February 3, 2014
The faculty and staff of John Paul the Great Academy are among the most dedicated, compassionate, and hardworking people you’ll find in education today. It is a great privilege for me to be counted among them. Alongside the faculty and staff, the level of commitment and involvement I see constantly from our parents amazes me. This is fitting since you, as parents, are the primary educators of our students.
The partnership between parents and teachers is invaluable. Our school community would be nothing without it. Because of how essential you are to the life of our school, I would like to offer an invitation to you, our parents, and to our faculty and staff, to enter more deeply into this partnership through a series of reflections throughout the upcoming months featured here in the Guardian. My hope is that these reflections will spark a great conversation between parents and faculty about the nature of our roles as co-educators. Upcoming articles will feature topics such as our shared goals of education, approaching assessment through the lens of the Gospel, and helping our children sanctify their study habits. For now, let us begin by reflecting on the role of parents in the education of their children.
Why focus on the role of parents as primary educators? As a teacher, I am concerned with doing my best to help form students to live excellently, to grow deeper in their life with Christ through cultivating their intellect. However, I recognize that my efforts for any one student are second only to the efforts of his or her parents. Out of great love for each student, I want to deepen my commitment to work with you, the parents. Ultimately, these reflections are an invitation for us on the faculty and you as parents to strengthen our commitments to be co-educators so that our children may flourish in their education.
Two quotes are worth prayerful contemplation regarding the role of parents in the education of their children. In his Apostolic Exhortation on the family, Familiaris Consortio, Blessed John Paul the Great writes, “the right and duty of parents to give education is essential…it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others…it is irreplaceable and inalienable and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others.” Here we see Blessed John Paul bringing us face to face with a difficult truth: parents have a more essential role than teachers when it comes to education. As parents, we must be actively involved in the intellectual development of our children.
This is an awesome responsibility and power that we have to profoundly impact the lives of our children. Exercising this power and responsibility not only benefits our children, it greatly benefits us by bringing us into greater unity with Christ. Christ is the model of what it means to be a great teacher. As savior and redeemer, he is also the means of fulfilling our roles as educators, empowering us with the graces we need. He is also the goal of education as the eternal Logos, the Word, the meaning with which our whole existence is directed and the very foundation on which we stand.
There is great joy in this perspective. We do not stand alone. Christ is with us and is the foundation of the partnership we have as co-educators. There must be a sense in which parents and teachers work together for the good of each child. This joyful perspective brings to light the darkness of the modern perspective on education that rejects this idea of parents and teachers being co-educators. On a national scale, parents are abandoning their duty as primary educators placing the entire burden on teachers. The modern temptation is to place the blame on teachers when the primary problem is the deterioration of family life (even though teachers often have their fair share of the blame, the role of the parent remains more essential).
While our community at John Paul the Great Academy rejects this view of education, let us be mindful of how easy it is to be influenced by it. There is nothing that can fill the void in a child’s education left from parents who neglect their responsibility as primary educators. The consequences of neglecting our role as primary educators are severe. So much so that the Declaration on Christian Education from the documents of Vatican II states “their (parents’) role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it.”
Are we doing enough as co-educators? Perhaps. Could we be doing more? Absolutely. With greater unity as co-educators comes greater sanctity in our school community. As a partner in educating your children, I invite you to take greater ownership of this bond we share as co-educators, and to do so in concrete ways. Christ is already sacramentally present on our campus. May He become more present in each of us as we work together to cultivate wisdom and virtue in our children.