So What?

The history of American Catholic schools illuminates the intersection of religious liberty with what Thomas Jefferson called “an enlightened citizenry.” While freedom from religious persecution has been an American promise since colonial times, education has been a vital ingredient of our experiment in self-government ever since the founding of the republic. This exhibit has focused on the period of time over which Catholic schools grew to be the second largest school system in the United States. Perhaps more importantly it has lingered on their resilience. Unlike some of the other American institutions that experienced decline in the mid-twentieth century—like “the economically viable small town” [87]—Catholic schools have demonstrated remarkable staying power.


[87] David P. Baker and Cornelius Riordan, “The ‘eliting’ of the common American Catholic school and the national education crisis,” Phi Delta Kappan (Bloomington, IN) 80, no. 1 (September 1998): 3, accessed January 6, 2021,


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