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Catholic vs. Christian Private School

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Catholic vs. Christian Private School


Jan 2007

I am in desperate need of some help from anyone who can provide me with information. We are in the process of looking into private schools for our soon to be 5 y/o. We are a NON- religious family and our private school choices are either Catholic or Christian. Can someone please tell me the differences between Catholic and Christian - little things, big things, ANYTHING that can help us solve the confusion of which is better for us. This is solely a decision based on providing a better education for our child (we feel our public school system cannot provide this). Is there differences in how the religion is taught? How much time is spent teaching religion? Is my child going to feel an outsider not having that knowledge about religion? Is one more strict than the other regarding the teachings and beliefs? Any information at all would be greatly appreciated. Any ideas on where to research the differences without going into the philosophys of both, something simple to read and understand would be appreciated. Thanks!!!! Confused about religion


I can answer from the perspective of a Catholic Christian with a child in Catholic school. Not knowing the specifics of either school you're looking into, I can't tell you exactly what the differences will be; I can tell you what you could expect if your child were at my child's school.

Many Catholic schools in this area are unapologetically Catholic schools - that is, they are not ''private'' schools that happen to be next to a church. They hold all-school mass about once per month. Your child would learn about and celebrate Church holy days; as Catholics we honor and pray to saints and to Mary to intercede on our behalf, so we celebrate mass for intentions such as All Saint's Day and the birthday of St. Francis of Assisi...things like that. During the winter holidays, your child will learn about Advent and the Nativity, rather than being exposed to celebrations surrounding Hanukkahm Winter Solstice, etc. They begin every day (and every assembly) with a prayer, and are expected to know the sign of the cross and eventually The Lord's Prayer and the Nicene Creed. They have have ''religion'' class (just as they do Spanish, computer, p.e.) three times a week.

At one open house I attended (not our home parish/school), when asked what other religions the students are taught, the principal said, ''We are a Catholic school. We teach the Catholic faith. We might address other religions, but not in any organized lesson.'' If you're curious about how your prospective Catholic school would answer this, ask them directly.

As for the Christian schools - my only guess would be that they would learn scripture more than at Catholic schools. Bible verses and the history behind them, probably. As parents, we are responsible for making sure our values agree with what the children are being taught in school...any school. Public, private, religious included. If your child were occasionally taught something you didn't subscribe to at your neighborhood public school, you would naturally work to reinforce your own beliefs at home. Ask yourself how often you think you'd be contradicting your child's teachers at a religious school. And ask the school a lot of questions! Best of luck. Catholic School Mom


I'm not sure what, if any, difference there is between Catholic and ''Christian'' schools. However, I went to Catholic school for 9 years and I wonder why non-Catholics send their kids to Catholic schools. There are all sorts of rituals that the Catholic kids undergo and the non-Catholic kids are identified and left out. Catholic kids study for First Communion/Confession and Confirmation and also take part in church during Lent and other times of the year. There is no way to separate the ''education'' from the ''religion.'' If you aren't Catholic, you should familiarize yourself with Vatican II to see if you can live with how Roman Catholics see the world (its kinda narrow and a little intolerant...).
The bottom line is, I think you need to investigate each school individually. You could spend your entire life trying to count how many ways people approach Christianity. There are very liberal and very conservative observers of the Protestant Church, Catholic Church, Methodist Church, UCC Church, etc., etc., etc... I send my son to a preschool run by a very ''by the book'' conservative Christian church and I am a very liberal Episcopalian, but I feel very comfortable with how they run their school. They welcome children of all faiths and there are even some children there of very different faiths. They make no apologies for the fact that they do include Christian teachings and holidays, but they do it in a basic simple way. They really just focus on basic teachings of Jesus: be kind to others, be respectful, everyone is equal, love one another, be charitable and help others, etc…

My brother attended Holy Names College in Oakland and he has quite an aversion to religion. He loved it there and never felt uncomfortable. They required a class that qualified for a “morals and ethics” credit and he really enjoyed it. It gave him a chance to study religion from a historical and political approach. In fact, his favorite professors were a couple of the resident nuns who he still keeps in contact with! My husband attended very conservative Catholic schools growing up and he seems ambivalent. Nothing bad, I guess, but he never seems thrilled to talk about it. He’s also bilingual Mexican American and I think it was a little tough in the 70’s. The church I grew up in was very progressive. During confirmation (basic classes for teenagers who want to become members of the church), we were required to learn about 5 other religions so our decision to join our church would be a conscious one and not one made in ignorance of our other choices. We visited temples and mosques and other churches. You may want to do some very brief reading on the different Christian churches (they all study the bible, but often in wildly different ways), then discuss some basic issues with the schools that are important to you and observe some classes. Ask their approach to political issues that you feel strongly about (how they view other religions, gay lifestyles, science, discipline, etc.) You could go to 5 different Catholic churches and you will find 5 different moral stances on church and social politics. The great thing about private schools is they have the ability to teach what they believe, unlike public schools that increasingly have their hands tied by the state. melissa


Have you actually *seen* the public schools in action and compared a private school classroom to a public school classroom? You said that you ''feel'' that a private education is a ''better education''?

I have observed and taught in both public and private in three states and I currently have my children in public school. For the life of me, I can't understand why you would want private religious education if you aren't religious. The only other reason to go private would be the prestige? Perhaps take a step back and look at the public schools before you dismiss them entirely. Your child won't be distracted by religious issues there. thoughtful mom & teacher


There are many Catholic schools in the area but I am not sure what you mean by "Christian" school. The only schools I know of that are affiliated with a Protestant church are Zion Lutheran and St. Paul's. I don't know about Zion, but St. Paul's does not have religion classes although there is an emphasis on ethics and spirituality. As for Catholic you can't really expect to send your child to a Catholic school that doesn't have religion classes - that is their mission, after all. If you don't want any religion, then why aren't you looking at some of the bajillion other public and private schools in our area? Do you live in the area of Berkeley/Oakland? There are lots and lots of great schools around here and 90% of them do not teach religion. You should be looking at those. don't understand the question I guess
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