Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mon Oct 9th
Jamie came home from a meeting of the Catholic Union - of which he is Chairman - with worrying news about Catholic education.....three-pronged Govt attack on Catholic schools. First, the quota" idea; a specific number of places at Catholic schools will be reserved for non-Catholic pupils. The Anglicans have already agreed to this for their schools. It will mean a mess: at present Catholic schools are v. popular and over-subscribed, and all priests know about the families who suddenly start coming to Mass and getting active in the parish as they want to get their children into a good local Catholic school.... this has its own absurdities, but it will be even more ridiculous if practising RCs are turnd away so that the school can fill the places with the neccessary quota of non-believers! And then, because non-believing families won't really be happy with aspects of Catholic teaching and practice, we'll get newspaper reports of complaints and protests :"My child was forced to take part in a weird ritual...." "This Catholic school insulted by family by attacking our [gay/divorced/cohabiting/] etc lifestyle.....".

Next, we have what has already been introduced: schools may not interview applicants for places as this makes the schools too "elitist". This means that if a Catholic family do manage to get within the possibilities of winning a place at a Catholic school, they won't be able to explain their specific needs and wishes at an interview....will have to rely on bluff and paperwork (this will militate against good families who aren't good at filling in forms and making their concerns look impressive in writing).

Finally - and this is really shocking - a Govt minister is about to introduce a Bill (in the House of Lords) establishing that teenagers from the age of 16 have the right to opt out of all religious worship in school, apparently on the grounds that he considers it's their 'human right' to do so. This has been in the offing for some time, and has been encouraged by the story of the college in S. London where there were complaints that pupils were "forced" (???) to take part in Mass and a May procession. As was pointed out at the time, if you attend a Catholic school, you can expect to find Catholic activities as part of the deal....like attending a sports college and finding you are expected to take part in sports.

All the above will mean that Catholic schools will find it increasingly difficult to exist as proper Catholic, worshipping communities. And the argument will be: why should it be only 16-year-olds who have the right to opt out of religious worship? Don't younger children have human rights too? We'll get media hype about sobbing non-Catholic youngsters who are forced to attend Masses they don't understand or sing hymns which frighten them with tales of crucifixion and blood, or something.....

Govt argues that as Catholic schools are popular and successful,. it must be because they are "elitist" and must now be forced to equalise.

The irony is that, of course, from the Catholic point of view, many RC schools are in fact deficient: poor Religious Education, a low rate of pupils who actually practise their faith, etc. I know a number of Catholic families who are happier sending their children to other schools, because they feel it is better for the youngsters to learn to affirm and live their faith among people who make no pretence about sharing it....and who often have greater respect for the child from a practising Catholic family than does a semi-lapsed nominally RC teacher.....

Note to American readers: in Britain we have Catholic schools whioch recieve generous public funding, so they are free for pupils, just like all other state schools. (We also have Catholic independent schools for which parents can pay, and some of these are quite famous eg Stonyhurst, Ampleforth). In addition, there is meant to be teaching of (non-denominational) Christianity, in all schools....in fact of course this is invariably done in the context of teaching about all religions, and the result is often a mess, although there are some state schools (especially traditional grammar schools) which teach the basic facts about Christ's life and death and resurrection, and get the pupils studying the New Testament, etc, in a useful and systematic way.

Our Bishops are fond of sayin g that of course religious faith can't be implanted in school - it's all down to the parents. And of course they are right. There are too many nominally Catholic families that don't attend Mass but want to send their children to a Catholic school because they like its discipline, unform, sense of being part of a real community..... but at home they undermine any remote Catholicism that has been picked up at school by living like ordinary pagans on a diet of TV soap operas and with no prayer or Catholic life at all. But in a way that simply shows how useful and important a Catholi school could be....and the Church (which created our whole concept of education, and which ran all the schools in Britain for centuries....state education wasn't introduced until 1870!) surely should have a place, as of right, in running schools and the right to expect some support and encouragement in this task from those who recognise its contribution to the common good.....


Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right about quotas - some Catholic schools (e.g. in Kent) are undersubscribed and take a number of non-Catholics. But if a Catholic school is oversubscribed, it will be a great injustice for them to have to turn away Catholics to fill their quota of non-Catholics.

On compulsory worship, this will inevitably include any christian prayer. So we would have the prospect of students standing outside the Hall before an event, waiting until the "Our Father" or other opening prayer is finished.

Unknown said...

It seems that England has a crew of parliamentarians intent on disassembling everything good that has been created in England since the Magna Carta and entrusting the current children to "do what is right" in the future. Everything is to be permitted but beliefs and thought and their expression.

Canada seems to have its pack also.

We American just shake our heads in amazement.

And for different reasons, I'm sure that you shake your heads in amazement at us also.

Government funding carries with it a tremendous risk these days. Some universities here these days are requiring that Catholic organizations include non-Catholics in their officers for them to be eligible to use university facilities.

This is not the future that I anticipated when I graduated from high school 46 years ago.

Great blog! (And TV show, too!)

Ray from Minneapolis

Anonymous said...

Hi Joanna. I've gone anon for obvious reasons...

Anton, as a teacher of many years at Catholic schools, I have to say that I have come to agree with you. Sad innit?