Jan 23, 2016
Define Your Terms
In our Introduction to Western Philosophy course, we read Plato’s Euthphryo and Plato’s Meno, two dialogues that show the importance that Socrates places on defining the basic terms we use. This thought came to mind recently when I was at a meeting where, when considering the advent of distance, online, for-profit, and other new and non-traditional school models, the very notion “what is a school” took center stage — not as a thought exercise, but as an important question.
Ours is a traditional school; buildings of brick and mortar housing teachers and students who share time and space. But what is a school?
Most important to defining our term ‘school’, it seems to me, is formation and transformation. A school — our school — is a community where students are formed and transformed. Our basic units are called courses, which suggest that when students take them, they arrive, at the end, in a different place. We strive that students be formed and transformed with knowledge and skill. Even wisdom. While there may be many ways to achieve such formation and transformation, we’ll put our stock in the shared time and space inhabited by our excellent teachers and students. Our school = people in formation and transformation.
Mar 9, 2015
Casual but Not-So-Casual
Funny thing happened during a local running event recently. During a long run, I fell into sync with a pair of runners and we started casual conversation. One runner holds an interesting position in the community and was gracious as I peppered him with questions. Naturally, he asked what I did, and I was happy to tell him of my involvement with our school.
We meandered, and after we hit the final 10k, he turned to me and said, “Look, in the interest of full disclosure, I resent private schools. They undermine public education. Also, Catholic schools are based on a fairy tale. After all, religion has done much more harm than good.”
I felt a shot of adrenaline in my gut. Keep your mouth shut. Listen and respond, don’t react, I thought.
He went on. Private schools create social stratification. Religion is responsible for wars and intolerance. America should be a place of equality. It’s ridiculous that people do things based on what one guy said. There’s no proof.
This casual, but not-so-casual conversation, forced me to articulate what we do and why we do it outside the friendly confines of mutual understanding. I explained that Catholic education is different ‘in kind’ from public education; Catholic schools recognize and infuse a supernatural vision into what we do. My companion objected that this does not belong in education. But without God, I said, there can be no true education. How can we divorce the reality of the Creator from knowledge of His creation? I don’t want that, he said. Fair enough, but our families choose this for their children and we are all better for it.
As is often the case, forced together as we were by the miles of pavement, we came to understand one another a bit better. We shook hands as we parted. God gave me a gift that day, a Lenten jolt, and I am grateful. I see this because I believe it.
Casual becomes not-so-casual.
May 26, 2011
That’s A Wrap
Today was a bittersweet day as seniors finished up exams, cleaned-out lockers, received yearbooks, and passed their last school day as JPII students. Bittersweet because the tremendous familiarity and closeness that we share with these 27 students (and families!) has made them essential fabric in the life of the school and we now glimpse life at JPII without them — mixed, of course, with feelings of pride in who they have become and how they will carry this special four years in their bigger adventures that lay ahead.
Many words will be uttered next week putting the experience in perspective For today, it’s feelings.
Sep 16, 2010
Better Than They Found It
My apologies for the long delay since my last post. With the onset of this new, exciting, and historical year at JPII (174 students!), my original intent with this blog — to chronicle these unique years for students, friends and families — has returned to sharp focus. Stay tuned for more frequent posts and this special year unfolds.
The journey undertaken by our first pioneers — the Class of 2011 — reaches its apex this year. The true measure of success in life is found in what we leave behind. In any arena, we can ask if our family, friends, school, and community are better off from our presence; and know that this answer speaks the truth of our efforts.
On our first day of classes this year, seniors were greeted by the theme of 'legacy' — taped to their lockers as a reminder of their pioneering role and spoken of in a special meeting with me. These seniors and all of us in these first four years are charged with leaving a legacy for the untolled students to come. We must leave the school better than we found it. You be the judge.
'Legacy' art (above) designed by Emily Fenuccio, 11.
Apr 17, 2010
What It Takes
Two events this past week at JPII have caused me to think about what it takes.
After a successful first season in football and in the midst of his second (successful) campaign in baseball, JPII coach Paul 'Spanky" Demanche announced his departure to assume new duties at Harwich High School. Later, officials of the newly formed Cape & Islands League selected the graphics package submitted by Emily Fenuccio as the league's official logo image. These occurrences help us see that JPII's graphic design, football, and baseball programs have achieved success at an early age.
From these, we get a glimpse of what it takes. Programs need the right combination of factors in order to "take off" — a lesson we learn through successes such as these (as well as the occasional slightly-less-than-success!). It takes:
- Right materials and support (Have you seen the Mac lab?)
- Right leadership (expert knowledge and strong communication, traits Mrs. Lyons and Coach Demanche share)
- Right attitude ("This is something I want.")
No guarantee yet, though, because the 'actually doing it' of a new enterprise converts vaguely dreamy notions to the work it really is ("This isn't what I expected!"). So the critical fourth component:
- Right commitment. Starting from scratch takes a stick-to-it-iveness from all involved in order to get past inevitable early struggles.
So this week I've been looking at football, graphics, and baseball and seeing what it takes. Launching new programs provides a laboratory; and for JPII students, the hard-earned knowledge of what it takes gives wisdom for a lifetime.
Dec 29, 2009
So You Think You Know 120 High School Road?
Driven by UberParent Kim Richard, the JPII Spirit Store has grown by leaps and bounds. I’m especially pleased with the two new car stickers now available. The first, a circular sticker of the school seal, will be sent to parents in an upcoming mailing. The second, a collegiate-style, rear-windshield sticker, will be available for purchase.
Or perhaps you’d like to win one on us?
Below are some construction photos. All you have to do is correctly identify the 2009-2010 uses of the photographed spaces, e.g. “School Office.” Go ahead, give it a shot. Leave your answers as a comment on this blog and the first five respondents will 70% correct answers win the bonus sticker.
Good luck…Okay, Okay, I know there are some doozies. So here’s some hints. No answer, except the Chemistry Lab, should be used twice. #8 is a lower level space. #3 is a third floor space. Do your best!
May 9, 2009
“The Poster Child of Former Catholics is a Disaffected Teenager”
There's plenty to chew on when reading "Faith in Flux: Changes in the Religious Affiliation in the U.S." recently released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
[Read the U.S. Catholic Bishops' press release and the full report by the Pew Foundation.]
The report indicates that for those who have left the Catholic faith, more than any one cause or crisis moment, they simply drifted away over time. Most who left did so in their teens and early twenties.
The Center for Applied Research Apostolate put it well: "More often than not its not about teachings, beliefs, or scandals. This is about Youth coming of age and not feeling connected to their faith…The poster child of former Catholics is a disaffected teenager."
This is why Pope John Paul II High School exists. What better argument can there be for healthy, vital Catholic high school education than our critical role in guiding young people to a mature adult faith connected with the life of the Church? Imagine the spiritual confusion or even emptiness when navigating young adulthood without a foundation in our faith and a sacramental life. Reading this study ought to confirm for all of us involved with Catholic education the importance of our mission.
Your comments welcome.
Oct 14, 2008
JPII Loses a Good One
Sad news befell the JP II community as we learned of the death of Mr. Thomas Eagar late last week. Mr. Eagar had been hired to launch the school’s Latin program this past summer. While he became ill in the final week prior to school’s opening, he contacted a friend, Mrs. Maureen Nicholson, to sub for him until his return. Mr. Eagar faced numerous setbacks with courage and genuine faith. Sadly, he lost his battle with cancer on Thursday, October 8, 2008.
For the most part, Mr. Eagar’s association with JP II was brief — so brief that many at the school only met or saw him once. Still, for some of us, we knew a man of deep, abiding faith who wanted greatly to found the Latin program as a gift to the school. While this was not to be, Mr. Thomas Eagar left his mark nonetheless.
Sep 13, 2008
But Then, You Already Knew That…
Ran across a recent, large-scale, international study demonstrating statistically the advantages of Catholic education — for both students and the wider culture.
At a time when Catholic schools can no longer rely on a common, institutional understanding of their advantages ("here comes everyone"), leaders must show and tell what we know from our own experiences and that of our students — that Catholic education is an advantage for life.
See the study here.
Aug 26, 2008
The Forest and the Trees
Sometimes it takes a little stepping back to see the forest for the trees. Time without students in the building makes the hallways, cafeteria, and athletic practice fields look surprisingly different from when we left off in June. It’s not just that our students have grown and matured. It’s that our school has, too.
Today marked the full-day return to classes for JPII students, doubling the size of our school and creating new buzz with the addition of the Class of 2012 and all that they bring. Some major "firsts" will take place soon and I am proud of the young people who will make them happen.
It’s good to be back!