A Timely Reminder

I have just delivered a paper at the Patrician Brothers Education Seminar in Maynooth, Ireland. It’s amazing how so many of the same satisfactions and challenges are shared  by teachers right across the western world.

The Irish Catholic bishops  recently published a Pastoral Letter on their vision for Catholic education. Titled Vision 08, the letter makes observations that are applicable to Catholic schools everywhere.

One of the distinguishing features of an authentic Catholic school, say the Irish bishops, is that they reflect ‘a distinctive vision of life and a corresponding philosophy of education’.

It’s a challenge not just for Irish teachers but for Catholic educators everywhere.  What does a philosophy which reflects the Catholic understanding of life and its purpose actually look like when put into action? How does our Catholic vision of life, for instance, determine the types of relationships that exist in our classrooms?  How does it affect our approaches to learning and teaching?  And how does it provide a religious dimension in every subject that is taught?

This last question is the most challenging of all. How does the Catholic understanding of the human person affect our exploration of literature, for instance?  How does the Church’s social teaching affect our teaching of the social sciences?  How is the vibrant partnership of faith and reason reflected in the teaching of Science?  And how does the Catholic imagination, so enriched by allegories and symbols, affect the Creative Arts?

These are just-in-time questions which take us to the core of our work, beyond accountability requirements and pragmatic responses that are linked to the daily pressures of school life. They are questions which challenge Catholic educators everywhere.

2 thoughts on “A Timely Reminder

  1. Thank you for posing this question/s Greg – making time to look further than the “tyranny of the urgent” question and the “how does it improve learning outcomes?” question is something we should do more of as educators …

    Your questions deserve more mind space if we are ever to become thoughtful practitioners …

    I reckon a blog is a good place to hold questions like these … At least it is where I put all my questions that would otherwise get too easily get lost in the rough and tumble of the day job … and every now and again if I am lucky I find some educator somewhere else who will engage with them.

    I don’t have any insights into your challenge except to recognise that the questions you raise are significant ones to grapple with in any religious based education – and we need to do this before our spiritual selves are are swallowed up in an increasingly secular age where the new gods of environmentalism and a dependence on technologies shape our important relationships with others.

  2. So often we don’t take the step back to reflect and then devise actions on these questions. I don’t have the answers either but I do know good catholic schools do. Increasingly it is more important to work towards s what we believe in all the structures, processes and procedures in schools that show by their nature that it is a catholic schools. I use this example: if catholic schools are founded on the dignity of the human person, should it’s assessment processes emphasize failure? The bigger question is what assessment processes support the dignity of the human person

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