Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Clarification of My Attitude About Seward's Schools

Paul Kolteman wrote:

You made some comments I disagree with. Here is my concern. You are still a Christian and rightfully so in the eyes of the Lord if you went to St. John School, Concordia High School, Concordia College or Seward High School. Last I checked our Lord doesn’t care. There is no difference in education and quality in the programs of public education or Christian Education in many ways OTHER than the ability to integrate Christ into the curriculum. Which is what truly separates Christian education from public schools.

But don’t ever assume that the quality of education from a public school in Seward is inferior, or the fact that you went to Seward High is in any way a “lower class” as this is far from REALITY. I attended St John, and Concordia College and graduated from SHS and feel NO inferior education and take offense to this. Just my thoughts. I had MANY classmates who went to Concordia High School and Many that went to Seward High School. It makes no difference in the Quality of education, other than the ability in a parochial school to teach the religion of choice. Other than that …don’t judge the quality of education at SHS.

I cherish and Love the fact that I was raised in a Christian family in Seward and went to St John and SHS and Concordia College. But don’t feel , my friends that went to Concordia High School in any way were more better equipped for life than me because they went to Concordia High. In fact it is sad of the split back then between SHS and Concordia kids when many had spent 9 years together in grade school and confirmation and were split by going to a different High school. In many cases those differences went on for years. Very sad.

Anyway, not upset…just open minded to know that the LORD doesn’t look at it that way.

I assume that Paul was responding to my recent post where I wrote:

I suppose that yet another factor in the decline of St John's enrollment is that more non-Concordia families in Seward were satisfied to send their children to the public school. I assume that the quality of Seward's public schools have improved steadily. About half of St John's graduating class every year advanced to Seward High School instead of to Concordia High School. As these young people who had attended both St John and Seward High School eventually got married and had their own children, many of these young parents felt more loyalty to Seward's public schools, especially if one of the spouses had not attended St. John.

I suppose also that, even in Seward, the population has become less religious and more secular. The proportion of the population that feels strongly that their children should receive the kind of religious education that St John offers is declining. Many people, even graduates of St John, have come to assume that a religious education is even inferior to a secular education.

When I started writing this blog, I intended it to be a light-hearted, up-beat nostalgic memoir about childhood in Seward, but I was so shocked to learn that St John School's enrollment has fallen to 150 that I have decided to write a few articles pondering the reasons for that decline. I suppose this enrollment drop has been common knowledge for a long time to people who are not separated so far by time and distance from Seward as I am. For me, though, this is a brand-new interest that has preoccupied my thoughts during recent days.

I expect that I probably will state some opinions that might strike some readers as ignorant and arrogant. I will try to be careful about what I write, and I will accept and learn from criticisms.

Before I begin, I want to say that I do not intend to insult anyone. I assume that the people in the town, church, college and school who have dealt with these problems during the 40 years since I left, when I was a teenager, have dealt with them in a professional, dedicated, thoughtful and earnest manner.

In particular, I do not mean to insult the Seward public schools or the people who transfered from St John School to Seward's public schools. In fact, I think that a major reason why those families did transfer their children in that direction was that they perceived that the public schools were at least as good as or even better than St John School.

I do think that St John perhaps was a better school than Seward's public school in the 1960s when I attended. At that time St John had a large number of students who were the children of parents who were teachers or other employees of Concordia Teachers College. I think that kids who grow up in such families received somewhat more exposure to books and to cultural opportunities and that they aspired more to grow up to become teachers and ministers or other professionals. So, I think that, in general, St John School was blessed with students that were more academically experienced and ambitious than the Seward public schools were. I say this opinion only in regard to the 1960s, when St John School was at its maximum size and when Concordia Teachers College was growing and prospering.

That's a mere personal, smug opinion that is not based on any actual knowledge of Seward's public schools and students in the 1960s. I hope nobody thinks this particular opinion of mine is so strong or important that they should feel insulted. The kids who did transfer from St John to Seward High School are much, much more qualified to compare the qualities of the schools and students than I am.

So, I appreciate corrections from people like Paul Kolterman, who do have that broader experience. I do not write about this subject in order to insult or condescend to anyone but rather to express my concerns about St John School.

Paul Kolterman responded:

We live in Norfolk, Nebraska, and we have a Lutheran Day School and High School here. The enrollment has steadily declined for the past 18 years we have been here, at the grade school K-8.

The High School was started about 10 years ago from the bottom up and is doing well here.

The cost of Private education has gone up considerably over the past years and the economy is messed up. This makes it difficult for families to “afford” private Christ centered education. It is truly a sacrifice that parents make to pay tuition when they can send there child to a public school for free. I feel the quality of education at our Lutheran Schools is second to none and more than likely better in the fact that it is Christ centered. But, it still makes it very difficult for many families and congregations to afford a Lutheran School in the congregation and parents the problem of figuring out how to pay the bills and the tuition. Praise the Lord that we have many who help through offerings and donations to keep these Lutheran Schools going.

Not hardly a day goes by that I feel Blessed to have been raised in Seward by Lutheran parents who saw value above education in Lutheran education. Parents who supported St John, Concordia High School, and CTC. Our Father believed in Christian education and instilled this value in us through allowing us to go to a Lutheran school and for some of us college.

It was so important to us that when we moved to Northeast Nebraska we sought out Norfolk and Christ Lutheran for the simple reason it had a Lutheran School for our Children to attend. It was never easy paying tuition, as raising a family is expensive. But the Lord helps you through all this and the sacrifice of sending children to Lutheran School and founding them stronger in Christian education is something of far much more value, that no price tag can touch.

Praise God for all the Lutheran Teachers and Church workers who make this all possible, as a Christ-centered education could not be possible without them!!!

I attended Concordia High School for two years, and then my family moved to Eugene, Oregon, which did not have a Lutheran high school, so I attended my last two years in a public high school.

I would say that the happiest two years of my childhood were my seventh and eighth grades in St John, and then I felt rather miserable during my two years at Concordia High School. The reasons for that latter unhappiness were not educational reasons, but common adolescent reasons -- social awkwardness, school cliques, etc. I therefore felt personally relieved to leave CHS and to transfer to a large public high school in Eugene, where I felt I could start over socially and find a social place in a much larger student body. A public school with 1,000 students offers a lot of educational and social options that a private school with 100 students cannot offer.

So, my own transfer from a parochial to a public school was a positive experience for me, and I sympathize with Seward kids who likewise felt that their own transfer from St John to Seward High School was a positive experience for them.

Now that I have left my adolescent social traumas long behind me and I look back at my two years at CHS, I appreciate the qualities of those two years much more. I am glad that I had those two additional years of religious education. And the education I received in non-religious subjects was excellent.

I remember that the CHS guidance counselor told us once that our school scored very high on standardized tests compared to other schools. As a school we were at something like the 85th percentile. So, the kids who did go from St John to CHS were a relatively smart group. Just saying.

I intend write a couple articles in the next few days sharing my thoughts about the collapse of enrollment at St John school.

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