Catholic School vs Public School

Updated on August 24, 2012
L.C. asks from Downers Grove, IL
17 answers

Im all for public school since we live in a good area and went to publics school my whole life. My husband went to both and prefers Catholic school. What are your thoughts on this? Besides the cost, what do you think are the pros or cons for both? Im torn. Ive known people who have gone to Catholic school only to rebel afterwords, like they were held down or repressed there. And ive known people who were perfectly fine and didnt go crazy after going to Catholic school. What do you think, either way, good or bad?

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answers from Washington DC on

catholic school will probably give a more rigorous traditional eddication. catholic school grads tend to have much better basic grammar, punctuation, writing and arithmetic skills. but all catholic schools are not created equally. my husband went to a nightmarish one when he was little. still has a visceral horror of nuns. going to public school probably saved him from ulcers and psychotherapy. i've got friends who send their kids to the local one here, and it seems much better. high academic standards and a pleasant atmosphere. but my kids (who are friends with them) tell me it's the drug mecca of the city. ha!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Reno on

i agree with Victoria, it really helps to talk to people about the different schools. my children go to catholic school (against my hubbys better judgement. lol, he finally came around) it is a nice school and i really like the families there. i did a lot of interviewing of different private schools before i picked the one the children are at. you hear so many strong opinions of both and only you can really decide. good luck to you :)

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Mine go to a public but here are a couple reasons I am considering catholic:

THey do not have to "teach to the test" Our children's education has been hijacked by the NCLB Act. YEah, it might help some schools improve but what it has also done is to take all of the critical thinking, creativity and rigor out of academics. I have found most of the school year to be comprised of preparation for tests and most of the effort is made to bring the bottom up. Advanced children are often forgotten.

They are able to kick out discipline problems . It takes an extreme act to even get a suspension in my district. Discipline is never more than a 'tap on the wrist' and therefore the behavior continues.

No IEPS. While I feel for all parents who have children on the spectrum I have also seen my children have classes with four extra adults to work with the IEP kids. The disruption caused by this can really affect the education of the other children. One year my son barely had class because it was always being stopped to cater to a particular child who was difficult to discipline and was extremely disruptive. The teacher's hands are pretty tied in dealing with this so theres nothing you can really do but pick up the slack at home.

Uniforms. I really believe that the decorum these bring is good for the learning environment.

The education is better oftentimes.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Sioux City on

If the Catholic School isn't orthodox then I would put them in public school. I found both of them not to my liking and began to homeschool.

Edit: I have found that if the school is really teaching the kids to think and showing them how to really search for truth then the kids don't rebel. If on the other hand they teach half hazard and expect heard mentality, then the kids rebel and unfortunately don't have to tools to think for themselves.

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answers from San Francisco on

There are good and bad Catholic schools, and good and bad public schools. Do your research, examine your budget, and decide.

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answers from Detroit on

I think it just really depends on the schools, their curriculums and philosophies, and what kinds of kids are going there and their parents.

My daughter just started kindergarten, and we ended up choosing a private Catholic school near our home over the local public school. The elementary schools are ok, some better than others, but starting in middle school and continuing in high school, there are some major discipline issues and more kids who potentially create more problems that in the Catholic school would not be tolerated. I can't help but feel that every parent who is sending their kids there really cares about their children's education and are more personally invested in their academic success and upbringing compared to many other parents these days. The overall feeling is that "it's cool to be a nerd" instead of it being something to be teased and bullied over and kids, in the older grades, tend to push each other to do better. It's also less likely that the kids are going to sequester themselves into "cliques" like the jocks, the cheerleaders, the drama club people, etc. They are large enough to have lots of options for extracurriculars, but you also see kids doing both football and choir, both band and pom-pom, etc.

This is not a scary-nuns-beating-kids kind of place. The teachers are all laymen, but highly qualified and very good with the kids. It's one of the few Catholic schools that also follows the IB curriculum the entire span of K to 12. So the academic standards are quite rigorous and they are not held to standardized testing requirements like the public schools are. So there is more time for art, music, p.e., Spanish, etc. There also are not problems with things like music and art being cut because of budget issues. They teach the kids to be critical thinkers and be more aware of the world around them, rather than just teaching to a test. The class sizes are much smaller (my daughter's class only has 8 kids in it!) so there is more individual attention. And uniforms are required, which also eliminates all the shenanigans that come from letting kids wear whatever they want all the time and not having dress codes in place, or are enforced very well (they do get special "jeans days" in their schedule here and there). The scholarship money awarded to seniors about to graduate and go on to college is substantial. And they emphasize upright moral behavior that in public schools is really not something they have any control over, or even have the right to say anything about. You don't have to be Catholic to go there - there are some kids that happen to be Muslim or Hindu, and some from families that are not strictly religious either. There is a prayer said each morning with the Pledge of Allegiance, there is a daily religion lesson, and the kids do go to Mass once a week.

If people act rebellious or crazy after attending Catholic school, I would wonder how much of it is the school and how much of it is also being repressed at home.

If I were you, I would visit both types of schools in the area and see if you can get a feel for how they operate and how you think your child will do there, and what your expectations are. You could also ask your husband what he liked about going to Catholic school. Some kids have done both and end up liking the Catholic school more because the behavior and attitudes of kids in public schools can some as such a shock. If you are involved in your kids education and you are about how they do and have a good relationship with the teachers, they can do well no matter where they attend. Going to a Catholic school is not a guarantee of anything but neither is public school either.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

HA! I think Suz T. pretty much summed it up. They are not all created equal. And neither are the kids who go to them.

Most, however, are going to be pretty rigorous academically, at least in the elementary grades.

You would probably benefit by meeting with someone at the school to ask about their standards, and talking to some of the parents of kids who have been there awhile. You can probably get a decent feel of things that way.

I think you saying that some people "rebel afterwards, like they were held down or repressed there" generalization, can be applied across the board. Not just to those who went to a Catholic school, lol. Look at how kids behave when they go off to college! They didn't all come from Catholic schools. ;)

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answers from Honolulu on

I myself have attended both types of schools, as well as other types of schools, both public and private.

The BOTTOM line is:
Even with "catholic" private schools, there is a WIDE spectrum of differences in EACH school. It is not all the same.
And this is the same per public schools, of course.

The other bottom line is: going to a private/Catholic school or public, does NOT guarantee... whether a child will grow up better or not, or get into a better college or not, once they graduate high school. IF the parent can keep affording, the private school tuition by high school.

Some private schools I know, have awful kids. Not academically, but in thinking and attitude. Some have nice kids. At one religious private school I went to... sure the kids were "academically" smart and privileged in that sense. But, they were just... terrible in character. It was so obvious, to other kids. So much drugs and drinking and the opposite gender sneaking on campus and the girls making out behind hidden areas etc.

I also have seen some public school classmates, excelling, and getting into Ivy League universities, after high school. Harvard.
I have also seen, classmates who, after middle school, HAD to go to public school, because their parents simply could not, keep affording to pay the private school tuition. Even with financial aid. Then, they had a harder time, financing college, or could not go. After all this prior years, at a private school.

The answer, is not clear cut.
It also depends on, how a child is guided/raised, at home.
It is a MYTH... that kids rebel after Catholic school.
Kids rebel, anywhere, no matter what school.
BUT... if the school is a girls-only or boys-only school... then, to me, and for me, I would not send my child to a school like that. Because it is too, unnatural, socially.

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answers from Sacramento on

hmmm...are the penguins still allowed to whack your knuckles (or whatever body part is within range) with rulers? if yes, then no, don't send your child. I have an aversion to rulers and nuns to this day....

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answers from Chicago on

I went to Catholic school from K-12, as well as a Catholic (Jesuit) university. I have also done a lot of classroom observations in public schools (saw what was presented to me as the "best" of the Chicago Public Schools, and it made me want to vomit), saw a bit of suburban public schools, and did my student teaching at an elite Catholic college prep school near UIC.

You will find kids of all kinds at all the schools. Even those friends of mine from my Catholic high school who rebelled still turned out pretty darn good compared to other kids in our neighborhood who went to our local public school (in St. Paul, MN). I loved the closely knit community at my school, and it is an experience I am hoping to give my children.

I would have to say that I didn't rebel. I have had ONE night of excessive drinking in my entire life. It was my first time at a party, and I had no clue how quickly alcohol could act upon me. I never did a single drug. I have never been intimate with anyone except for my husband. Most of my friends are in the same boat. That being said, I do know a FEW people who rebelled very strongly as they got older, but they were the kids from VERY strict families--families that even MY strict mother considered to be a bit off the deep end.

There are great Catholic schools in Downers Grove and surrounding areas. In DG is St. Joseph's and St. Mary Gostyn. In Lisle is the 2011 Blue Ribbon winning school St. Joan of Arc. St. Scholastica in Woodridge is good. Sts. Peter & Paul in Naperville is good, and is up for a Blue Ribbon award this year.(Updated: Sts Peter & Paul DID receive a 2012 Blue Ribbon).

To help you decide, I recommend visiting both the schools and the parish that serves the school. That is how we found the parochial school that was right for us. We've done quite a bit of church-hopping around the Western suburbs, until we found one that felt right for us. The atmosphere of the parish is a pretty good indicator of how the school would be. For us, we like orthodoxy in both teachings and the Liturgy. We found our fit at Ss. Peter & Paul, which has many different options for Masses and is a VERY lively community.

ETA: While it is true that most Catholic schools have fewer extracurriculars, they also have fewer students going out for them, so the chances of actually being able to participate is higher. When I was in high school I did Speech Team, Drama Club, Softball, Volleyball, Soccer, Chorus, Student Council, German Club, Respect for Life. I started playing soccer my junior year of high school, and was put on the JV within 2 days. I played EVERY game. If I had been at a public school I could only dream of doing so much with my mediocre skills.

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answers from Chicago on

I would visit the Catholic school. We sent our son to kindergarten at Catholic school and loved it. Great community, nice teachers, and a great principal. All Catholic schools are different, but they are generally very different from the ones that we had growing up. Our school let parents come in every time they wanted and you felt really connected. Having said that, there are few resources for kids with social or learning issues, although our school did have a reading specialist. I also agree with the post that emphasized the inclusive nature of Catholic schools-if you want to take part in an activity, you were more than welcome and there is less competition than at a large public school. But check it out. See the classrooms, ask about how long teachers principals have been there, and decide for yourself about the best decision for your child.

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answers from Peoria on

Catholic school is not like a military school. You are always going to have some children that rebel. The main difference is that the focus in a Catholic school is more faith-based, more centered on God, the Catholic teachings and treating other children and fellow man with love and respect. The huge PRO for sending your children to Catholic school is that you can build on that when you talk about religion at home. The downside is that they may not have as much money as a public school. (Then again, if you have a generous congregation, they may have plenty!). The downside to the public schools is that the children only get religious education from you and their religious ed classes. Religion is not just about what you learn in the classroom but it is how you live your life.
However, you should research both schools. Maybe sit in on a class or two. Observe the artwork and hangings on the walls, the way the teachers talk to and discipline the kids, how the kids talk to each other, how they do or do not greet you when they see you, how much creativity is put into teaching the lessons, etc. I would suggest visiting multiple classrooms in each school too so you get a better feel. Then decide!

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I think it is not possible to generalize like this -- each school is different. When I was a child, I went to a Catholic school for K-3rd grade. We were taught by nuns, my class only had 10-12 children in it, the instruction was fantastic, and (despite the nuns) there was not that much religious emphasis. Unfortunately, the school closed (when you only have 10 kids per grade you run out of money) and I went to my local NJ public school which was ... fine. Nothing special. We live now in Dist 203, and despite the excellent reputation of our public schools, we found that our home elementary school had some serious problems. Saints Peter and Paul offered all day kindergarten and our oldest had a fall birthday and was ready for all day school. We're there now, 5 years later, and very happy. It is nothing like the Catholic school of my youth though. The classes are big and the school is much more structured. The expectations for learning and behavior are high and for the most part they are met. I think if you look at all your choices you will find what works best for your family. Good luck.

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answers from Augusta on

My opinion would be Public Schools, Ive seen people who would get scholarships, for colleges who graduated from public school. Yes, there are kids from whatever school to rebel, but mostly Ive seen it from Catholic School. How old are your children? If they're in Middle School, or High School, then maybe you should talk to them about what school they would like to go to. If they're in Elementary School, then its up to you! My daughter goes to an all arts school. They still do regular school work, but mostly their focus is on the arts. I really like the school she goes to, and she does too.

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answers from Chicago on

I started my daughters' is public school. I then switched them to a private Montessori and then a catholic school. My first instinct was that if it's private or Catholic it must be a better education. I was wrong. At our particular Catholic school the quality was significantly less than the public. And, because it was a small school, there were fewer educational opportunities. In addition, when our second daughter was having learning issues, the Catholic school couldn't address them as comprehensively as a public - and we had to pay for additional tutoring. So, unless you value the additional religious education or your local public schools are terrible, I don't see much benefit of a Catholic school. My daughters' are back in public school and very happy.



answers from Chicago on

I taught in a Catholic school for a few years.
The kids who needed help really did not have any resources to help them. The kids who were advanced had no resources to encourage them ahead.
Class size was 35 kids to one teacher in grades 1 - 4. ONE aid was split between 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
NONE of that would have been allowed in a public school.

I also found it wrong from a teaching stand point that during lent an hour to two a DAY was given up for church, once a month a few hours were given up for church and at least one other time I literally did not see my 8th grade art class for 2 months straight cause of all the religious things that happened in the part of the week which was their art time. When these things were done for church a subject area was not taught that day or week. In some cases, like lent, they didn't teach any spelling or science or whatever subject was at that part of the day for the whole lental period. During advent a good portion of the morning was taken up with special church related activities. During 2nd and 8th grades a good portion was taken up with what the religious ed kids do after school normally. So, same or almost the same school day length but lots less instruction time.

Institute days were not a way to learn about new teaching or discipline methods, they were mostly going to church and learning about being a good Catholic. Maybe ONE hour out of the whole day was about teaching.

Lastly, the other thing that bothered me was that the kids never did a science experiment, never used anything but the most boring way of learning. I'm sorry to say that. I WISH that I had seen differently, and it may have been only in that diocese.

edited to add - someone mentioned lack of discipline issues cause they can kick out the trouble ones... NOT true... that child is tuition, which pays the bills, kick them out you lose tuition money. There were some really bad kids in the one I taught at.


answers from Grand Forks on

Wouldn't you rather save the money you would have to pay for private school and use it for university instead?

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