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.