As it appeared in the Summer/Fall 1995 issue of
The Catholic Family's Magnificat! Magazine
Copyright 1994. All Rights Reserved.
by Marianna Bartold
Although this survey and its results are at least four years old, it is an important document because it generated diocesan "sacramental guidelines" within a year of its distribution to DRE's (Directors of Religious Education) by the NCEA. This survey was also the catalyst for the ongoing debate within the Catholic homeschool movement. Many Catholic homeschoolers realize the NCEA (National Catholic Education Association) is a civil entity, with no juridical or canonical authority. However, it cannot be denied that the NCEA wields much influence in dioceses across the nation.
This article was originally published in The Catholic Family's Magnificat! Home Education Magazine. While Magnificat! is no longer published, we retain copyrights to all the articles originally printed in Magnificat, and we share many of the original Magnificat articles via the Keeping It Catholic Faith, Family and Home Education Network Website.
The survey results are in from the NCEA's (National Catholic Education Association Department of Elementary Schools, Washington, D.C. ) "Questionnaire on Homeschooling" which was issued to every diocese in the U.S. in September '94.
Sr. Antoinette Dudek, OSF, Assistant Executive Director of Early Childhood and Special Educational Services at the NCEA sent a memorandum to archdiocesan superintendents on February 22, 1995. The memorandum and survey results are printed verbatim. Please note that italics are ours to emphasize certain statements. Sr. Dudek's memorandum states:
"In September 1994, the Department of Elementary Schools distributed to 175 archdiocesan superintendents a ten item questionnaire on homeschooling. We conducted this survey to help us formulate a response to the steadily increasing number of information requests and inquiries the department has received recently from school offices, principals, and parents."
"We received 129 completed surveys - from respondents in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam - representing a return rate of 74 percent. A copy of the original questionnaire and a detailed summary report, including comments received, are attached for your review."
"A major concern among the inquirers was whether NCEA had developed a policy statement or specific guidelines on homeschooling, which could be used to assist parents either in selecting a homeschooling program in which to enroll their child(ren) or in developing an appropriate curriculum so they can conduct their own home-based instruction."
"At its fall 1994 and winter 1995 meetings, the Department of Elementary Schools Executive Committee reviewed the survey results and openly discussed the topic at length. The committee members are currently in the process of developing a statement that will address the homeschooling issue and determining what role, if any, NCEA should play on behalf of its membership. Once the statement is in final draft form, it will be presented to the NCEA president and executive staff for review."
"Of course, given the continuing increase in the number of parents choosing homeschooling as an arguably viable educational alternative, we expect that there will be further developments to report to you. In the meantime, we invite you to send us your reactions to the enclosed survey results and share any additional information you deem relevant."
The following questions were answered by the Religious Education Department of those dioceses which responded. As noted in the Memorandum, the NCEA received a 74% response, noting that Salt Lake City, UT completed and returned four questionnaires. The total states and U.S. possessions with dioceses responding numbered 50, which included the District of Columbia and Guam. The total number of states with no diocesan response were four -- Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine and Puerto Rico.
The questions ranged from the general to the very specific. For example, general questions included asking if the Religious Ed Department of a said diocese was aware that homeschooling was taking place in their area and did the diocese perceive homeschooling to be increasing and in what amount: greatly, increasing, remaining stable, decreasing, or decreasing greatly. Please remember that the following answers are perceptions of the various Religious Education Departments, and do not reflect Catholic homeschooling parents' views.
As to why parents choose homeschooling, only 124 respondents (or 59%) answered this particular question. To quote the summary report: "The five reasons that were listed on the questionnaire are ranked according to the frequency with which they were selected: 63% - Desire to personally educate their children; 62% - Poor quality of education in government-owned schools; 32% - Dissatisfaction with Catholic schools; 30% - Unavailability of Catholic schools; 18% - Cost of Catholic Schools."
When asked to describe the overall philosophy of homeschoolers in their areas, 124 responses estimated that 90% of Catholic home educators are conservative; 2% are conservative/middle of the road; 7% are middle of the road; 0% are liberal; and 1% are not sure homeschoolers' philosophies are.
Watch out, folks. It gets better. Question #5 asks, "How would you characterize the Catholic homeschoolers in your area?" Of the 108 responses, 74% classify homeschoolers as Pre-Vatican II, while 8% are Pre-Vatican II or Vatican II , 6% are Post-Vatican II and 2% are not sure how to characterize home educators. (What are the definitions of Pre-Vatican II, Vatican II, and Post-Vatican II? The response to this question is prejudicial on its face.)
The NCEA begins to reveal its agenda with Question #6: "Do you believe that homeschooling will have an adverse impact on Catholic schools in your area?" here the total responses were 124, of which 11% said yes, 82% said no, and 6% were not sure. Additionally, when asked, "Would you find it helpful if NCEA developed a statement on homeschooling?" 75% of the 125 respondent said yes, while 17% said no, and 5% were not sure.
The big guns were pulled out with Questions # 8, 9, and 10. Question #8 wanted to know "If homeschooling is recognized as a viable and effective option, should NCEA become involved in assisting homeschoolers?" Only 115 departments answered this question, of which 51% said yes, 44% said no, and 5% again were not sure.
We home educators should ask ourselves, "Why wouldn't homeschooling be recognized as a "viable and effective option?" We have the teaching of the Magisterium, countless encyclicals and documents, and the New Code of Canon Law which tell us that parents are the primary educators of their children. Does the NCEA now question the Church?
Before you read the last two survey questions and the subsequent comments, however, ask yourself as a Catholic, as a home educator, and as a private U.S. citizen, "What does this mean to me? What do I see as my responsibility - our responsibility as a group - to respond not only to these data, but to straighten out erroneous ideas and misconceptions about home education?" Ask yourself, "Why does the NCEA feel it might have to develop a statement on home education?"
We must broaden our vision to a nationwide level, even as we work on the local level. We must be concerned about what is happening "in our backyard" but we must be aware what the general consensus - from the NCEA and from the various diocesan officials - is toward home education. Then, once aware, it is time to act.
Please feel free to copy this article and distribute it. Talk to other Catholic homeschoolers. Share this information with your support group. If you have a Catholic state homeschooling group, let them know you are aware of this questionnaire and its results. Please consider offering them your help, in any way you can, in correcting these misguided ideas. (Continued)
KIC NOTE: We have divided the original Magnificat article into a total of nine parts for easier reading on the Internet.
Go to Part 2 of 9 for survey results from
Mobile, Alabama to Santa Rosa, California
See our Flash News
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