I (Joy) have had a decent amount of experience reviewing curriculum in a wide variety of schools, from teaching, giving seminars, visiting schools as a reporter, interviewing for teaching jobs, and while working in the admissions department at my alma mater. It’s lead me to the conclusion that most religious schools offer essentially the same curriculum as public schools, with what I call a “Jesus sticker” slapped on enough things to make parents feel better.
Independent schools often do not live up to that monniker by truly being independent; neither do they live up to their religious billing by rethinking everything about schooling according to their religious philosophy, which is completely opposite the reigning cultural and public-school mode of operating.
If one wanted to be genuinely Christian (or Jewish or Buddhist or what-have-you), one would not settle merely for offering the same kinds of things in the same format as schools that deny the existence of God, and similarly presume the purpose of schooling is to prepare a merely material being for a merely material existence. Let’s listen to a few lines upon this subject from perhaps the best living writer alive today, one Dr. Anthony Esolen, of Providence College (who is Catholic):
There’s no reason why parents should send their children to schools that sprinkle holy water upon the mind-deadening and soul-denying education provided in the public schools. If your child is going to be separated from faith and reason, you might as well purchase the ruin on the cheap.
But they might well send their children to schools that are wholly different from the public schools. That single descriptor, ‘classical,’ will attract their notice. If our Catholic schools are not classical, it’s high time they considered becoming so, and advertising themselves as such while they embark upon the reforms.
Teach grammar as the logic of language, not a grab-bag of arbitrary usages. Read Homer and Virgil. Learn poetry—the most sublime of human arts, now almost vanished from the public schools. Reject Common Core and its useless utilitarianism, root and branch. Return geography to its rightful place in the elementary grades, as a separate subject from history. Return to world history, taught as an intricate whole; not ancient Egypt here and the Civil War there. Return to Latin. Return to reading important works in foreign languages: teach Spanish so that students can read Don Quixote, not just so that they can order tacos in Tijuana. Return to the titans of British and American literature.
Make the practice and the truths of the faith permeate all subjects; let it be the air the students breathe.
Even if you’re not Catholic so the sections on the need for more priests, etc., don’t apply to you, you will want to read the whole thing. Esolen is a vibrant thinker and has many serious, and seriously wonderful, things to say to everyone.