I've taught in classrooms of close to 30 students. I ran a High School athletic program. I just completed my first year as Principal in a school of over 30 personnel and 340 students. I should be able to handle just one, right?
But, as any teacher who is also a parent (and many parents/people who think that anyone with even a high school education can teach) would attest: parenting is an entirely different and entirely more important type of education.
Unfortunately, I would venture to say that our American society does not share my high regard for parenting. Case in point, upon a recent trip to the Post Office with Elizabeth, my wife Emily found herself last in a very long line. The next customer after Emily and Elizabeth was a middle-aged woman with only her parcels in tow. As the line slowly inched forward, and Emily managed both Elizabeth and our packages to mail, the woman said to my wife:
You know, I may be from what you would call a third world country, but there pregnant women and women with children would never wait in a line such as this. In my country, you would be considered sacred.Now, I understand that the "I hate Casey Anthony" Facebook Page was the fastest growing page last week but does our reverence for the vocation of parenthood extend any further than hitting the "Like" button?
Are mothers in America sacred?
The Catholic Church does not shy from its stance on the importance of parents:
Parents and those who take their place are bound by the obligation and possess the right of educating their offspring. Catholic parents also have the duty and right of choosing those means and institutions through which they can provide more suitably for the Catholic education of their children, according to local circumstances (Can. 793.1).
Furthermore, the Church promotes the family as the primary avenue of the propagation of the faith. Blessed John Paul the Great wrote in his Letter to Families:
Certainly one area in which the family has an irreplaceable role is that of religious education, which enables the family to grow as a "domestic church". Religious education and the catechesis of children make the family a true subject of evangelization and the apostolate within the Church. We are speaking of a right intrinsically linked to the principle of religious liberty. Families, and more specifically parents, are free to choose for their children a particular kind of religious and moral education consonant with their own convictions. Even when they entrust these responsibilities to ecclesiastical institutions or to schools administered by religious personnel, their educational presence ought to continue to be constant and active (16).
Children should learn about Jesus from their parents. This faith should be supported by participation in the Church, not the sole place it is supplied.
Parents are not just important. They are the most important part of Catholic education.
But, how many Catholics have even read this letter? Or, how many, regardless of whether or not this letter was read, even believe that parents and the family play such an integral role in the development of children?
Plato wrote, "A society cultivates whatever is honored there."
Do we honor children? How about families?
Hospitals in America view women in labor as patients. Is giving birth a sickness? Cereal companies, knowing the huge childhood obesity problem in our country, often list sugar or one of its many aliases, as the second most bountiful ingredient- which is okay because they're made with whole grains! Advertisers, regardless of the product, keep in mind our children and strive for brand recognition and loyalty. Television, even "kid-friendly" programs, often contain objectionable material.
But, sex sells, and in a society where money is honored, money is in turn cultivated...at the expense of our children.
ABC News supposedly paid Casey Anthony $200,000.00 for exclusive rights to videos and pictures of her story. Chances are also good that at some point, she will capitalize from this infamy.
Kate (of "Plus 8" fame), sans John, still gets paid for offering up the lives of her children, even though it already cost her her marriage.
Even teachers cultivate money as opposed to children. Despite attempts in many school districts across the country to base teacher salaries on performance, most public systems allow tenured teachers- many of who are burnt out or at best antiquated- to keep their high paying positions regardless of their inadequacy.
Money is honored here and we think that just because we hate Casey Anthony that we can claim to care about and cultivate our kids.
That's like planting a garden in the shade, watering it sparingly with Coke, giving it a shot of Miracle Grow and expecting it to yield a bountiful harvest.
As Catholic educators (teachers and/or parents), we must approach each child we encounter as the sacred gifts that they are. We must realize that (and I've included this before) as teachers we do not "write on inanimate material but on the very spirits of human beings."
In honoring our children, we must do much more than press a "Like" button to voice our displeasure at a bad parent, or add some Miracle Grow to make up for our deficiencies. We must spend less time cultivating our money trees and more time giving some TLC to another abstract arbor: our family trees.