Outside of school, my childhood was filled with wonder and delight. In school, not so much.
I have fond memories of camping trips, Girl Scout projects, soccer games, pretending to be fairies in the backyard, biking with my cousins, and many other ordinary experiences that come with early 2000s suburban life.
But so many hours of my youth were spent in school. While I did learn to read, write, understand basic scientific concepts, my time spent in school did not enrich my life in some of the most important ways. It did not cultivate in me a strong moral foundation, it did not cultivate in me a love of learning, and it did not encourage me to seek what is good and true.
In fact, my schooling experience often did the opposite. By the time I reached middle school, I had already been put in many situations that threatened the values my parents were trying to instill in me at home. Alcohol, sex, drugs, violence, and lawbreaking were common in my public school community. The pressure to conform to the culture was great and I struggled to live out my Christian faith in such a hostile environment. But that’s where Texas public school zoning boundaries put me.
Traditional public school works great for many kids and families. But for my family, it didn’t.
I called my dad recently to talk about education and I asked why I was not put in a different school that better aligned with our family’s values. He told me that we did not have a choice. My parents made a modest income, but not enough to send my brother and I to any of the private schools in the area. Not only were we unable to choose a better academic experience that encouraged the wonder of my childhood instead of stifling it, but we were unable to choose a better environment that encouraged our Catholic family culture.
My father was a teacher for almost 30 years at the Texas high school I attended. A devout Catholic man, he was not allowed to have a small Christmas tree in his classroom, nor could he say certain things to students about morality and faith. For example, he was pressured by administration to promote the narrative that gender is relative.
He was also pressured to give every student at least a 50% grade, even if the student did nothing at all in class. He had many students who were violent in the classroom, and administration didn’t support him in trying to ensure classroom safety. He loved teaching and loved what he taught. But was constantly threatened and disrespected in the classroom and was unable to do much about it.
After graduating from Texas A&M, I followed my passion for holistic healing and, in the hopes of making some extra money, I tried my hand at substitute teaching for a bit. I learned two things almost immediately:
- I was made to be a teacher.
- There was a deep poverty of culture and truth in the schools I worked at.
I taught in traditional public schools, then Catholic schools, and finally Catholic classical schools. I was drawn to classical education because I wanted to restore the transcendental qualities of truth, goodness, and beauty in my classrooms. Classical education does this through simple things like teaching students how to diagram sentences, recite Shakespeare, think for themselves, understand the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, pay attention to the natural world around them, and dialogue well with others in search of truth.
The classical Catholic schools I’ve taught at have been everything I was missing in my K-12 experience, and they’re everything my dad was missing too. These schools give kids a great moral foundation and teach them the skills they need to flourish after graduation.
I cannot gain my K-12 years back, but I am determined to use the time I have going forward to advocate for truth, goodness, and beauty in education, as well as every single American family’s right to choose that education for their children.
The most important thing we can do to improve the state of education in Texas is to open the market and allow the freedom of choice. School choice is teacher choice too. Just as every child is different and has different wants and needs, the same goes for every teacher.