For Richer, For Poorer: Jesuit Secondary Education in America and the Challenge of Elitism
Beaumier, Casey Christopher. “For Richer, For Poorer”, Boston College, 2013. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:104064.
In the 1960s American Jesuit secondary school administrators struggled to resolve a profound tension within their institutions. The religious order's traditional educational aim dating back to the 1500s emphasized influence through contact with "important and public persons" in order that the Jesuits might in turn help direct cultures around the world to a more universal good. This historical foundation clashed sharply with what was emerging as the Jesuits' new emphasis on a preferential option for the poor. This dissertation argues that the greater cultural and religious changes of the 1960s posed a fundamental challenge to Catholic elite education in the United States. The competing visions of the Jesuits produced a crisis of identity, causing some Jesuit high schools either to collapse or reinvent themselves in the debate over whether Jesuit schools were for richer or for poorer Americans. The dissertation examines briefly the historical process that led to this crisis of identity, beginning with the contribution of Jesuit education to the Americanization of massive numbers of first and second-generation immigrant Catholics as they adjusted to life in America in the first half of the twentieth century. As Catholics adapted, increasingly sophisticated American Jesuit schools became instrumental in the formation of a Catholic elite, and many of the institutions found themselves among elite American schools. This elite identity was disrupted by two factors: the cultural volatility of the 1960s and the Jesuits' election of a new leader, Pedro Arrupe. While some Jesuit educators embraced Arrupe's preferential option for the poor, others feared it would undercut the traditional approach of outreach to the elite. Through a case study of one Jesuit boarding school, the dissertation seeks to expand our understanding of the impact of 1960s social change into the less-explored realms of religion and education.