Mr. Phillip McDonald
Univ. of Md, B.A. Secondary Ed., Social Studies; Georgetown University, J.D.; Christendom Graduate School, M.A. in Systematic Theology
When I joined the OLGC faculty in 2009, I was returning to teaching full time after spending 28 years in law and business as a litigator and consultant, and as Vice President of Operations and Product Development at the world’s leading continuing education company in the fields of project and contract management. I had previously taught middle school CCD classes and RCIA classes at St. Agnes Parish. I also coached travel soccer and CYO tennis and play both sports.
Faith in Action
As a baby boomer who went to public schools and grew up in a Protestant family that normally went to church one day each year (you can probably guess which day), my knowledge of Catholicism and Catholics was pretty much limited to a couple ideas - they considered the Pope to be their leader in some way (yet JFK was nevertheless patriotic), and they were the reason our school cafeteria always served fish sticks on Fridays (which I now realize was a really considerate thing to do).
As I progressed through the elementary grades, there was never any direct criticism or even discussion of Catholicism and its importance to Western Civilization; however, it was clearly insinuated that Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were somehow heroes who stood up to a Pope who was trying to deny religious freedom to Christians. Their horrible persecution of their own loyal Catholic citizens was never mentioned. These were the days of Madalyn Murray O'Hair and removing prayer from schools, so before long all discussion of things Christian or religious seemed to simply disappear from school without any of us noticing. How terribly sad!
Now I'm a Catholic convert who teaches world and U.S. history to middle school students at OLGC, and I have a daughter who teaches the same subjects in public schools. The irony in this story is that in our Catholic school, I'm more free to teach the complete heritage of western civilization than she is, and our students (Catholic and non-Catholic alike) are more free to learn about it. While OLGC students study the Catholic faith per se in Mrs. Williams' Religion classes, we take an interdisciplinary approach, and being able to discuss religious matters in their historical context is one of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching history at OLGC Middle School.
In studying world history, our students learn how the Catholic interpretation of Genesis avoids the conflicts some Christians have with the science of human evolution, about the unique aspects of the religion of "Abraham, our father in faith" (beyond simply the idea of monotheism), about the sacrifices of the martyrs and how their meekness ultimately overcame the power of Rome, about the erroneous teachings that we as Catholics refute every Sunday when we recite our Creed, about our differences with non-Christian faiths, and about why we can take communion in an Orthodox Church if necessary but in no other.
In studying U.S. history, our students learn about the spread of Catholicism and other Christian denominations to the western hemisphere, how other denominations differ from Catholicism, how Catholic social teachings take a middle ground between unbridled capitalism and atheistic Marxism, and about the actions taken by the Church on behalf of Jews during World War II.
Throughout grades six through eight, our students learn how Catholics made history, both good and bad. They study the crusaders that sacked Jerusalem and Constantinople, the trial and execution of St. Joan of Arc, and Justice Taney's racist decision in the Dred Scott case, all the while remembering that the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints. After graduating from OLGC Middle School, our students understand that virtually all the great characters and ordinary people of western civilization for over 1000 years preceding Columbus' voyages (and many people since then) were Catholics and that their religion has had a major influence on their lives and ours. That never would have occurred to me at their age.
When an average 6th grader points out a fundamental flaw in Plato's metaphysics without prompting.
Favorite Activity Outside of School
Fun Fact(s) About Me
One of my great-great-grandmothers was a member of the Lakota Sioux people. I have two children, a son who is a Navy helicopter pilot and a daughter who is a former history teacher and current assistant principal in Loudoun County. I also have two grandchildren, my son's daughter and son.