Help in Choosing A College

Will college help or harm your child’s faith?
by Joan Frawley Desmond | Source:
Edited by Joseph A. Esposito
Cardinal Newman Society, 2007
248 pages, $13.95
To order:
Phone: 1-703-367-0333

Three national trends in higher education have conspired to fuel parental anxiety: rising tuition, politically correct attacks on traditional liberal arts programs, and hedonism in the dorms.

For Catholic parents, these problems can be summed up another way: Will college help or harm my child’s faith?

That concern may appear to have a simple solution: Place them in a Catholic institution. But even that path is fraught with danger. A recent survey concluded that Catholic colleges were more likely to undermine than bolster their graduates’ religious beliefs. Of course, that poll didn’t tell the whole story.

In fact, many colleges still billing themselves as “Catholic” have lost sight of their founding mission. Their theology departments justify violations of moral absolutes and their general education requirements downplay Western civilization.

Catholic families clearly need to do some detective work, and now there is a useful resource available: The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College: What to Look For and Where to Find It. Published by the Cardinal Newman Society, this volume features colleges and universities proudly committed to the Church’s vision for higher education.

The staff of the Cardinal Newman Society, an institution devoted to strengthening the religious identity of storied Catholic institutions of higher education, is well-placed to offer its expertise on such matters.

The guide sets a distinctive tone with several introductory essays that provide intellectual, moral and spiritual criteria for a unique kind of college search that can be lonely but worthwhile.

Peter Kreeft, the popular author and Boston College professor, explains why theology and philosophy remain essential academic disciplines despite the increasing popularity of professional and technical degrees.

In Finding God on a College Campus, Father C. John McCloskey III provides a checklist that should accompany every college tour.

The authors have grouped the selected colleges and universities into three categories: “Joyfully Catholic,” “Born from the Crisis” and “Fighting the Tide.” Essentially, the first group includes the most established institutions in the country: Thomas Aquinas College, Christendom College, Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University of Dallas, to name a few.

These institutions forged an academic revolution that continues to be felt in all aspects of Catholic life in the United States: from the home schooling movement to the surge in vocations in orthodox-minded dioceses and religious orders.

These institutions have inspired the founding of a second generation of Catholic colleges (“Born from the Crisis”). But their growing success also has shaken the complacency of some “Catholic” educators who shrugged off fidelity to the magisterium as an obstacle to academic freedom (“Fighting the Tide”).

The guide is designed to showcase, not critique, its selections. That approach may be sufficient for well-established institutions like Thomas Aquinas College. But most of the latest crop of colleges does not possess a track record. Readers will have to follow up with their own research.

Joan Frawley Desmond writes from Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Source: National Catholic Register - January 27- February 2, 2008 Issue

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