I visit a lot of classrooms each year. Sometimes I just stop by to catch a glimpse of what is happening and other times I do it in a more formal evaluative manner. Last week I happened to stop in senior theology class. Senior classes are interesting to visit because you get to see a snapshot of the end benefits of a Catholic education. What would I take away from my visit to this classroom today?
I walked in and sat down at one of the rows of tables. I was not sure what I would see because of all the adjustments in lesson plans and schedules due to all the snow days. I was in for a philosophical discussion on reparations and redemption. These are heavy subjects to cover in any class, but particularly with high school seniors. Mrs. Krystowski, the senior theology teacher, planted lots of different questions and scenarios to produce debate and discussion.
I was thrown for a loop by the great questions and explanations that came from both teacher and student. Students were asked loaded questions like, "Who is in Hell?" or "Isn't God just ... Isn't God merciful?"
Several times the students were asked that if they were God, which of the two people in a given scenario would go to heaven first, if at all.
There was great debate and reason, but in the end there was no definitive answer. One of the students with calm clarity in his voice said, "That is where faith comes in."
That response sums up the benefits of a Catholic education well: the ability to reason, to debate, to discuss that which cannot be mentioned in just any other classroom in any other school, and to be able to conclude that "...we walk by faith and not by sight."
Jim Tokarsky is principal at Norwalk Catholic School Junior High and St. Paul High School.