Sunday, 14 March 2010

I agree with Rita

I am inclined to agree with what Rita says here. I would perhaps further develop her thought that our Catholic schools are not Catholic in the true sense from the point of view of their educational practice. If Catholic education aims to promote a "synthesis of culture and faith" then all the different areas of the curriculum should be drawn into and presented from the point of view of a Catholic synthesis. This does not mean dogma is taught as science; it does mean that the science lesson relates to the Catholic vision of science. It does not mean Catholic doctrine is taught without any critical analysis or debate with other cultures or with scientific knowledge - that encounter and element of debate is of the essence of building a synthesis of culture and faith and therefore of Catholic schooling seen as an educational enterprise. In the context of sex education, it means that biology needs to be taught in synthesis with the philosophy of the human action, with ethics and with teaching about marriage as covenant and sacrament. In the language of John Paul II, the action of the person integrates the levels of the body with those of the spirit and of eternal life; in the language of Pope Benedict XVI, eros is purified to become agape. My experience suggests that, rather than a synthetic, cross-curricular vision that this requires, most Catholic schools teach their science lessons in this corner and their religious education in the opposite corner, and ne-er the two shall meet. However orthodox the teaching in religious education, it ain't goin' to work if it ain't applied in the science lesson, if the two pull in opposite directions. To put it another way: Catholic schools generally do not have science teachers who are sufficiently qualified and formed in the art of religious education, and vice versa, to effectively deliver sex education in an orthodox and pastorally effective manner.

The text of the letter quoted in this post is of interest, too, though I am not sure the gloss given to it is completely fair.

I feel sorry for Ed Balls and, in his shadow, Vernon Coaker. They seem to have said one thing to one constituency and a different thing to another constituency.  And then sprung it on the unsuspecting public via an amendment tabled at Commons Third Reading - how cheeky was that!


Rita said...

My rants about science lessons and sex-ed from late 2009 say something similar too...

If I were in good health, it is something I'd really like to explore further. I wonder if I could find a private Catholic school in this country that was brave enough to engage in this synthesis of Faith and education?

It won't happen in the state sector, the National Curriculum is too heavy a cosh on creativity and league tables require Exam Board driven education....all very sad.

Fr John Abberton said...

On the subject of questioning our bishops, I must confess to feeling uneasy, and a bit guilty, but, on the other hand, the bishops need to know that some people are not happy with the way they are maiking decisions and (sometimes) not speaking out when they should. Catholic laity have a right - and a duty - to speak up and ask for good leadership. Some years ago a very good book about Catholic education appeared. It is called, "The Ebbing of the Tide". The author is an academic specialising in education. His book was polite and well-reasoned and, because of that, was all the more devastating in its conclusions that the bishops of England and Wales had not followed the Vatican guidelines regarding Catholic education. I lent my copy out, and it has not returned, so I cannot remember the author's name, but I recommend seeking it out (Amazon?). It is a very fair and well-researched book that was not advertised in the Catholic press or recommended in nny Catholic catalogues. There are questions to be asked and for too long we have been afraid to ask them.

I say this, whilst, at the same time, accepting the call of St. Ignatius of Antioch to have great respect and love for my bishop.