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Why Choose Catholic Education

The BC Difference

How Catholic schools instill self‑discipline

Excerpted from an op‑ed by DR. THOMAS BURNFORD IS THE PRESIDENT/CEO OF THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION.

  1. The Catholic understandings of freedom, happiness, and moral objectivity are taught to children at a young age. Judeo‑Christian virtues such as kindness, humility, and diligence are not only explicitly taught in Catholic schools, they shape the foundation and backdrop for everything that happens. The mission of Catholic schools is to foster scholarly achievement and responsible behavior, concepts that are complimentary, not mutually exclusive.
  2. Catholic schools partner with parents. The school collaborates with parents and guardians in promoting the values that are begun at home and fostered and celebrated in the schools. Catholic schools strive to create connections among students, the family, the school, and the church so that all share in belonging to a caring faith community.
  3. Catholic schools are a community of faith that encourages reverence, respect, and concern for others in a spirit of hospitality that welcomes all, regardless of their religious traditions. Catholic schools create a supportive and challenging climate that affirms the dignity of all persons as children of the same God. Catholic schools promote collaboration and teamwork in classroom activities that develop habits of listening, valuing other opinions, and personal responsibility. Self‑discipline, rather than the harsh caricatures of Catholic school discipline of yesteryears, is the goal and hallmark of Catholic school culture.

For anyone who has ever wondered if our effort to educate students in spirit, heart, mind and body really pays off, look no further. According to a new study, the answer is a resounding yes.

Recognizing that Catholic schools have demonstrated a commitment to character development, including the acquisition of self‑discipline, authors Michael Gottfried and Jacob Kirksey set out to answer the following questions: How well has it worked? Do students in Catholic schools really exhibit more self‑discipline than their peers?

Last month, the National Catholic Register reported the results of this national study: Catholic schools really are better at teaching self‑discipline than their public and other private counterparts.

None of this came as a surprise to the faculty and staff at Bishop Carroll, who witness students’ inspiring levels of self‑discipline and self‑awareness every day. No one is perfect, but we teach, expect, and really do see our students striving to be the best versions of themselves.

“Our students are extremely self‑disciplined and aware of their conscious decisions,” said Jonathan Nagy, who teaches history and politics. “Our major discipline issues are few and far between because students are so aware of the things that they say and do.”

Why Are Students at Catholic Schools More Disciplined?

The real question is what’s behind this trend? Why do our students and those at other Catholic schools across the nation act less impulsively, exercise more self‑control and show more respect for others?

Nagy shared a few factors that may contribute greater levels of discipline, and what it ultimately comes down to is the effort to demonstrate and instill Catholic values and sound character. The education students receive here at Bishop Carroll — and at our five feeder grade schools — reinforces the values taught at home and in students’ parishes. They gain respect for themselves and for others, and they learn the importance of a strong work ethic, good decision‑making and helping others — all key factors in developing a strong sense of self‑discipline and the ability to make positive choices in life.

“We instill a sense of self‑awareness through our classes, activities and, maybe most importantly, our actions and leading by example,” Nagy said.

Faculty and staff at Bishop Carroll, who strive to be role models of the Catholic faith and promote a strong culture of community service, are naturally models of self‑discipline. “Students coming into BCCHS know what we expect,” Nagy explained. “I also have to compliment our feeder grade schools on instilling this same sense of self‑awareness and respect among their students.”

Kathy Maurer, principal at All Saints Catholic School in Cresson, echoed Nagy’s sentiments.

“I believe [the reason behind this trend] is that we are all about our Catholic faith, which means being the best we can be in mind, body, soul and spirit,” she said. “Therefore [we continually] challenge our students to do their best in everything. In order to do that, self discipline is necessary and it develops naturally as they strive for that.”

The “best in everything” isn’t an exaggeration. Students are schooled in structure and self‑control even in the way they dress. According to “Self‑Discipline: The Catholic School Advantage,” published in the National Catholic Register, “[Wearing a uniform] sets a tone of mutual respect between the students and the teachers. It also puts the school body in the mindset that they are expected to do their best every day.”

What Does This Trend Mean for Students’ Futures?

Faculty, administrators and supporters of Catholic schools alike recognize that mastering the concept of self‑discipline has lasting benefits, especially for those who exercise it from an early age. It is key for continued development and can be a lifelong driver of success in both the personal and professional realms of life.

Maurer admitted that fostering discipline in students isn’t always easy, but the results are well worth it.

“Some students develop discipline quite naturally and actually thrive on it,” she explained. “For those students for whom it is a challenge, we are usually met with resistance and even rebellion. But for the ones who eventually succeed in developing self‑discipline, the results are observable in their self‑confidence. [This ability] will serve them well all through their lives as they pursue goals and face challenges.”

Nagy recognized these same advantages.

“The world is a scary place,” he said. “There are so many negative influences for kids today. My hope is that our students continue to take the lead in self‑discipline, work ethic, behavior and morals. I am constantly impressed with how our students seem to push away societal pressures and consistently try to do the right thing.”

Seeing Self‑Discipline in Action

What does self‑discipline look like at Bishop Carroll?

“It’s honesty,” said Nagy.

“That is the biggest overall example I can give,” he said. “I have seen students turn in found money, admit when they have erred in judgment and provide their opinions.”

It’s being able to take students to major cities, such as Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City, and trust in their ability to follow direction and live up to expectations. It’s everyone coming back safely and having been on their best behavior. It’s having a humble student section that is respectful of opposing teams at athletic events.

“Our athletes are humble in victory and gracious in defeat,” Nagy said. “Another example is when we have our blood drives. The blood drive staff often comments on how well‑behaved, respectful and self‑policed our students are. It gives me great pride to hear compliments about our students.”

But it doesn’t stop there. This ability to control and motivate oneself, stay on track and do what is right is an enduring skill. BCCHS graduates carry it with them, using it to acquire a lifetime of achievements.

“[Self‑discipline] is a great stepping stone for them in life,” Nagy said. “One of my favorite parts of my job is hearing from graduates and learning about their accolades. Many are upstanding individuals who have gained respect for who they are and what they do.”

…And it all starts with an education that is rooted in the Catholic faith and promises the development of a sound moral compass in students.

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