Catholic schools have a particular tradition of excellence in the types of sports, arts, and service activities that have a prominent role in contemporary American education and youth culture. When Sports Illustrated magazine, for example, rated the top High School athletic programs in the United States over half (13 of the 25) were Catholic schools, despite the fact that only about three percent of American secondary schools are Catholic. Likewise, though other types of activity programs are harder to quantify, many Catholic schools have extensive and high quality offerings in music, drama, community service, and other domains that serve to build community, engage students, and attract attention—sometimes for good and sometimes for ill. This paper offers a selective review of literature and recent research to address several questions deriving from the prominence of these activities in Catholic schools. What are some of the social, historical, and educational reasons for the particular role of activities in Catholic education? And what does the contemporary prominence of these activities mean for the developmental and educational experiences of students in Catholic school contexts? The broad argument here, drawing primarily on existing scholarly literature while also being informed by field research with activity programs in Catholic high schools, is that extracurricular activities are co-constitutive of educational contexts in ways that matter to fulfilling school missions and addressing socioeconomic inequality.



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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.