The learning and practice of democratic principles in urban Catholic secondary schools

Stephen Thomas Powers, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to analyze data which concerned the ability of urban Catholic secondary schools to effectively teach the values and practices of a democratic society while preparing the same students for membership in social institutions that are hierarchically monarchical. The research was conducted in urban schools with a focus on members of minority groups. The Catholic schools were themselves the units of analysis. Research data was purposefully gathered from non-Catholic students as well as Catholic students and administrators. Are the schools as social institutions truly “Pro Deo et Patria,” “For God and for Country?” Using qualitative research methods, this study examined how Catholic schools teach and practice the principles of democracy. Three Catholic secondary schools, located in urban settings and in service to minority populations, served as the research sites for this study. The written documents of each school were examined. During the course of two academic semesters, seven administrators, and 11 students were interviewed and/or shadowed. The data that were collected was categorized through the use of the Constant Comparative Method , which is a research design method for multidata sources. This research study has shown that urban Catholic secondary schools do effectively educate for participation in two different organizational structures; the bottom-up structure of democracy and the hierarchical monarchism of the Roman Catholic Church. The schools effectively pass on the values of this church and the democratic society. The schools educate the students toward the ‘common good,’ a phrase clearly linked to the principles of democracy and the documents of the Roman Catholic Church.

Subject Area

School administration|Secondary education|Educational theory

Recommended Citation

Powers, Stephen Thomas, "The learning and practice of democratic principles in urban Catholic secondary schools" (2000). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9975361.