Monday, April 02, 2007

Monday April 2nd


Entries arrive for the 2007 "Catholic Young Writer" Award sponsored by The Keys, The Catholic Writers' Guild. This annual Award was my idea, and it's been going for several years now, but unless we get some better entries than these, we won't be awarding the shield this year. These are hopeless: ill-written and with little or no punctuation, but also, and much more worryingly, devoid of any content whatever. Pupils had been asked to choose a hero or heoine from among the saints of the Church, and write about that person, with a note about why he or she had appealed to them. In this batch of entries, all we get is "Mary Magdalen was a caring person" and "St Anne was a caring person", plus, in a couple of cases, a sudden change of style and a couple of sentences copied down from the Internet, so there is a sudden muddled statement about Mary Magdalen's links with Provence or St Anne's appearance in Christian art. Er....copying things directly from another source without attribution used to be called cheating, no? And one child has got St Anne, the mother of the Virgin, mixed up with St Anne Line, giving us the hilarious information that St Anne was born in the 16th century and was the mother of Our Lady...

I know that most Catholic schools don't teach much in the way of the Catholic Faith, but this latest evidence of how bad things are is very, very depressing.

I am particularly struck by the endless repetition of the cliche about being a "caring person". This is mantra that pupils are evidently taught, as it crops up too in the essays from small children that we get in the Reliogious Education Project run by ther Association of Catholic Women. Memo to any Catholic teacher reading this blog: if you want to give children anything of value connected with the Faith, don't give them cliches. Ditch any reference to some one bing "caring". Saints can be courageous, loving, tender, heroic, eccentric, noble, repentant, loyal, and more. To slither into saying that St Mary Magdalen was a "caring person", and to make dozens of teenagers copy out such glop, is to fail utterly in any attempt to communicate anything of value at all.


Anonymous said...

Paraphrasing Cardinal Biffi,"the anti-Christ is a caring person".

Anonymous said...

How old were these children? Many are not taught anything about saints at school, so apart from Mary and Joseph and maybe St Peter they are just names. They can't put them in an historical context.

It's depressing, but with children you've got to deal with what you have, not what you would like. Older children could research a saint on the internet, but only if directed to a few sources and given a list of names to choose from, and if told "choose a saint and find out all about him".

Malcolm McLean

Anonymous said...

Come on Joanna, they don't teach about saints in Catholic Schools. Our fourteen year old has spent the whole of Lent studying about Islam. I don't remember the last time my children came home talking about saints (and the age range of my children is 10 to 30). Forget it parents, if you want your children to know about the saints fill your home with good Catholic books and videos, lives of saints often come in comic versions.

Some Catholic Schools will hopefully make your children caring 'persons'. Heroic catholic parents will make their children into saints.

Mulier Fortis said...

Catholic teachers aren't allowed to teach the children about saints... we have to stick to the curriculum, dictated by the government via Ofsted and swallowed hook line and sinker by the schools commission in every diocese.

...we don't have time to teach anything that isn't on the curriculum. There's no room for creativity or for individuality. The National Curriculum was one of the worst things to happen to Catholic schools...

John said...

It was several years ago that a friend of mine told me of his young son - aged 8 or 9 at the time - who asked him if he could skip religious ed classes (called CCD here) because he "already knew about being nice".

"Being nice" is apparently "caring" in American English.


Anonymous said...

"Our fourteen year old has spent the whole of Lent studying about Islam"


Anonymous said...

I don't know why anyone should be surprised that children at 'Catholic' schools in the UK are taught about Islam during Lent.

Isn't that what 'Catholic' schools are for nowadays? Teaching anything except Catholicism?

My children were taught how to use condoms at their 'Catholic'. Parents's complaints were to no avail school - the school had the full support of the Diocesan schools' Commission.

Get real, British parents. We don't have Catholic schools. Stop paying for them - they don't exist.