Catholic school poll: approval of character at local level

A national survey on character in which a West Roxbury, Massachusetts, Catholic school participated found that respondents have far more confidence in the integrity of local leaders than national ones, a lesson that the school is using to teach its students about character, despite the polarized national political landscape.

Catholic Memorial School President Peter Folan recently penned an editorial for Wicked Local Roslindale to explain how the all-boys school is engaging students in character education by launching the Research Institute for Politics and Public Policy, and what they’re learning from the experience.

Folan wrote that Catholic Memorial started the Institute because “as educators and parents, we have an obligation to help children find perspective and engage in important dialogue about real-world problems.”

“Our goal,” he wrote, “was to provide our students with the skills needed to search for truth.”

That search began with Catholic Memorial students and faculty putting together a national survey about character that was distributed through a Suffolk University/USA Today poll. Some of the results were predictable, with most respondents (64%) reporting an unfavorable view of the U.S. Congress and current national discourse.

Other findings, however, were far more promising.

Folan wrote:

In the midst of the discord, a silver lining emerged, as the national data presented positive approval of the character and integrity of local elected officials (61 percent), local clergy (65 percent), and local police (82 percent). These statistics sparked great debate and dialogue in our mathematics, history, and theology classes.

The CM poll also highlighted an 85 percent approval rating of the character and integrity of members of one’s local community, while members of the national community garnered only 55 percent approval. Our students also discovered in their analysis a stark difference regarding views on police, who held an almost 82 percent approval rating locally compared to a recent Gallup Poll that found that just 57 percent of Americans have confidence in the police.

The data is significant because it confirms the foundation of Catholic Memorial’s educational mantra: that “having integrity and character matters,” according to Folan.

It also confirms that students, educators and other leaders “have an obligation to shape the future, and it starts on the local level,” he wrote.

“We must act locally to support the good work done within our communities,” Folan wrote. “There is no doubt that we must strive for constant improvement at both the local and national level. We must also never forget that the work we do in our individual spheres does make a difference. Progress happens one step at a time and starts within our local neighborhoods.”

Folan’s sentiment echoes research from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

James Davison Hunter, a sociologist and Executive Director of the Institute, wrote in The Death of Character that “character outside of a lived community, the entanglements of complex social relationships, and their shared story, is impossible.”

Within Catholic Memorial’s small lived community, students are learning the importance of having integrity and other character virtues in their personal and community relationships by looking up to local leaders.

The school’s website describes how administrators work to actively form character in young men through challenging and rewarding academic projects, and how the lasting relationships students forge at the school helps them to “articulate and define their aspirations, their hopes, and their dreams.”