Notre Dame law professors, Nicole Garnett and Margaret Brinig, recently published a book based on their studies of Catholic school closures in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. The book, entitled Lost Classroom, Lost Community: Catholic Schools’ Importance in Urban America, studies the decline of Catholic schools in the United States, particularly in urban areas. Religion News Service interviewed Garnett about her discoveries.
The idea for the book came to Garnett at a conference on inner-city children and the increasing closures of Catholic schools, according to the interview. As evidenced by the National Catholic Education Association, “there were 7,000 Catholic schools in the U.S. in 2010, down from 13,000 in 1960.” Garnett reportedly noticed that many who spoke at the conference claimed that their neighborhoods suffered significantly as a result of Catholic school closures.
In the interview, Garnett outlined the unique properties of Catholic schools:
Catholic schools are really great community institutions [because] there’s a lot of trust and high expectations among the principals, teachers, kids and parents. There’s a spillover into the community. And sometimes these schools are the last functioning institutions left in poor neighborhoods.
Garnett also observed that Catholic schools educate many students who are not Catholic or religious. “It says a very good thing about the Catholic Church that it is willing to invest in the education of these kids,” Garnett noted in the interview.
In the last chapter of the book, “Imagining Cities without Catholic Schools,” Garnett hypothesizes that “families might leave cities in order to seek out a better education for their kids.” This would prove detrimental to cities, Garnett explains, because “cities need families for stability, for health, [and] for social capital. Our urban leaders don’t want to imagine their cities without Catholic schools.”
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