One reality of the modern classroom that really sets my wife off is the omnipresence of computers, especially laptop computers. And the lower the grade level of the student who “needs” such computers, the higher my wife’s blood pressure.

Remember the days when Catholic schools beat the public schools by every objective academic measure and the entire school budget was spent on chalk, erasers and books that would be re-used for about 25 years?

One of the ‘wonderful’ fruits of the severe drop in vocations after the Second Vatican Council was that schools now had the opportunity to actually pay lay teachers a wage much closer to market level than that the nuns used to get. And because the schools’ religious education began to be handled largely by lay religious teachers who did not have nearly the equivalent theological education (either not as much, or else such was quasi-Catholic), the Catholic schools became less and less likely to adequately prepare young Catholics to know, love, and live their faith.

Because of this, the next domino to fall was the idea that Catholic schools could be these quaint, poorer-but-better-than-the-public-school places where for a low cost your child would imbibe the faith and receive the best academic education around. Instead, the Catholic schools became, in effect, private schools. This means that textbooks must be new, teachers must be paid more, and oh my, we MUST have the latest classroom “technology” or we will lose the children to public or other private schools.

Why? Because all of the trends in the above gloss cost money, and tuition keeps increasing at an alarming rate. As tuition increases, the school enrollment becomes unstable, and students leave due to cost. After all, if there is not a religious program that satisfies the Catholic parents, or even more likely if the parents don’t care at all about religion, then why would they not send their children to public schools “for free” instead of paying Catholic school tuition? And as parishes lose faithful, the parishes are less able to subsidize the operation of the school. So, tuition goes up. Students leave. To fight this trend and justify tuition, the school must compete on the public school’s terms. More diverse subjects, more exotic extracurricular activities, more teachers for smaller classrooms, and more, more, more computers. Got to have those computers.
I don’t know what any of you who are reading this earn in a year, but you do. If you strive to live the Church’s authentic teachings and if God blesses you with many children, then consider the cost of Catholic education.

As an example, one parish elementary school of good repute in the Archdiocese charges $4,500 for one child, and $6,000 for two children. These figures are not high, as these things go, and I am fairly sure it does not cover the actual cost of educating the child. But still, that is a lot of money.

Consider also Catholic high schools. For single sex education take two academically well-reputed high schools as examples. St. Louis University High School’s tuition for this year is $10,250; Cor Jesu Academy’s tuition is just under $10,000, when you consider the mandatory laptop fee. If this alarms you, it’s OK, you can get up, get a cool drink, and come back to resume reading. I’ll wait.

Good. Let’s complete the exercise. Assume you have 6 children and you want them to receive a Catholic education. Just using the schools above as our guides, say you have three in grade school and three in high school. Your tuition this year will be about $27,000. What did you say you made last year? And consider this: your total tuition cost for all children through high school (assuming the preposterous scenario that tuition NEVER increases) will be (allowing for the grade school multi-child discounts) at least $300,000.
Parents often wonder if they can afford college. How about high school?

It is one thing to make heroic sacrifices to ensure that your children receive their right to the Catholic faith via a truly Catholic education. But what if the school doesn’t really impart that faith? Or, even worse but certainly possible, the school subtly undermines that faith, contradicting what you as a parent try to teach your children? In such a case, what is the value of this education?

Is it any wonder that the Catholic schools are losing students, to the public schools at one end of the spectrum, and to homeschools at the other end? And perhaps they are victims of the state of our society and it is not really their fault. There are still many dedicated and even heroic teachers and pastors who try to provide a truly Catholic education to their precious charges. But how many schools can really boast this?
Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah, there is an article at STLToday about laptop computers in classrooms. Enjoy.