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Terry McLaughlin: Why a Catholic school education?

Terry McLaughlin | Columnist

Named for the great English writer, philosopher and convert to the Catholic faith, G.K. Chesterton, the first Chesterton Academy was opened in Edina, Minnesota, in 2008.

Today there are 33 Catholic schools providing a classical education within the Chesterton Schools Network in the United States and Canada, one in Iraq, a sister school in Italy, and more than a dozen slated to open in the next year.

The good news is that one of those schools will be opening right here in Grass Valley. As many parents in our community are seeking an alternative to public school for their students, the Chesterton Academy of St. Patrick, opening to high school students in the fall of 2022, may be their answer.

Why a Catholic school education? Catholic schools understand the multi-faceted nature of child development and are heavily invested in the well-being of their students. They seek to develop the whole child by engaging the human need for physical, mental, social and spiritual nourishment.

Chesterton Academy schools embrace three pillars of formation for each student: intellectual, learning what is good; character, forming habits of virtue; spiritual, man is made for more.

They use a tried-and-true approach to classical education which has withstood the test of time and provides the best and most nutritious food for the mind. Each year’s instruction builds upon the previous one, and the results are that students recognize the order of things and understand cause and effect; think more logically and rationally; become more aware and more appreciative of beauty and truth; and are articulate, clear-thinking, well-rounded, and most importantly, joyful.

Students at Chesterton Academy enjoy a cohesive, content-rich classical education. They benefit from a broad exposure to many disciplines, which helps them expand their interests and their critical-thinking ability. History, literature, philosophy and theology are braided together. The sciences and humanities are intimately connected so that the logic of math is seen in philosophy.

The curriculum is impressive and rigorous. Freshman literature classes will focus on Homer, Aeschylus and Virgil. By their senior year, students will have been introduced to Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Goethe, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Orwell and more.

History begins with the study of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and Persia, ancient Greece and Rome, continues on with the early Medieval period, the Crusades, the High Middle Ages, the Renaissance period, Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and culminates with concentration on colonization and exploration, the American Civil War, the two World Wars, the Communist and Cultural Revolutions, and the Cold War.

In philosophy, freshman will study Socrates, Plato, and formal logic, arriving at the study of rationalism, idealism, liberalism, utilitarianism, and Marxism in their senior year.

Science curriculum will take the student from astronomy and physical science through biology, chemistry,and into physics, including Newtonian physics, electricity, and magnetism. Mathematics instruction will include analytical geometry, algebra, trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus and statistics.

Equal emphasis is given to language and arts so that every student gains an appreciation of music and art, and learns to draw and paint, sing in the choir, act on stage, give speeches and engage in debate.

The Chesterton Schools Network showed an incredible resilience during the nationwide lockdowns due to Covid-19. While schools all over the country were closing their doors, nine new Chesterton Schools were opened in the fall of 2020.

One sign of growth of the network of schools came from an unexpected place. This September, the Chesterton Academy of St. Thomas the Apostle opened in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

In the summer of 2014, more than 120,000 Iraqi Christians were uprooted from their homes in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain by Islamic State militants and sought refuge in the Irbil Archdiocese. The archdiocese coordinated emergency aid, housing, education, and pastoral care for the displaced families.

When Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil learned of the Chesterton Academy’s classical model, he was determined to bring it to Iraq as one of several initiatives he established to help Christians remain in Iraq.

Need more reasons to consider Chesterton Academy of St. Patrick for your student? According to the National Catholic Educational Association, 99% of Catholic secondary school students graduate and 88% percent continue on to attend college.

In general, on national and standardized tests, Catholic schools consistently outperform public schools and other private schools by as much as 20 percentage points.

And it’s affordable. Chesterton Academy of St. Patrick is striving to keep tuition at approximately $7,500 per year, less than half the cost of Jesuit High School in Sacramento.

Our children are the heirs of our future. Brimming with a natural wonder, joy and zeal for life, they have the brightest hopes and biggest dreams for the world around them.

Catholic schools value their students and strive to create an educational experience in which their students thrive while celebrating learning, developing talents, and creating lifelong bonds. They understand that our children are the movers and shakers with the power to determine the course of history.

A family information night will be held on Monday, Dec. 6, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the large hall at St Patrick Church, at 235 Chapel St. All are welcome to attend, regardless of religious affiliation, and learn more about Chesterton Academy of St. Patrick, coming to Grass Valley in 2022. Or you can visit http://www.caofstpatrick.org , email info@caofstpatrick.org, or call 530-273-2347.

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com.

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