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.