Summaryby Ginny Seuffert | Teaching our children to develop good judgment will lead to a future dominated by well-formed, deeply committed Catholic leaders.
This is the fourteenth article in the series How to Get an Elite Prep School Education on a Homeschool Budget.
Master teacher John Taylor Gatto studied elite private prep schools, those that produce leaders in government, industry and the professions, to discover what characteristics, if any, they share.
This is the last in a series of articles examining these themes and encouraging homeschoolers to inculcate them into their parenting and their home learning.
Society has a tremendous need for leaders who are not only prepared academically, but also formed in Catholic values.
We homeschooling teachers have only one unrepeatable opportunity to shape our children into future leaders our nation and our world so desperately need.
Gatto’s final theme is to encourage constant development and testing of judgments.
Allow students to consider an issue and perhaps come to a tentative conclusion.
Then, they must form a habit of keeping an eye on that prediction, continuing to research in order to refine and enrich available information.
Finally, they must be ready to change their minds and revamp their point of view if subsequent facts or events warrant it.
This theme is certainly connected to Catholic values. A good Catholic must always search for all that is true, e truth isven when the not evident.
Our Faith requires us to refine our facts and conclusions through the filter of Church teaching.
We must acquire the virtue of humility, being willing to admit we might have been wrong and to change our point of view.
These good habits can be learned early in life and reinforced as years go by.
1. Start Early
Often, the first judgments our children make concern their playmates. “He’s mean.” “She never shares her toys.” They may draw positive conclusions. “Those new kids, who just moved in, are so much fun.”
Often their impressions may be true at the time, but may not be proof of lasting character traits. Parents need to help young children realize that first impressions must be tested again and again.
The “fun” kid on the block may be rude or have fun at the expense of others. Even little children have a strong sense of justice.
You might ask, “Why is Janie mean to the girls at the playground? Do you think that’s nice?” Always followed of course with, “I know I can depend on you to be kind.”
These conversations can be about TV shows, or even games the children play.
The key at this age is constant conversation, at mealtime, in the car, while shopping, or in a waiting room, always reminding children that their first conclusion—about anything—may need to be reassessed.
2. Literary Analysis
This ability to test judgments will be refined as students begin to read, and especially as they work on book reports, which are the beginning of literary analysis.
Let’s consider the familiar main character in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens introduces Scrooge as a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner,” and gives ample evidence in the plot to confirm a reader’s poor opinion of him.
Then as Scrooge examines his early life with the Ghost of Christmas Past, the reader gains some insight into his motivation and even some sympathy in consideration of his lonely childhood.
At the end of the tale, his time with the spirits has transformed Scrooge into “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.”
People can change, or our opinions of them may change. Understanding this develops a proper sense of humility, and deep insight into the human condition.
What is our take-away?
This series of articles concerns, at its heart, the future leadership of America.
Some of us may have children who, because of their abilities and ambitions, will excel at just about everything they undertake.
It is our responsibility as their parents/teachers to encourage them to develop diligent work habits and highly trained intellects, while always pointing them towards excellence.
These gifted few challenge our parenting skills because the stakes are so high when we consider the influence they could wield in the future.
It is our sacred responsibility to give them a deep desire to serve both God and their fellow man, sanctifying their own lives and evangelizing others through their professional work, whatever that might be. Our nation, our Church, and our world need them.
A future dominated by well-formed, deeply committed Catholic leaders is a lovely world to contemplate.
Other parents may be thinking that their children, while precious, are more ordinary in both aptitude and aspiration.
Many of these children will grow up to marry and raise families, while volunteering, holding jobs or opening businesses in their communities.
It is no less important to prepare these children for leadership because indeed they will be future leaders in their parishes, neighborhoods, and workplaces.
They can be a powerful force for good at a local level, and their influence will transform communities for the better.
We Catholic homeschooling parents will one day stand before God and have to give an accounting of our stewardship of the precious lives He entrusted to us.
We are given only one unique and unrepeatable opportunity to raise our children for His service.
May He give us the graces we need for this mighty task.