The discussions about education never stop. They are as steady as the flow of the Missouri River. There’s a new study out that shows the benefit of teaching, even demanding, student self-discipline as is found in Catholic, Lutheran and some other private schools.

With the government influence so strong in public schools, with the government mandates, with the obstacles put on public schools in fostering self-discipline, they are put at a disadvantage in creating a school environment of discipline. Public school officials are handicapped in fostering discipline by the rules of engagement with students. They also must take any and every child regardless of a child’s behavior record.

With the economic pressures Catholic schools face today, it has forced parishes to close many elementary schools. The cost of sending a child to a Catholic elementary school has gone up to the point where some parents send their children to the free public schools. With declining enrollments some of the Catholic schools have closed — the cost to a parish becomes too much of a financial burden. Some consolidations have occurred.

When the parishes had nuns as teachers, the financial burden was much, much less. With fewer nuns, there have been fewer teachers from religious orders available to staff Catholic schools. Hiring lay teachers is expensive even though the pay scale usually is behind what the public schools pay. Many of the teachers want the religious atmosphere, and the student self-discipline that is present, and that’s why they elect to teach in a private school.

Getting back to the recent study we alluded to, in Catholic schools with nuns, and other dedicated lay teachers, the study found that the sisters could instill self-discipline in students, “a virtue that will help them in their studies and later in life,” a Wall Street Journal editorial said. The study was conducted for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute by a University of California-Santa Barbara associate professor and a doctural student. The editorial said the study found statistically meaningful evidence that students in Catholic schools exhibited less disruptive behavior than their counterparts in other schools. They exhibited more self-discipline.

“We also know that, especially in urban areas, black and Latino students who attend Catholic schools show higher achievement, higher graduation rates and higher college enrollment than those at nearby public schools,” the editorial said.

The editorial concluded: “Though the authors (of the study) offer no easy prescriptions, they do say it is a ‘tragedy for the nation’ that so many Catholic schools continue to close when they are most needed. Their lessons are worth preserving.”

The question is, can they be preserved?