Catholic schools teach ‘fear of God’ at the expense of health education

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Rodrigo Hernandez, Associate Editor

A private, Catholic education doesn’t guarantee that a child is being provided a high-quality education; and in certain aspects, it may be worse.

I attended Notre Dame School for 11 years from 2004-2015. There, I made friends that I still talk to today, had kind-hearted, dedicated teachers and created precious childhood memories that I continue to look back on fondly.

That being said, a private religious institution doesn’t always provide an education different from a public school. In fact, it comes with many other added problems. 

As far as educational material goes, the same Prentice Hall social studies textbooks and Holt Handbooks for English are used in all schools — so what’s the difference? 

Some researchers tend to claim that Catholic school students perform better academically than in public schools, but they only look at things like average test scores and graduation rates.

To get a real understanding, one must use a thorough method and take other factors into account. 

As pointed out in a Johns Hopkins School of Education article, many scholars ignore things like income or the parent’s education. Ignoring such factors changes the outcome of the results and can be deceptive.

However, they found that in some cases the opposite was true, and there was generally no significant difference in things like reading scores between the schools, for example.

The size of the classes, however, was definitely different. There were six students in my eighth-grade class, including myself. 

Teachers could give their students much more attention in this environment, but they also played favorites. I saw more kids picked on by teachers at Notre Dame than in my public school. 

I learned just as much if not more at Santa Barbara High School where teachers didn’t “white-wash” history and were upfront about the country’s roots and the problems that we are currently facing. 

My Catholic school definitely didn’t know how to teach controversial subjects to adolescents either.

Answers given to questions about homosexuality, sex education and abortion weren’t clear or straightforward which just left me feeling confused and misinformed. The answer to everything seemed to be that it was just wrong.

Even in sex education, they implied that abstinence was the answer instead of teaching safe ways to practice sex. Such outdated ideologies can harm students who are trying to be healthy and come to terms with embracing their sexuality or gender identity.

The attitude was much different at my public school. My health class brought informed speakers to teach about safe sex and offer condoms, no matter what gender or sex you were. 

They weren’t hiding the subject or instilling the “fear of God” in us. They really wanted kids to be safe.

No one can say for sure whether Catholic schools are better than public schools. But from my time in both environments, I’d say that being in public schools not only provides more resources and opportunities, but has also been much more formative and impactful on my life and education.