Students should accomplish a substantial amount of academic work in the 10th and 11th grades. They have over-come the adjustment problems they may have encountered in 9th, and have not yet entered the final year when jobs and college are somewhat detracting from studies. It is a good time to really concentrate on the work at hand.
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These two grades, unlike the 9th and 12th grades, use an older Catholic series once used in Catholic high schools. Written by Father Laux, and now re-printed by TAN publishers, we believe this is still an excellent high school series, teaching the content of the Baltimore Catechism but with more of an apologetic slant.
The 10th grade concentrates on the Sacraments in one semester, and Catholic Morality in the other semester. Introduction to the Bible is taught in 11th grade.
The lesson plans contain not only instructions in using the textbooks, but also supplemental material. The 1995 edition of the tenth grade course manual directs students to read an extra booklet on the Mass. A new edition will contain a supplement on changes in the Mass parallel with Father Laux’s fine explanation on the Mass.
The eleventh grade course manual contains supplemental material on Old Testament prophecies and foreshadowings of the New Testament, and on the doctrines of the Incarnation, Redemption, and Resurrection of Christ.
Students often do much of the work on their own, which is fine, but there should be a discussion with parents after the reading and/or studying of each chapter. It is too easy for a young person to not quite understand a concept. In addition, students sometimes neglect the supplemental information in the lesson plans, which is always asked for in the questions in the quarterly exams.
Surprisingly, students coming recently from Catholic or public schools think the religion material is something they can be selective about, accepting some teachings, rejecting others. We have been surprised that students actually argue with the teachings they are learning in the Bible. They don’t seem to recognize, though our course teaches it, that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Dr. William Marra says that the schools today convince the students, even in the primary grade levels, that their opinion is just as good as anyone else’s, even in the areas of morality and doctrine.
The English courses in these two grades concentrate on composition and critical analysis. The two literature selections in tenth are Animal Farm and Tale of Two Cities. We emphasize that students should be looking for the significance of events, or for the significance of a character’s actions or words. Students are encouraged to give their own opinions but they must be backed up by examples from the text to prove their points.
Students write a term paper as well. While the content of the term paper is important, the structure is just as important, since students need to learn these skills for college papers. Sometimes papers come in without footnotes or a bibliography, which means the paper is seriously lacking. The purpose of the mini-term paper for one final exam is to test knowledge of the requirements of the term paper.
For the literature selections, the lesson plans present objective questions designed to establish basic comprehension as well as numerous discussion questions designed to encourage higher thinking skills. While we believe answering all the questions, either in writing or orally, is best for the student, it is up to the parents to decide if any of the questions may be omitted. The lesson plans present enough optional material so that the very bright student has plenty of mate-rial to be challenged.
Literature questions cover not only the usual plot, conflict, character, and theme topics, but also values and point of view. For instance, in concluding Tale of Two Cities, students are to consider: Are the moral values advanced in the book in harmony with Catholic morality? Does the author believe in free will, in human responsibility, rather than showing man as controlled by outside forces, or as not responsible for his actions?
The English 11 course is one of the best high school courses you will ever encounter. The selections include Bridge of San Luis Rey, Song at the Scaffold, Man for all Seasons and Ballad of the White Horse. These selections were chosen for their high literary quality as well as for their presentation of a Catholic view of reality, even if some of the authors are not Catholic, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and C.S. Lewis.
The interpretive essays challenge the students to think, to look closely at what the author has said, what the character has said and done, and to support opinions with specific examples from the text. Sometimes answers can be different but they must be backed up by examples from the text.
Students should be reading the selections in the evening and working on the discussion questions or essays during the class time. It is worthwhile for students to look at the questions for a chapter before reading the chapter, and thinking about the questions as they read. It is necessary to take the time to think about the questions and think about the answers. Every minute should not be spent writing; time needs to be spent thinking first.
It is best if students can discuss the book with a parent; however, answering the questions into a tape recorder, and then checking the answers is sufficient. Many students will find that writing down the answers helps in retaining the ideas.
The answer key to the discussion questions on the literary selections also serves as a commentary, comparable to what a student would learn from the teacher in a classroom discussion. Work needs to be original, even though the concepts may have developed as a result of reading some helpful notes. Under no circumstances should material be copied from another writer.
These high school English courses, if done with honest effort, will prove to be an excellent preparation for college work.