Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Catholic.......err..... education?

Nothing appears to be taking place with respect to sorting out Catholic primary and secondary religious education in England and Wales - no attempt made to put some vim and vigour and integrity into the curriculum.

When our four children went through a Convent School education in the eighties and early nineties we, as parents, found that in the early years class, pupils seemed to be fixated on the story of Zacchaeus and his climb up the sycamore tree, all the better to view Our Lord as He passed by.

It's a good story, fine.

But the lesson programme went on for the whole year.

At the end of the year there were enough paintings of Zacchaeus and the tree to wallpaper the interior of Westminster Cathedral, twice over.

Strangely, the same programme was taught through all the key stages up until the children departed, one by one, for secondary school at the age of eleven. The content matured a little but not much.

I suspect that things have not improved greatly.

So, perhaps it is 'education' itself that is at fault.

There used to be an old joke told in education circles back then that was based on sex education in schools and how parents would howl if they were told that it was to be changed to sex training.

The inference being that training is about learning by involvement and practice.

Our seminaries train rather than educate priests of the future; in fact, they are providers of a truly vocational education in more than one sense of the word.

So why can we not at least 'train' our secondary pupils in the Catholic Faith and Religion?

The whole ethos of  a school could be changed if it was used as the training arena for RE.

History, Geography, Politics, Social Care, Welfare, Community involvement, art, archaeology, a whole host of subjects could be integrated into a vocational training format.

What was that old saw of the academic world?

"Tell me and I shall forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand"

Sounds pretty good to me.



  1. The trouble is, many of our Catholic schools are labelled as "outstanding" by OFSTED. It is therefore very difficult to complain about Catholic education. The amount of times I have been looked at like I am insane. "But the school has the best GCSE results in the County!", or "But all the kids have to do R.E!". I've said it before, to paraphrase, "What does it profit little Timmy, if he gains 8 a* grades, but loses his soul." We lost our way years and years ago, and have no doubt lost many souls in the process. There is nothing wrong with the song,"Come down Zaccheus, down from the tree, come down Zaccheus, give the Lord his tea", if that is not the sum total of your Catholic education.

    1. I like the sound of that song Mummymayhem.......great comment.

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  4. Jackie Parkes, please look up 'indoctrination' in the OED.
    And please let me have your email address as I would like to contact you regarding the comment you left on Joe Shaw's blog.

  5. I don't suppose we could actually ensure that Catholic schools brought back the Penny Catechism and (save for unusually dense youngsters) expected the little darlings to know its contents before they were allowed to be confirmed?

    Nah. Too simple. Too logical. And it worked far too often for millions of Catholics in the past. Therefore it must be 'fascist'.

    1. RJ - yours is a precise solution to most of the problem. Sadly, many teachers are infected with loony left tendencies and have a revulsion to what is good and effective.
      And, yes, we do have unusually dense youngsters, in fact, quite a lot of them thanks to the system.

  6. God forbid that our children might be unusually dense..

  7. thomistic wisdom - God has an ordained will (how it really should be) and a permissive will (cause us free willers are special). therefore God doesn't ordain that one generation might be so idiotic as to inculcate unusual denseness in their children...that's all our bright idea.

  8. Well, Viterbo and Jackie Parkes, neither I nor any other individual has the authority to say whether there really are more juvenile thickos in our midst than there were in, say, 1952, when the Penny Catechism was widely used.

    What I can say is that again and again I have met ostensibly well educated 20-something and even 30-something Catholics who, after 12 years of alleged Catholic schooling, display so absolute an ignorance of the most basic religious dogma - not even hostility to it, just ignorance of it - that in terms of their public behaviour, any differences between them and the Gadarene swine are strictly coincidental. This is of course entirely compatible with them having tolerably high IQs.

    As an adult convert to Catholicism from atheism - one who had read entire books by Arnold Lunn, Fulton Sheen, and Fr Leslie Rumble at an age when the average 20-something of 2014 is still yelping with rapture over WYD - I repeatedly wonder why we continue to have ostensibly Catholic schools at all. Why not simply abolish most of them; write letters of recommendation so that their sex-education staffers can get the bordello jobs they obviously crave; and start all over again with five homeschooling families and a sympathetic priest?

    1. RJ - comment of the day! I wish I had your way with words.