Atheist donates $5,600,000 to NY Catholic schools


Retired hedge fund titan Robert W. Wilson lost his faith in God years ago, yet he believes in Catholic schools and gave $5.6 million to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York this summer.

It’s the latest of many gifts from Wilson to the city’s Catholic hierarchy and educators, this one aimed at funding the Catholic Alumni Partnership, a program he founded that helps elementary schools track down their 750,000 alumni and recruit them as donors.

“Most of what the Catholic schools teach are the three Rs,” said Wilson, 83, in a phone interview, referring to reading, writing and arithmetic. “And they do it better than the union-controlled inner-city schools.”

You know what would help make those union-controlled inner-city schools do just as good of job? Giving them $5.6 million dollars. He may be concerned with the three Rs, but Catholic schools have a forth R he’s forgetting about: Religious indoctrination. Gah.

Over at Friendly Atheist, Hemant asks what everyone thinks about this. I’m going to have to side with the “FFFFUUUUUUUU” option.


  1. LS says

    I think the problems with public schools run FAR deeper than money can fix, but it would certainly help. Still, this is pretty horrible. I can understand his thinking, but these schools aren’t something which need to be supported.

  2. says

    I hear you on the FUUU- … that’s for sure.Basically what I said over on Friendly Atheist is that it’s his money and he may spend it as he pleases. But do I err on the side of “I don’t like it,” though. I think there are more worthwhile applications of such generous gifts than sinking it further into -anything- religion-related.

  3. says

    “I think the problems with public schools run FAR deeper than money can fix, but it would certainly help. “You’re right about that—”Now if he’d given them the money on the condition that they taught evolution, that would be hilarious!”Dummy, they do teach evolution and other controversial THEORIES.Faith is a gift of God. Considering he has no faith, he went as far as he could in his own personal dark night of the soul, this gesture is admirable.Rumor has it…Mr. Wilson may have read Mary Eberstadt’s, The Loser Letters, just before the decision was made.

  4. says

    I taught music at a Catholic school for a while until I was informed that I would no longer be allowed to teach musicians who had dealt with drug or sex issues (code for gay). Apparently, when a student had asked me what a song was about, giving the answer “addiction” before moving onto the next section was simply too much information. Seeing as writers are known for their monastic lifestyle I asked what they intended to teach in Lit next semester, upon which it was indicated I might fit in better somewhere else.

  5. Paper says

    Maybe he should of donated it to the inner city school instead of the wealthy private schools it would of done some good for the people that can’t afford to go to a private school.

  6. Thomas W says

    A few things from the NY public school web site: – Annual budget: $21 billion – 1.1 million students – 80,000 teachers.Now do a bit of math: – Spending per day: almost $60 million. – Spending per teacher: over $250,000. Teacher salaries range from 45,000 to about $100,000. – Spending per student of about $19,000.A $5.6 million donation is a drop in the bucket.The Catholic schools have about 83,000 students. I couldn’t find an overall budget, but tuition per student ranges from $3500 to $8000 (elementary vs high school and varies by school). I can tell you from experience that the overall school budget is not a whole lot more. The Catholic schools spend less than 1/2 the cost per student. The (unionized) teachers make about 1/3 less (gleaning from one news story, I couldn’t find an official salary scale), but that doesn’t come close to explaining the over 2:1 difference in costs.I also know (from personal experience) that it’s easier to do “damage control” on indoctrination by a school than to try to make up for a lousy education.So the net result is that the Catholic schools do a better job of educating students at a much lower cost. I’d rather put my money into a system that works unless there’s clear evidence that the public schools are going to fix things.

  7. says

    “Robert B wrote, in response to Never Was An Arrow II (unregistered):Can you define theory as used in the scientific sense?”Robert can you define evidence as used in the scientific sense?Can you reproduce EVOLUTION in the lab… and demonstrate for me how it all went down? Physical examples fresh from the evolutionary process, reproduced in the lab?(It doesn’t have to be Jen’s lab…)What?? You can’t!!! A THEORY remains just that, no matter how many raving lunatics demand their theory be treated as scientific law.

  8. says

    Pedophilia is not homosexuality. The church covered up and continues to cover up a child sex organization that operates with its resources and tacit approval, continuing its abuse through threatening excommunication and smearing the victims. That is why the church has to pay.You are a disgusting excuse for a person. I have nothing else to say to you unless you somehow manage to produce a useful thought.

  9. says

    I’m not going to play with you if you can’t be bothered to at least learn the definitions of the words we are using. Without that shared and honest foundation, this is pointless.Jen, sorry for feeding your troll. Couldn’t help it. :)

  10. LS says

    I’m not very good with this sciency stuff. But isn’t “Law” a completely outdated concept in modern science?Newton wrote about the law of gravity, but modern science refers to the theory of gravity.Or, wait, is a law relegated to simple observations, such as “What goes up, must come down.” then any explanation of why is theory, regardless of how well supported it is?

  11. Rollingforest says

    Michael Simms, I think Catholic schools are far more amenable toward teaching evolution than evangelical schools.

  12. Vanessa says

    “Can you reproduce EVOLUTION in the lab… and demonstrate for me how it all went down? Physical examples fresh from the evolutionary process, reproduced in the lab?”Actually, yes you can. In fact, you don’t even need a lab. Take the bacteria in/on your body for instance. The reason we have to keep developing new antibiotics? Because these bacteria are evolving rapidly to be resistant to them.

  13. Rollingforest says

    Most atheists who grew up Catholics hate the Catholic Church. But I actually dislike the Evangelical churches more (maybe its because I grew up in rural Virginia, Baptist country). Yeah, it would have been better had it gone to public school but if I had to choose between a Catholic school getting the money and an Evangelical school getting it, I’d definitely go with Catholic. At least Catholics sometimes teach Evolution and are progressive on immigration, the environment, and poverty issues. Yeah they’re Conservative on a lot of things, but the Evangelicals are Conservative on EVERYTHING.

  14. LS says

    The Catholic Church is a great deal more forward thinking on many issues than most christian groups are. I’ve never met a catholic who thought the earth was 6000 years old, or who would be so bold as to say that evolution is “wrong.” At worst Catholics are simply “unsure” about it. And in regards to their sexism…well, at least they’re open and plain about being a patriarchy. Though they do espouse the whole “Different but Equal” nonsense which was the primary target of the black civil right’s movement 60 years ago.

  15. Crimethink says

    I go to a Catholic school at the moment, and I don’t find that it’s that bad (maybe it’s different here in Australia). We learned evolution by natural selection as a fact in science classes, have a pretty good science department, learned about different religions in RE classes (not just Catholicism and other branches Christianity) and once in personal development class we watched a video all about homosexuality and how it’s perfectly natural and why we shouldn’t be assholes to homosexuals. RE was also pretty much an ethics class in year 11, and while there was a focus on ethics from a Catholic point of view, we were encouraged to make up our own minds. Plus I wore my atheist shirt to school on a casual clothes day and barely got any reactions, apart from one teacher who I talk to who describes himself as agnostic (but he already knew about my atheism). So yeah, I don’t really have the same reaction to donating money to Catholic schools. Although, they may be completely different in the US. I don’t know :S

  16. LS says

    You make an excellent argument, Thomas. This dichotomy of Bad Education vs Bad Education+Indoctrination is part of why I’d like to home school my children.

  17. lomifeh says

    My first react would be to agree but catholic schools, at least in the ny metro region, are not like many would think. They teach all the sciences, he’ll my HS had one of the first computer classes. I was learning PASCAL as a sophomore. Had bio, chem, physics, even an electronics class. The area schools are not like the South. They are regarded for their academic standards to the point that a lot of non Catholics go. From what I remember the religious part was mainly three classes a week and masses now and then. It would be nice to see this person help the public schools but I think I can see why here. An interesting thing to note, for all the money the Church has they schools get very little. I guess education funding sucks across the board.

  18. lomifeh says

    I can tell you, at least in NY, most Catholics tend to be liberal and democrat. American Catholics in general much more progressive as a whole than the rest of the church. As much as I view Catholicism, and religion as a whole as a failure I do have to give them their due when it comes to the quality of the schools here and the fact they tend to not be ring wing nutters.

  19. says

    This donation has everything to do with an anti public school, anti union, anti government spending ideology and nothing to do with religion. Of course one can also be an atheist and not have a problem with religious education. For atheists who see religious education as destructive this donation is a problem, but just not believing in God doesn’t mean one can’t like Catholic schools. For me the problem boils down to this: I believe in a free, quality, public education being available for every child. Any donation, even a drop in the bucket, that goes to private schools instead of public schools hurts the opportunity of those who can’t afford private schools to get a decent education. Every student whose parents pull them out of public schools out of ideology, fear, or the notion that their education won’t be good enough hurts the opportunity of those who have no other choice to get a decent education. I for one am deeply opposed to private school, especially religious ones, as well as to home schooling. It is the flight of middle class white people to the suburbs, to private schools, and to homeschooling largely to avoid exposing their kids to poor black kids that is directly responsible for the problems in public schools. One can now say they are fleeing drugs and violence in schools, but the initial flight was from poor black students, and that flight concentrated the problems into the inner city schools, so now all those middle class white folks have a good excuse for fleeing public schools.Either way, this is a loss for public education, for poor kids, and for black kids.And boy, it’s much easier to be a successful school when you can pick and choose who you accept and kick people out at will without concern for where they’re going to get their education, isn’t it?

  20. Introbulus says

    Honestly, I don’t feel bad about this one at all. No, really. If he wants to support a group of schools by donating to them several million dollars, I would not stop him. No matter what doctrine they teach. Sure, I personally would prefer to hear that money going towards a public school, or towards cures for various illnesses, or towards a free clinic, or any other number of things that I would prefer to see it go towards. But this isn’t my call to make. Yeah, I think it is a little foolish to assume that a school with a better ability to regulate itself needs more funding than failing schools, and I think it should go somewhere else, somewhere where it will see better use. That doesn’t mean I would tell that to him though. And it also doesn’t mean I would discourage him from extending his charity to his fellow man, regardless of their denomination and whether or not it matches his own. I think in that sense, it is wonderful. It’s a little naive of me, to think that altruism is the force behind this donation, but I would like to encourage any sort of charity, even if it isn’t for the absolute best of intentions.

  21. lomifeh says

    I think you are painting a broad brush here. Regarding racism and why people use private schools or home schooling. I went to a private school not to flee the brown people but to get a better education. Hell my private school had a number of black, indian, asian, and jewish kids and it was a catholic school. And no one was what you’d call rich. Lots of scholarships going around then. I think Home Schooling is not a good answer but the people I know in this area who home school tend to do it because of two things.1. Lack of money2. Lack of faith in the public school systemI t hink the problems in public schools go beyond simply funding. There are deeper, systemic issues with them. NY has done a lot to turn them around but they are not there yet. I also have to disagree when you say there should be no private schools at all. If someone wants to send their children to a private school that is their right. They still pay taxes mind you.Also what about colleges? Many are private institutions are those bad too? Oh and most catholic schools are unionized.

  22. says

    I’m not painting with a broad brush, you just missed the nuances.1. Racism – It’s not always racism now, but that’s how it started in almost every case and that’s what caused the problems that now cause people to leave public schools. Looking back to desegregation we find people moving out of cities and moving to private schools to get around desegregation. The initial flight was caused by racism. There were also Catholic schools before desegregation and people went to them. But kids were pulled from public schools and switched to private schools after desegregation. And now that the damage is done private schools are more inclusive. Bully for them.2. Sure the problems go beyond funding, but funding is a problem, and frankly, none of the problems are going to be solved without spending money on them.3. I never said there shouldn’t or couldn’t be private schools. I said that all the money and students that go into those schools are essentially taken from public school, and I have a problem with that. The truth is that I would rather there were no private schools, but I also know that’s not going to happen. My bigger problem is with the size and number of public schools, the number of kids going to them, and with public funds being shifted to private schools.4. Colleges? I’m not talking about colleges. The cases are completely different. I have no opinion on private colleges.5. Unions – I mentioned the donation being about being anti-union because the donor specifically called the public schools “union-controlled”. That suggests an anti-union mentality. That’s all I said and all I know about unions and private/catholic schools.

  23. says

    Lots of comments, so I doubt anyone will read this.Though an agnostic, and happily so, I work at a Jesuit high school in Manhattan. They do amazing work here. The Jesuits seem dedicated to making the students actually question their faith, and work to really believe, rather than just indoctrinate them into the faith. These guys tell the truth about everything, even if it blemishes the church or their faith. Without questions, you can’t find answers. (almost sounds scientific…almost.) :)We get NO state aid. We get NO federal aid. We have to be re-accredited following a very difficult and lengthy process, and we create some of the smartest kids on the planet. Are they Roman Catholic? Yes. Does that mean they aren’t deserving of some random dude’s charity? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?Hold the city schools up to those standards. Make them toe the budgetary line because there’s no guarantee the money will be there next year. Expect 100% of your graduates to go on to college (and for the record, we are tuition-free, actively serving some of the poorest neighborhoods!). Now tell me who might deserve a little more money, and who deserves more of a systemic overhaul.Letting atheistic/non-theistic/agnostic beliefs obscure the point that a rich guy GAVE TO FUCKING CHARITY is pretty short-sighted. Be glad he gave it to an educational foundation, and not to help rebuild Touchdown Jesus. Be glad that he probably ALSO gives to secular organizations. But to quibble about a guy like that giving what would be a fraction of a percent of the NYC city schools annual budget, or tripling the annual budget of a religious education budget?!

  24. says

    Hold public schools to those standards? Kind of hard when the public schools have to serve everyone. It’s not nearly as hard to meet those standards when you have only students whose parents self selected them into the school and who the school further selected, rather than attempting to educate the millions of kids in New York, regardless of parental involvement, disciplinary problems, or sheer numbers.

  25. L.Long says

    I’ve read many of the posts and I think he did as good as he could to affect as many kids as possible with it. Private schools tend to be limiting in membership and the problem with public schools are school boards trying to please to many BS parents and the state and be too PC which is impossible altogether.As an X-catlick, I hate the rabid religious BS, but they are the most acceptable for science. I really liked my years in school and the nuns started my intense love of science. Buybull stuff was not really that much a part of the school as we had buybull classes later at the church and they were voluntary (well My MOM made me go). But then public school was pretty good back then too. This brings up the question as to now that public schools are a basic waste, what is the condition of the catholic schools?

  26. says

    I take issue with the notion that public schools are a basic waste. They still educate most of the children in this country, and they still basically do a good job overall. In fact, one of my local public high schools is one of the best high schools in the country and accepts tuition paying students from outside the district who prefer it to the available private schools. Public schools as a whole have problems. Some schools and some districts more than others. But they aren’t a waste.

  27. says

    I gather that US public schools have a lot of problems, and people disagree as to what they are, so someone roadblocks every attempt by the federal government to improve the situation. What I want to know, and I know opinions will differ, is *how* US public schools got into this state. In most of (Western) Europe, the vast majority of people go to state schools (the usual British term – public school means something else here), and while there are always criticisms everywhere, they generally work pretty damn well.

  28. Rollingforest says

    If you look at polling results, across the US 50% of Catholics are Democrats, 40% of Protestants are Democrats, and 12% of Southern Baptists are Democrats. Politically speaking, the Southern Baptists are probably more of a threat than the Mormons, both in amount of power and level of conservatism.

  29. says

    I wouldn’t send my kids to Catholic school, but in this bookmy colleagues found that Catholic schools produce more equitable outcomes. In public schools, privileged kids learn more than economically disadvantaged kids, while in Catholic schools, the difference is much smaller.

  30. says

    Firstly, my little blunt arrow in a quiver of sharps, you have absolutely no conception of the meaning of the word theory and are sufficiently blinkered that you even refuse to learn.Secondly, can you produce god or intelligent design in a lab, a church or any other envieonment?Until you can, your questions about evolution are unwarranted.

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