Christian and even Jewish and Islamic schools are seeing a growing number of students from other faiths enrolling, reports the Wall Street Journal (Oct. 12).
“As parents worry more about moral guidance for their children, Catholic, Jewish and other faith-based schools are seeing a wave of interest from students of other religions. At Episcopal academies, enrollment by non-Christians is up almost 40 percent since 1995. Despite flat overall enrollment at Catholic schools, the number of non-Catholics has doubled in some places,” writes Nancy Ann Jeffrey. The new openness stems both from financial need as well as an interest in increasing diversity at these schools. Some Christian schools have hired diversity consultants to make sure their programs are friendly to Jews, Muslims and Hindus.
One Jewish school drawing African-Americans, put a black Baptist minister on staff to minister to students. A Catholic school in Indianapolis now celebrates Jewish holidays as a gesture to the six percent of students who are Jews. The combination of a spiritual atmosphere with diversity is seen as a marketing tool to draw those parents disenchanted with secular education and for others considering private schools.
But the new diversity is being criticized as weakening religious schools’ identities, making parents and students who picked their schools for its religious beliefs feel like outsiders, reports Jeffrey.