Friday, February 29, 2008

Catholic education

Today's Irish Examiner reports on a speech given by Archbishop Martin yesterday on secondary education. The Archbishop is worried that Catholic schools are becoming elite options for parents who want to "opt out of diversity".

The article in the Examiner also contains this:
[t]he archbishop criticised parents who deliberately opt out of diversification by sending their children to select schools and putting their education above the "common good".
I was alarmed when I read that so I decided to look up the speech for myself to see what exactly the Archbishop had said.

You know what? He did say that. Uggh.

I can understand the noble idea that parents should think about the "common good", but honestly, does the Archbishop really believe that other than a few zealots that parents will (possibly) sacrifice their child's education for the "common good"?

If he wants to argue that the benefits of the fee-based secondary system are more apparent than real, I'd agree with him. If he wants to argue that elite, fee-based schools can actually harm your children, I might agree with him again. But to talk about the "common good" as a factor when deciding where to send your children to school is pie-in-the-sky nonsense. Parents do what they think is best for their children. End of story.

To be honest there was a lot in the speech that I agreed with. 'The state should do more to provide secondary schools for people who want a different ethos'. Hear hear. 'Education is about more than "imparting techniques and information"'. Hear hear. And, 'education requires excellent, devoted teachers'. Hear hear again.

The Archbishop also challenged his audience - National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals - to ensure that Catholic schools remain Catholic.
The real heart of a Catholic school is and must be that coherent, integrated vision of the meaning of life, based on belief in a God who is love, which the finds an echo in a community of believers who reflect that vision of life in their lives.

Lots of good stuff. The Archbishop then touched on the view that Catholic schools are seen as schools for the rich.
I would be unhappy if Catholic secondary schools were to become mainly elitist. I would be very unhappy to find that Catholic schools were being less open to diversity than others.
Okay, fine. Here's a suggestion that will help overcome this perception in one fell swoop. Eliminate all fees in Catholic secondary schools. All schools, starting with the next academic year. At the same time, demand that all Catholic schools make Catholicism central and bring back prayer and the catechism.

Those two moves will do more to eliminate the 'elitist' perception and the secularist trend than anything any of us parents can do. The Archbishop and the heads of the various religious orders can make this happen.