How do you determine how valuable something is? How much it costs? How long it lasts? The entertainment it provides? The amount of people it services? How much one receives as a return on an investment? Does supply and demand determine the value of something? Is something valuable if it provides hope, life, love, comfort, peace?
Seeing value in simply monetary terms can lead to assessing things, services, or even people in light of how much they are worth from a simply monetary standpoint. The higher the cost, price, or salary the more worth that thing has.
In the world of Catholic education, I unfortunately have to continuously consider the price of the education offered to our students and families. I have to very carefully balance our school's budget, crunching numbers and weighing the number of students against the number of employees. I have to factor in the cost of tuition and the types of services and programs we hope to provide. Upgrades, enhancements, renovations, maintenance, memberships, and supplies make up some of the other costs associated with the education offered at the school.
All of these things create a very concrete cost. There is a limited amount of money coming in; the money going out, therefore, is similarly limited. As I have said before, factor in the philosophy that Catholic education must be for more than the wealthy, and funds become limited even more. Furthermore, factor in the real reason for a Catholic school's existence - promoting the Catholic faith in the context of a liberal arts education - and the value (and costs associated) take on a much different meaning.
If we can be instruments of the passing on of faith in addition to delivering curricular standards at a level as good as if not better than public or other private schools, then the value of Catholic schools shoots through the roof. It becomes something completely other than valuable from a monetary standpoint. It passes into the realm of eternity, infinity, forever, absolute, everlasting. It eclipses any price tag and it transcends this world and our earthly limits.
I do not make this claim as a way to get more families to buy into the tuition rate associated with attending Incarnation Catholic School. I don't write about this concept of value in Catholic schools as a pep talk to myself - I may not make a lot of money but I make a difference!
I write about it because I truly believe that it is incumbent upon Catholic schools to ensure that our educational institutions offer this type of value. We must be just as good as public and other private schools who teach the same standards and benchmarks. We can't water down the curriculum and justify that by offering religion as a substitute to being exemplar in all subjects. On the other hand, the value of our schools must be more than just strong academics. We must live out our Catholic faith in every interaction with every person in every moment of every day.
We must approach discipline differently - people are inherently good. We must approach physical education from a standpoint that sees our bodies as good and beautiful gifts worthy of our great care and concern. We must be good stewards of the earth. We must emphasize and afford opportunities for service. Music and the arts must be viewed as avenues to experience the beauty of our Creator. Parents and families must be established as the primary educators of their children and should be treated as true partners in their child(ren)'s education. The Celebration of the Eucharist must be the most important activity of each week.
Simply, our value as Catholic schools must extend beyond good academics, high discipline, dynamic liturgies, and service to the community.
It must extend, and in doing so extend our students, to eternity.