A once-vital Catholic school is now is steep decline.
I am a teacher at a small Catholic school, where I have taught for over 15 years. During that time I have seen a massive demographic shift in the student population. As you might expect, the effects have been mostly—and significantly—negative. This shift closely mirrors the overall trends in our society in terms of its effects on group behavior and identity, and the future of our country.
The school has been around for more than half a century, in what is now a racially mixed suburb. For most of its history, it was attended by children from the parish. The community was very tight-knit. It was common for a teacher to educate two or even three generations of the same family. When children became friends their parents often became friends. School events such as banquets, festivals, cooking competitions, and fish fries were major social events for parents and students alike. Most of the families attended church together, and priests stayed at the church for years. Most of the students who did not attend our church were still Catholic; they came because their neighboring parishes did not have their own schools. The student body was overwhelmingly white—usually 90 percent or more—and most non-white students were Asians. Some of the black students were African Catholics, but most were American blacks who lived nearby.
The curriculum focused on what were traditionally core subjects in Western education, with a focus on college preparation. Graduates could write well, and were usually well-versed in the Catholic catechism. Of course, students wore uniforms: skirts and blouses for the girls, dress shirt and tie for the boys, dress shoes for both. Students looked clean-cut and respectable, and were easily identifiable in public. Discipline was relatively tight, and students with poor manners were corrected.
An important feature of the parish—both the church and its school—was that it was largely self-sustaining. Most of the families were working-class, but so many people attended mass that small donations covered operating expenses. Since many of the men in the parish were skilled workers, they did carpentry, electrical work, and landscaping at cost, or donated their time and resources for free. They advertised their businesses on the paper book covers we gave out to students, and in the church bulletin. Tuition was relatively low, and was affordable for working people. Tuition breaks were offered to families who enrolled more than one child, and tuition assistance was available for parish families that really needed it. It was a genuine community as defined by the Oxford Dictionary: “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common; a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”
That all changed.
Around the time that I began teaching, our principal, an avowed leftist, hired a new business manager. His responsibilities included recruiting students, establishing partnerships with local businesses, and coaching basketball. Of the three, the last was his main focus. His interest in producing a winning basketball team came first, and he began recruiting the “basketball demographic.” He camouflaged his recruiting with rhetoric about “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “reaching out.” Our liberal principal ate it up, and what the faculty jokingly refers to as “the integration” began.
Large numbers of black students enrolled. Many were poorly educated and well behind their white classmates. Virtually none was Catholic, or even went to church. They had come from schools in the city, which are little better than detention centers. Many had either failed a grade or two or their parents had held them back to give them an advantage in sports. Black children tend to start puberty earlier than white or Asian children, and since they were already older, they dwarfed their classmates. Some of these black boys were raised in the roughest parts of the city, and bullying became relatively common.
The school is noticeably different now. The hallways are packed with black students, standing around and blocking everyone else’s passage, oblivious to what is going on around them. They yell rather than talk, in the hallways but also in class. Once in the classroom, they often continue talking throughout class, and have no shame about speaking over their teachers. Students of all races walk around with shirts untucked, collars unbuttoned, and shoes untied. Boys are supposed to be clean-shaven, but many black students grow facial hair and claim they will get skin irritations if they shave. There are so many serious discipline problems that little is done about minor ones such as uniform violations. Teaching students to look presentable and professional at all times used to be one of the important aspects of a private school education.
Taking the students to church is an ordeal. Nearly all of our black students are not Catholic, and openly mock the liturgy. They talk loudly during Mass, even during the consecration of the Host. They don’t sing or pray, and when a teacher tells them to show respect, they often reply that they are not Catholic, and this is not their church. They tease fellow students who do participate, either to their faces or by loudly remarking on what they consider foolish behavior. The result is that many white students who would otherwise participate are reluctant to do so. Almost none of the students sing, even quietly. Sadly, many of the white students have no idea what to do in Church, even if they are Catholic. They don’t know the prayers and responses because the only time they come to church is at school.
Diversity has changed how we celebrate Mass. Refrains are now sung with clapping, in a style popular in the Caribbean, in an unsuccessful attempt to get black students to participate. Before Mass begins, students have to be reminded to come up for Communion even if they aren’t receiving it. We have always had students of different denominations (largely Lutheran and Episcopalian), but they have always come up during the Communion procession even if they did not take Communion. They did so in part so that others would not have to step over them in the pews and in part to participate in Mass as part of the community. Despite these reminders, many black students still do not come forward. Parts of the Mass have to be explained. Sermons are often about social justice. At least no one has yet asked a black student to portray Jesus in our yearly production of the Stations of the Cross. It is only a matter of time.
The topics of conversation among black students are often horribly inappropriate for any setting, let alone a classroom. Black students routinely use profanity and discuss sex. Once I was screening a film about Africa. A semi-clad black man appeared on screen. A middle school black girl loudly proclaimed “Mmm mmm mmm, I want to suck his dick!” A female coworker once wore a shirt that showed a bit of cleavage. In her first class of the day, some black boys talked about her breasts for the entire period, remarking on their size and how they would like to shove their faces into them. She was nervous about going to that class for the rest of the year, and began dressing very conservatively. These are extreme examples, but the general level of conversation would make sailors blush.
There is a substantial amount of racial tension, and some violence. One black student, suspended for fighting several times, was finally expelled after he beat a white student for calling him the n-word after the black student knocked his lunch tray out of his hands. We expelled another black student for threatening to attack a teacher’s children after the teacher disciplined him. My most upsetting memory is not of a particular incident, but of an entire school year. In one of my sections, I had five or six extremely aggressive black students. They talked at full volume during class, and threatened any students who asked them to be quiet. Their conversations were often vulgar, and they loudly discussed the various sex acts they wanted to perform with (usually white) female students. They ate during class right in front of me, despite the fact that food was forbidden outside of the cafeteria. There were four white students in that class, and they sat together in a four-desk square in the middle of the room, surrounded by loud, angry black boys. It reminded me of so many white neighborhoods that have been swallowed up by blacks and were completely ruined by their new residents.
This behavior is only the tip of the iceberg. The star of the basketball team was caught sexually assaulting a white girl. He was expelled only because it was witnessed by her mother who pressed charges because he was eighteen. Another student, only fifteen, helped kidnap, rob and beat a man. Most notoriously, one “member of our community” was shot and killed in a drug deal-gone-wrong.
I must point out, however, that our black students who are Catholic are usually very well behaved and respectful. We have also had a number of driven, successful black students who strongly identified with our school even though they were not Catholic and who have gone on to successful careers. Not all of our black students are troublemakers or criminals, but a significant number are.
I should also point out that it is not as if I or my colleagues simply disregard misbehavior. Some of our administrators deal with it as best they can, but are overwhelmed and often overridden from the higher-ups in the diocesan offices. Most of us have accepted that this state of affairs is now normal. Combating such behavior is met with indifference at best. Once, a student who was confronted in the hallway for his loutish behavior got into a teacher’s face, bumped chests with him, and dared him to fight. He did not even get a detention, and an administrator warned the teacher not to deal with students in such an antagonistic manner. The same student later assaulted a mildly autistic student and was caught stealing from the school. He graduated two years later.
While the number of black girls has increased in the last few years, there are far more black boys than girls because of our emphasis on sports. The result is that they typically date white girls. Today’s young people are fully open to interracial dating, and our school does nothing to discourage it. How can we? Any teacher or administrator who has voiced any sort of contempt for such behavior has been accused of racism. We have caught many interracial couples having sex in the school building, sometimes during school hours. To my knowledge, no white couple has ever been caught doing this.
Though our religion teachers are often conservative and try to teach the actual Catholic faith, our textbooks are full of left-wing ideology that reflects the Church’s growing infatuation with non-whites. The official curriculum now often focuses on the Church’s call for “social justice.” Our students are asked to volunteer in dangerous neighborhoods far from their homes as part of our campaign to help “underserved” minority communities. White students are made to feel uncomfortable in a school that they and their parents sustain, both through their tuition and their volunteer service.
How can black students afford to attend a private, Catholic school with tuition now over ten thousand dollars? Often they do not have to pay. Many receive sports scholarships and grants far more generous than anything offered to white students. These costs are subsidized by families who pay full price. Some white students get assistance as well, but are usually required to volunteer at school functions. Black students in theory are supposed to do so as well, but many do not. Their parents almost never volunteer.
We do have a few black parents who are heavily invested in the school, who focus on their children’s academics and volunteer regularly. They are the exception, not the rule. At the same time, a lack of involvement is not uncommon among white families now. Many are not Catholic and send their children to private school because they think Catholic schools can cure learning disabilities and behavior problems.
The school’s reputation has suffered because of increased diversity. Many people considering the school, see the large number of black students and are immediately skeptical. Once, during a recruiting event, a parent asked me specifically about our school’s demographics. I answered him honestly. His eyes widened, and he asked the cost of tuition. When I told him, he shook his head in disbelief, and said, “That’s a lot to pay for what you’re offering!” His daughter did not enroll.
Asian families often will not even consider our school. They choose other private schools or move to areas with better public schools. Asian attendance is an important bellwether because Asians value education. An Asian student’s mother once told me that the rest of her friends make fun of her for sending her children to our school, and tell her their children will hire hers one day when they cannot find work elsewhere. I asked her what they meant by this, and she explained that our school’s diploma no longer carries the cachet it once did, and most Asian parents do not see it as a stepping stone to elite colleges.
Increasingly, good students of any race are choosing to go elsewhere, and we are left with students of all races with learning disabilities or who do not care about school. This is a vicious cycle. As the number of black students increases, the number of students with strong academic backgrounds decreases, meaning a greater percentage of our freshman classes will be black. Our current freshman class is 50 percent black. To put it in perspective, there are more black students in the freshman class than graduated from the school during the five years from 2000 and 2005. This trend means that a once majority-white, cohesive community with a strong Catholic identity will become another black-dominated educational cesspool, supported by left-leaning donors who want to pat themselves on the back. It will no longer be a community with a common culture.
This assumes that the school will even stay open. More likely, as white families leave, so too will the low-cost maintenance services they provide, and the building will deteriorate. Scores on standardized tests will decline, making the school unattractive. Outside donors will stop giving. Local businesses will no longer want to hire our students, and will sever ties. Eventually, the school will become a money pit and will close. An abandoned school will blight the community, and property values will sink. What was once an anchor for the community will become an albatross. And why? So that a few well-meaning liberals could pat themselves on the back, and one man could win basketball championships. This is the price all over the country that Americans are paying for their delusions.