The Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn writes that the greatest gift the Irish brought to this country was the Catholic school system:
Just as they did in the days of the great Irish migrations, Catholic schools in our own time hold out perhaps the best hope for the assimilation and upward advancement of a new wave of immigrants: Latinos. …
These schools lifted millions of Irish, Italians, Poles, Germans and other European immigrants into mainstream society. In these schools, children not only learned the skills that would propel them into the middle class, they were instilled with an appreciation for American virtues, American institutions and American exceptionalism. The rise of a Catholic school system, in short, was an American achievement—the more stunning because it was pulled off by a poor, immigrant people.
It used to be that European immigrants, most of them Catholics, were excluded from U.S. society. Although those groups have since been largely assimilated and enjoy the privileges of other Americans, Catholic schools still primarily teach their offspring. Today, somewhere around four in five students in Catholic schools are white, according to the National Catholic Education Association. By contrast, white students account for less than half of public school enrollment. In short, McGurn is calling on the Catholic schools to rediscover their original mission, one of promoting diversity in the American republic.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!