October 17, 2013Like millions of others around the world, Kathleen White has seen the infamous video of Miley Cyrus. The one of Cyrus stripping and grinding and twerking and tongue-wagging her way through her performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.
After hearing all about the media firestorm in the days and weeks that followed the performance, White, a nun of 25 years and the new principal at St. Paul on the Lake Catholic School, had to see it for herself.
Not surprisingly, her reaction, like many others, was that of shock and awe. But beyond the initial shock, she had feelings of frustration and disappointment, mostly in knowing the negative repercussions such a video could have on the minds of youths, many of who have grown up idolizing Cyrus from her Disney days as Hannah Montana.
"This is who, at one point, people held up as a good role model for students," said White, a native eastsider who attended and later became an administrator at both St. Thecla School and Regina High School — during its Harper Woods years. At St. Paul, she replaces Mary Miller following Miller's retirement after eight years as a Laker.
"I'm not a prude. I like music; I grew up with Madonna," White said. "I get that. But, at what point do we expose our children and give them the knowledge of what is right and what is wrong? Or what's make-believe or what is real?"
It's that moral understanding of right and wrong that White has strived to instill in her students, both as a teacher and as an administrator. It's also the most important virtue she wants her students to learn before graduation.
"If anything I could have my students graduate, that'd be it," White said, adding it's been her philosophy that every child is born inherently good, and it's the examples adults set and the values they instill that help shape children into the people they become.
As a teacher at the former St. Florian School in Hamtramck, as well as at the other schools she taught, she had an opportunity to cultivate that virtue within the 25 students in her classroom.
Now as a principal, she's cultivating it and modeling Christ's values for about 450 students.
"I believe that, by putting forth the values of Jesus Christ, I'm affecting 450 students and having them learn His ways," she said. "I try to be a good model."