Cardinal Mooney Bulletin for July 12, 2020
Mooney’s founding principles will guide us
Dear Cardinal Mooney Family:
I hope everyone enjoyed last week’s holiday weekend. Each Fourth of July, I spend time reading James Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention. Permit me to share an observation made by Benjamin Franklin during the debates: “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?” (Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention, 1787.)
The Covid pandemic is forcing many of us — from Governor Mike DeWine to school administrators — to address new realities. These are unknown but suspected new realities, and some truths that we’ve avoided for years. One such reality is that we’re not in as much control of our lives as we think. Another is that we’re not invincible — not as individuals, not as institutions, not as governments.
Dr. Christian Smith of University of Notre Dame noted this recently: “The sacred values of modernity are human control and freedom. The spirit of modernity is humanity taking its destiny into its own hands. Covid-19 mocks this modern project.”
I began with quoting Dr. Franklin as he sought to bring compromise to the debates during the Constitutional Convention. He recognized the importance of turning to God in times of uncertainty and /or crisis. In choosing Mooney, you have chosen “Sanctity, Scholarship, and Discipline” to educate your children. Those pillars guide us in our planning to welcome students back to campus in August.
Dr. Franklin was also a scientist in his day. He understood that that scientific knowledge contributed important elements to decision making, yet he also understood it wouldn’t settle disputes without the directives of shared values and ethical commitments. I am learning that those “shared values and ethical commitments” are best expressed as a tough optimism within our Mooney community. I can’t put a price tag on our cardinal beliefs or your “optimism”. Both are integral to how we educate, and why it’s important to open in person.
Here’s what I learned from visits with families and recent alumni:
- Parents have instilled optimism in Mooney’s mission to produce future leaders who will improve the human condition. Two recent grads are preparing for med school, another is serving as a counselor at a local YMCA. Returning students to campus next fall is essential to executing that mission.
- Our students and alumni have had to adapt, and that skill is important for their future successes. Two were taking online courses during my visit and spoke about the relationship with their professors — both in person and online. Another is working remotely from home with his company in Austin, TX. You have chosen “Erie and Indianola” for the unique environment and difference it creates in our graduates. Our graduates appreciate having had the opportunity to learn from, and of others. Their emotional intelligence puts them at a competitive advantage. They all expressed how prepared and confident they were to engage with their new campus community. I would describe them as “bridges of understanding” between diverse people, faiths, socio-economic demographics, etc. Cardinal Mooney graduates leaders and bridges — few can claim that.
- Learning is a social experience. This social experience will be weakened if they don’t meet their teachers, and never engage in conversations inside or outside the classroom. The graduates I met are very engaging, thoughtful, and ready to share their talents.
- You expect in-person experiences for your children. I’m grateful of your recognition of the faculty’s effort to move online last spring, and I greatly appreciate your input on how we can improve. With your confidence in us, we are making strides where necessary.
- This “tough optimism” is forged in faith. Our faith teaches us we’re not the center of the universe, and that our talents are meant to serve others, and to trust in God.
“Sanctity, Scholarship, Discipline” — is the “Mooney difference” that, as expressed by our graduates, continues to guide them and provide value in their lives. That is what you as parents are investing in.
Let me close with a note about “scholarship and discipline.”
We have all experienced good, bad, and great teachers / professors. For many of us who have taken online courses, the same can be said. What distinguishes one from another in my estimation has little to do with the format and everything to do with the teacher’s pedagogy — their grasp of the technology, and their ability to design a course around that. Good teachers harness the affordances of their teaching environment and make efforts to construct an engaging learning atmosphere for their students. That was true with chalk boards, and remains true today with Promethean boards.
Dr. Beiting is leading our faculty to create just those kinds of experiences for your student whether in person or remotely. We are investing in delivering meaningful and deliberate instruction, not simply giving assignments. We are investing in the infrastructure to ensure that there is no gap in instruction, 24-hour access, and that we mitigate inequities caused by virtual learning.
Modes of learning have been evolving since Aristotle, and continue to change more rapidly today. Technology has been revolutionizing our lives and integrating the global landscape that our student will enter. To remain relevant, we must step outside of our comfort zone of the past, AND remain advocates of the traditional Cardinal Mooney experience that values interaction between students and faculty. This is the key to transport teaching and learning beyond a computer screen.
I appreciate Governor DeWine’s approach, and I’m grateful for the wise counsel coming from County Health, doctors in our community, and the diocese. Each continue to remind us however that returning to school in August will require some discipline by all of us: myself, administrators, faculty, coaches, students, and parents. Fortunately, “discipline” is a Mooney pillar. To ensure we return in-person and remain in-person, Governor DeWine has challenged us all to approach COVID with discipline and adherence to simple guidelines. These guidelines will challenge the nature of adolescents. I’m sympathetic yet believe in their tough optimism to see us through it all.
Have you noticed the flowers inside the ramps to our thoroughfares? What more proof do we need that Cardinal Mooney is in full bloom? Who knew there was such a thing as a Mooney daisy?
Thomas Maj, President