Here’s my bet: hybrid schools will proliferate over the next 20 years.
The advantages of school are obvious: learning at school gives a social dimension for a social creature. Friendship, role models, and social expectations motivate learning. It’s a fact of nature that the formation of the rational soul requires society. There is no gene for phonics or temperament of trigonometry. Manners and milieu maketh the man.
And the basic unit of society is the family.
Tolstoy opens Anna Karenina with an immortal line about the special uniqueness of all families.
“All happy families are alike; all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way.”
But Tolstoy is exactly wrong. The more we conform ourselves to the Logos, the more individual and happier we become. We cease comparing ourselves to others and competing, and instead become the saint only we can be. The golden calf appeals to the mob, not the man alone on the mountain.
The hybrid model sits on the frontier of the trade-off between family & self-cultivation and peer interactions & peer-pressure.
What the hybrid model does for the high school student is provide structure, friendships, social expectations, and role models without creating an environment of conformity. Students have the space to self-pace and detach from the school peer group. They are free to grow in their uniqueness. By giving students multiple institutions to participate in, church, family, and school, the awesome power of social conformity dampens.
Let’s ask a different question. Are we moving towards a future where the best opportunities for learning are centralized in one building with lots of other people? What indications do we have of that? Very little.
Our milieu is the age of increasing decentralization.
Technology has transformed and will continue to transform the nature of society. It creates immense opportunities for the virtuous to grow in knowledge and capacity, and for the foolhardy to fall into fictions and fantasies. Decentralization of learning institutions will continue.
For us, this means that offering the best high school formation cannot all be school-based. The lion’s share of great souls and roaring saints will be deeply individual and inimitable. They will need their church, families, jobs, outside associates, in addition to school for true soulcraft to occur.
School as a learning factory, school as a holding cell, school as place where entire age cohorts are subjected to each other’s peer pressure for long periods day-in and day-out, even in the best circumstances, such as that of Catholic boarding school (my own experience) costs a high school student their family bond, the bond which the papacy and specifically the local bishop has commissioned us to bolster through this mission.
When the Jesuits started their education system in 1599, their schools met four days per week. Wednesday was the off day. Still in France around 80% of high schools are four-day. School is not education. Don’t let school stand in the way of education.
At JPII, we have two home days. Those two days to work on our education without school holding our hand. Those days ours to become our true selves within the context of our family and community. This is the cutting edge of the JPII Ministry.