Title

Catholic Education in the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota: Attitudes and Alternatives

Date of Award

8-1-1975

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Teaching & Learning

Abstract

Problem: The major purpose of this study was to examine the present relative attitudes of church members and supporters, clergy/religious and laity, toward Catholic education in the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota so that the results of this research might permit appropriate recommendations for future action in regard to present programs and future alternatives. The objective, in general, was to answer the following question: What are the attitudes of priests/religious and lay people toward: (1) Catholic education in general, (2) Retrenchment and alternatives, (3) Selection of a Catholic school and (4) Strengths and weaknesses of Catholic schools by total groups and by groups divided according to age.

Procedures: The population from which the sample was taken consisted of the following groups: 1. All priests of the Diocese of Bismarck including pastors, associate pastors, and all in special assignments such as institutional chaplains. 2. All the sisters serving in any capacity in the diocese including those in education, health care, social service, home service and pastoral work. 3. A select group of lay people from 30 parishes in the Diocese of Bismarck, 10 large (300 or more families)., 10 medium (100-300 families) , and 10 small (50-100 families). Parishes were chosen to give the Best geographical representation possible in the 34,268 square mile area of the diocese.

Alternatives in Catholic Education, published by the Catholic Education Research Bureau of Boston College, was used to gather the data. The questionnaire has six sections: Part I— Demographic information, Part II— General issues related to the Church and school, Part III— Future alternatives, Part IV— The relative importance of Catholic education for the various age and grade levels, Part V— Reason for choosing a Catholic school and Part VI— Perceived strengths and weaknesses of Catholic education.

Two thousand one hundred and nine questionnaires were distributed and 1151 were returned in usable form, providing a 54.5 per cent return. The statistical techniques used in the analysis of the data included chi square and the computation of raw data to means and per cents.

Results and Conclusions: The findings of this study support the following general conclusions: 1. The majority of clergy/religious and lay people indicated belief in the basic soundness of present programs and agreed on the unique character and contribution of Catholic education to the pluralism of American education in the Diocese of Bismarck. 2. Clergy/religious and lay people felt that the support of Catholic education was the duty of all church members. The preferred approach, however, was by voluntary contributions rather than by a diocesan education tax based on ability to pay. 3. Tuition costs on the high school level should be in line with per pupil costs. 4. The clergy/religious generally approved financial support for Catholic higher education, although the laity did not. 5. Clergy/religious and laity both indicated strong support for some form of government aid to Catholic schools. 6. Funds from a diocesan educational fund drive should be used to help finance Catholic college and university scholarships. This position was approved by a majority of clergy/religious and by a smaller proportion of the laity. 7. Program cut backs are a reluctant alternative. If retrenchment is necessary the lay people were more in favor of closing high school grades before the elementary ones and especially the primary grades (1-4). Both groups opposed closing grades 10-12 and converting present high schools to junior high schools. 8. Ecumenical religious education centers or religious education centers sponsored by Catholics alone were suggested as possible future options if school or grade closings are necessary. These proposals received general approval by both groups. 9. Shared time programs were not viewed with much enthusiasm by either group. 10. Fifty-two per cent of the lay people and 35 per cent of the clergy/religious felt that Catholic elementary and secondary schools should not Be drastically changed, But should continue in their present form. 11. Support for Catholic education is stronger among older clergy/religious and lay people and weaker among the younger members of Both groups. 12. Parents are more likely to choose a Catholic school for their children if they attended one. They expect a religious and moral atmosphere in the school and stress on teaching moral values. They expect prayer to Be a part of the school day and Mass to be offered on school days. They expect the children will Be taught self-discipline Balanced with personal freedom and responsibility in their lives. Finally, they expect the Catholic school to provide quality education.

The data reveal that respondents felt the public school was doing a Better job for slow learners. They felt Catholic and public schools are about the same in such areas as: Physical education program, development of good citizenship, development of interest in and eagerness for learning, sensitizing students to the problems and view of minorities, job preparation, teaching students to think for themselves, developing a love for books and the quality of the physical condition of the school plant.

Respondents felt that Catholic schools are doing a better job than the public schools in these areas: Development of proper attitudes toward such social problems as war, poverty and race relations, the quality of guidance and counseling services, teaching honesty and truthfulness, the preparation of young people for marriage and family life, the development of respect for persons and property and the teaching of self-discipline.

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