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American Culture and Catholic Schools

reviewed by Canon Richard Byfield - 1961

coverTitle: American Culture and Catholic Schools
Author(s): E. McLoughlin
Publisher: John Wiley, New York
ISBN: , Pages: , Year:
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Mr. McLoughlin's second book is really three books in one, and the title is appropriate only to the third (and smallest) of the three.

First and foremost, the book is a study of the political and social positions of the Roman Catholic Church, highly critical in tone and giving special attention to the more "un-American" of the Papal documents. Second, the book is a personal history. In this regard, it is not unlike a sort of second edition of the author's previous best seller, People's Padre. Third, it is a study—perhaps "impression" would be a more accurate word—of American Catholic schools and their effects upon those who attend them.

It is Mr. McLoughlin's oft-reiterated thesis that the Roman Catholic church is basically totalitarian in structure and thought and that, because of this, it is ill-suited to the American scene. His chapter tides are quite expressive of this point of view: "The Well-Washed Brain"; "The Three S's—Sex, Sin, and Satan"; "The Recruitment of Shock Troop Teachers," etc. It is his belief that the Roman Catholic hierarchy sees the ideal Catholic layman as one who has never learned to think for himself, who accepts uncritically the Roman Catholic view, not only of dogma and doctrine but of secular history as well, and who, in the main, unquestionably does as he is told. He believes that even the Roman Catholic priesthood (the "shock troops," as he calls them) is cast in this mold as a result of early training in parochial schools. He cites numerous examples from his own experience as a Roman Catholic priest to demonstrate the validity of his point of view.

It is, of course, Mr. McLoughlin's unusual background which lends validity to his position as well as vitriol to his pen. It is hard to contradict the man who has "been there"; yet it is perhaps permissible to question the objectivity of such a person. Indeed, the author makes no real attempt to be objective, and for this he should probably be commended, since it is unlikely that he could have accomplished it in any case.

As indicated, a studied analysis of the Roman Catholic school system is not this book's strong point. One is confronted with a long section on papal encyclicals or an anecdote of the author's life in the priesthood, following which he is apt to say, almost as an afterthought, "and this is what they teach in Roman Catholic schools." There is some small bit of research evident in the chapter entitled "Critics Speak From Many Vantages," in which he presents various statistics suggestive of performance differences between graduates of parochial schools and those of public schools and evaluates the academic standings of various church and non-church colleges. The tide of the book, however, would lead one to expect a more scholarly analysis than this dubiously comprehensive treatment.

American Culture and Catholic Schools is quite frankly offered as an antidote to what its author sees as a real threat—the possibility that some means may be found of furnishing state and federal aid to parochial schools. His objections range from the "un-American" quality of the Roman curricula to his feeling that parochial schools are not scholastically adequate. In many of his arguments, the author appears as a civil libertarian; but surely any real civil libertarian would recognize that the argument of inadequacy is hardly germane to the question of public support.

As one who strongly feels that church schools should not be supported by the various levels of government but who bases his objections on constitutional grounds, this reviewer would wish that Mr. McLoughlin had done the same. Much of what he says about Roman Catholic schools is undoubtedly true. Despite the popular "mythology," the facts would indicate that, by and large, parochial schools do not prepare students for advanced education nearly so well as do public schools in most of the states. It is undoubtedly true—and the reviewer can draw upon many experiences as a college lecturer to substantiate this—that the graduate of the Roman Catholic school has much to "unlearn." But state governments support, and will continue to support, many inadequate schools, and the only real question in this realm revolves around the constitutional concept of "separation."

Like Mr. McLoughlin's previous book, this one is fascinating reading. It is written in a somewhat breathless style, jumping from point to point and with little organization. It reads rather like an entertaining lecture, and one suspects that most of the chapters were first used in this way. It is not an adequate study of "American Culture and Catholic Schools," nor, unfortunately is it a closely reasoned argument against state support of church schools in general.


Assistant to the Episcopal Bishop

San Francisco, Calif.


The main quality of human life that sets it apart from other forms of animal existence is language—or, more properly, man's capacity for the prepositional use of symbols. It follows, then, that the fulfillment of our humanity (a traditional and almost incontrovertible aim of education) entails our developing some feeling for language and some skill in our employment of it. Consequently, for those of us for whom English is the mother tongue, it is meet and right that "English" occupy an honored and central place in the curricula of our schools.

But what is "English"? The question is easy: It is progressive training in using the English language, especially in written form, as an instrument of communication; and it is the appreciative study of literary productions in that language. The answer is self-evident and the query nonsense. As Edwin H. Sauer says (English in the Secondary School. New York: Holt, 1961. Pp. vii + 245. $3.75), "the many activities in English (are) one subject." Or, as is the basic assumption in the recent collection of essays edited by George W. Stone, Jr. (Issues, Problems, and Approaches in the Teaching of English. New York: Holt, 1961. Pp. x + 246. $2.50), composition and the study of literature are simply related segments of the same domain, that of language competence.

Let's enter a friendly demurrer. What is meant by "writing" in curricular contexts is usually a reasonable competence in communicating ideas or information through sentences. How tight is the relationship of this competence to the study of literature? It seems most improbable that either Shakespeare or Joyce represents a model that children strive to emulate in their working toward clearer and more readable paragraphs of exposition or argument. Further, the content of the written compositions of most of us, whether as school children or adults, is rarely bellelettristic; it is much more likely to be concerned with science or commerce, politics or military matters, personal affairs or the immediate practicalities of a job. The primary demand made of our letters, memoranda, and reports is that they be as clear as their substance permits. What we recognize as literature, on the other hand, contains elements of ambiguity and is aimed at producing particular emotional effects in the reader.

It seems worthwhile, then, to consider the possible wisdom of divorcing the teaching of writing from the teaching of literature. Interestingly enough, in spite of their protestations that English is one subject, Stone organizes his collection of essays into two main sections, "Language and Writing" and "Literature," and Sauer splits his little volume similarly into two parts, one concerned with "The Science of Language" (usage, especially in writing) and "The Art of Language" (literature). If the proposal of divorce is shocking, is it not conceivable that a separation has already really taken place and awaits only appropriate sanctions for its formalizing? It seems plain that teachers of English often operate in only dubiously related ways when they teach writing and when they teach literature, and retaining the two responsibilities may well work to the detriment of both. Writing is a hard and important job for everyone. It may be important enough to receive special attention in our schools without harnessing it to the quite different problem of understanding our literary heritage and developing a civilizing appreciation of art in the medium of language, which may do as a brief definition of literature. And while it is true, as Stone and his contributors point out, that instruction in writing belongs to any school's entire faculty, the fact remains that the teaching of such a skill as writing, to be successful, requires a focus and an intensity that are likely to be generated only when the skill is pursued single-mindedly. This issue and its implications seem singularly vital in contemporary education, and it is regrettable that these two volumes are not at all concerned with them—even to identifying their wrongheadedness!

Quite a different contribution to "English" is William Walsh's The Use of Imagination (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1960. Pp. 252. $5.00). Sub tided "Educational Thought and the Literary Mind," it discusses a number of educational themes through the critical examination of works by Coleridge, Wordsworth, Keats, Yeats, Lawrence, Eliot, such critics as Matthew Arnold and F. R. Leavis, etc. Its objective is to bring to educational ideas "the vivifying influence of literature," and it succeeds admirably. There is a real challenge to educational psychology, for example, in the insights into developing childhood that Walsh provides through his study of how children are portrayed in Mark Twain, Henry James, D. H. Lawrence, and Walter de la Mare. Similarly, there are few more cogent discussions of the relation of education to the attainment of human dignity than Walsh's essay on Yeats and the notion of character. In this little book, imagination is very usefully identified as an instrument of personal development that is distinctively available through the study of literature.

Imagination of another kind is the subject of Science Since Babylon by Derek J. de Solla Price (New Haven: Yale Univer. Press, 1961. Pp. x + 149. $4.50). The history of science is a relatively new field of scholarship in which Price is a distinguished practitioner. He reads scientific development as a thing of crises and revolutions rather than as an orderly process, and he is particularly concerned with the obviously intimate but by no means simple relationship between science and technology. After a brief series of glimpses into the origins of our own scientific culture in the celestial clocks of ancient Greece and medieval China, the Renaissance invention of printing and the manufacture of fine instruments, and Roentgen's accidental discovery of X-rays just before the end of the nineteenth century, Price analyzes what he calls the "diseases" of science—tendencies toward a superabundance of literature, manpower shortages, increasing specialization, and a deterioration in quality. At the moment, these symptoms reflect not only an extremely rapid rate of change in the scientific enterprise, but its entrance into an entirely new state. In this new state, our civilization is likely to wax or wane according to the ways in which scientific efforts are regulated and applied. For wisdom in the control of science, Price urges the development of an informed and intelligent public "to whom science and its workings, even in crisis, is not a mystery." To aid this development he proposes a new educational program in the "Humanities of Science" to bridge the gulf between the sciences and the liberal arts. If this book is a bit difficult, it is also a fruitful elaboration in depth of C. P. Snow's urgent and humanly relevant lectures on The Two Cultures.

Both literature and science are realms, of course, of high creativity, and creativity has recently been subjected to vigorous investigation by behavioral scientists. E. F. Hammer's Creativity (New York: Random House, 1961. Pp. x + 150. $1.25) is one of the less happy examples but can still be warmly recommended for an odd reason. Leo Rosten, the sociologist creator of the unforgettable Hyman Kaplan, contributes a nine-page critical comment on Dr. Hammer's study of "merely facile" and "truly creative" children that is so suggestive, incisive, and informed that it is well worth the price of the book. The investigation itself is vulnerable to all kinds of methodological criticisms, not the least of which is that the method all but presupposes the conclusion that the creative artist (Remember that the subjects were high school youngsters!) is a neurotic in whom, in contrast to other neurotics, "the neurosis is not latent but consciously exploited." If Hammer is right, it is not because of the evidence he reports on 18 adolescent painters.

Rather more can be learned about adolescence, if not about creativity, from From Adolescent to Adult, written by the late P. M. Symonds with A. R. Jensen (New York: Columbia Univer. Press, 1961. Pp. x + 413. $8.75). This volume reports a follow-up of 28 cases from the 40 studied in Professor Symond's earlier Adolescent Fantasy. It indicates that there is a considerable persistence in fantasy themes from adolescence into young adulthood, that earlier fantasy reflects attitudes that play a major role in the decisions that are made later in life, and that changes in fantasy are generally associated with changes in environmental circumstance. On the other hand, adolescent fantasy seems to bear no predictive relationship to later patterns of interpersonal relations. It seems probable that this book will have little systematic significance; but it is a most useful—and rare—collection of intensive observations of functioning human beings over a span of 13 years, and the extensive case materials in 190 pages of appendices add life and relevance to the statistical analyses.

From the psychological to the sociological is not a long step, and one takes it with pleasure when it leads to Historical Sociology: The Selected Papers of Bernhard J. Stern (New York: Citadel Press, 1959. Pp. xii + 433. $5.00), a labor of love by the Bernhard J. Stern Memorial Fund as a tribute to an exciting teacher and a wide-ranging scholar. Stern's pioneering studies in the sociology of medicine are here and have a utility far beyond their historical significance. His perspectives on Lewis Henry Morgan, Comte, Lester Ward, and Franze Boas are valuable contributions to the history of social thought. And his critical rejection of social Darwinism is still valuable in laying a remarkably persistent ghost who is still sometimes seen stalking our educational halls.

Like everyone else, Stern was a child of his time, and as a liberal student of society in the 'twenties and 'thirties, he was a Marxist. The disciples of Marx have shaken the world viciously in the last two decades, and we need an understanding of Marx and Marxism that greatly transcends Stern's. A major help in our obtaining it is Clinton Rossiter's wise and searching criticism in Marxism: The View from America (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1960. Pp. vii + 338. $6.75). There is no better analysis of the ideological basis of communism—its oversimplifications, its false argument from necessity, and its susceptibility to moral corruption. Neither is there a calmer or more sensibly realistic reaffirmation of the democratic values that form the American tradition. No educator should go another week without reading this important and literate book—EJS

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 63 Number 2, 1961, p. 161-161
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 3116, Date Accessed: 11/27/2021 9:05:12 PM

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