Sunday, 13 April 2008

Joined up Catholicism in schools

The thoughts behind this post come from three different places. A recent comment here contained the observation that Tony Blair didn't really do "joined up government" when he was in office so it's not surprising that he doesn't do "joined up Catholicism" either. Another comment has described sex education being given in a school without it being placed in the proper context of Catholic teaching on marriage. I have just marked some assignments for Maryvale Institute's PGCE course. One assignment gave some very practical suggestions as to how religious education might connect with other subject areas in a Catholic school - the general idea of vocation as obedience to a call from God to a particular way of life, and the more specific idea of vocations to the priesthood or religious life, for example, could be taught within the school's careers delivery.

So here are some more suggestions for "joined up Catholicism" in schools (if you think of any more, please add them in the comments box):

1. Teaching the doctrine of creation (not to be understood in a fundamentalist sense as opposed to evolution) alongside teaching about evolution in science lessons.
2. Teaching Catholic doctrine on marriage in science classes, alongside teaching the biological aspects of human reproduction and contraception.
3. Teaching some medical ethics in science classes before studying topics related to IVF and stem cell research.
4. Using religous poetry in English classes.
5. Teaching Catholic social doctrine as part of citizenship.

I wonder how many schools do teach the appropriate Catholic doctrine in their RE lessons, but with a practical divorcing of that teaching from the teaching in other subject areas? In all of the areas suggested above, it should be possible to meet the requirements of the National Curriculum or examination specifications as well as teaching from a specifically Catholic point of view.

"Joined up Catholicism", though, requires the teachers of subjects other than RE in the school to have a good knowledge of and some sympathy towards Catholic teaching, something that can be problematical if the staff involved have no religious belief of their own.

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