer of 2014, more than 120,000 Iraqi Christians were uprooted from their homes in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain by Islamic State militants and sought refuge in the Archdiocese of Irbil. The archdiocese coordinated emergency aid, housing, education and pastoral care for displaced families.

When Archbishop Bashar Warda d’Erbil heard about the classic Chesterton Academy model, he was determined to introduce it to Iraq as one of the many initiatives he has put in place to help Christians stay in Iraq.

Need more reasons to consider Chesterton Academy of St. Patrick for your student? According to the National Catholic Educational Association, 99% of students in Catholic high schools graduate and 88% percent continue their education at university.

In general, on national and standardized tests, Catholic schools consistently outperform public and other private schools by up to 20 percentage points.

And it’s affordable. Chesterton Academy of St. Patrick strives to keep tuition fees at around $ 7,500 per year, less than half the cost of Jesuit High School in Sacramento.

Our children are the heirs of our future. Overflowing with a natural wonder, joy and zeal for life, they have the brightest hopes and biggest dreams for the world around them.

Catholic schools value their students and strive to create an educational experience in which their students thrive while celebrating learning, developing talents and creating lasting bonds. They understand that our children are the engines and agitators with the power to determine the course of history.

A family information evening will be held on Monday, December 6 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Great Hall of St Patrick’s Church, 235 Chapel Street. All are welcome to attend, regardless of their religious affiliation, and find out more about Chesterton Academy of St. Patrick, coming to Grass Valley in 2022. Or you can visit http://www.caofstpatrick.org , send an email to [email protected], or dial 530-273-2347.

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a bi-monthly column for The Union. Write to him at [email protected].

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