Planning for a National Conversation on Issues Critical to Catholic Schools

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Thu, 09/01/1994

According to James Youniss, director of the Life Cycle Institute at the Catholic University of America, serious discussion about the future of the Catholic school system in the United States must be informed by empirical data rather than ideological convictions. In order to gather the data necessary to conduct such informed discussions, Youniss proposed commissioning experts to analyze the existing data on Catholic schools. With the assistance of a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Youniss was able to undertake the project of identifying the problems facing Catholics schools and bringing existing research to bear on the development of solutions. In 1994, Youniss convened an advisory board to guide the project's development. He and his research team also met with bishops, superintendents, educators, and sociologists of religion in order to explore the critical issues facing Catholic education from a variety of perspectives. Expert reports on such topics as catechesis, religious sponsorship, enrollments, and financial issues were commissioned. These reports served as the basis for discussions at "The Future of Catholic Schools" conference, held in May of 1997. The conference addressed questions of Catholic identity as well operational and policy issues. Based on feedback from educators obtained during the course of the project, Youniss determined that Catholic educators' need for assistance and information was even greater than he had realized. In order to address this urgent need Youniss plans to produce three publications--books on operational and religious questions and a pamphlet on policy issues. He also hopes to establish a Center for the Study of Catholic Schools at the Catholic University of America. Additional public conversations are also under consideration.