Thursday, 5 July 2007

The sex-ed question

Didn't know what to blog about today until I popped over to CatholicMumof10. She has written on sex-ed and posted an article by Eric Hestor. I'm posting some of his article here with comments:

This article is based on one originally published in The Universe newspaper in 2002.

Eric Hestors words will be in BLUE and mine in purple

Catholic schools
Two strange things happened recently when there was a call for parents not to send their children to Catholic schools. The first strange thing is that this call was not from the National Secular society or similar gangs of tin-pot atheists. The call was made by a lady who is most experienced in Catholic education and is a Catholic of the Catholics. The very reason she gave was that Catholic schools can actually damage the faith of children.

I do remember this letter which was published in the Catholic Herald. Mrs McLeod pointed to alarming statistics that showed the vast majority of young people educated in Catholic schools stopped practicing a faith they were largely ignorant of anyway. So schools are/were not teaching it.

I have blogged before on some of the things our local Catholic Comp teach at A'level- not good. Grrr

The second strange thing was that no one in Catholic education wanted to respond to the call for parents to take their children away, not even the Catholic Education Service, which, when it was called by its previous title of the Catholic Education Council, would have thundered to defend Catholic schools from any slight, like a husband defending his wife’s honour. Why the silence? Is the good lady so obviously right that no one will spring to the defence?

I think the CES would indeed have a difficult task in defending themselves.Mrs McLeod does not throw around accusations without good research and evidence to back her up. I do have some doubts about some of the things from Mrs McLeod, but on the whole she is straight up-and perhaps those areas where her frustration shows through are understandable.

First, I think that Mrs Daphne McLeod is right in most of her diagnosis of the problem. Mrs McLeod, a head teacher and teacher for 40 years, says:
“All the RE schemes produced in this country over the last 35 years have presented teachers and pupils with a travesty of the divinely revealed truths of the faith.”

I agree that this is true. The central truths of the faith are not properly presented in Weaving the Web, Here I Am and Icons.

IMHO Icons is not quite as bad as WTW and I haven't seen much of Here I Am. Icons is however wishy washy and inaccurate. It inists on referring to the Church as 'it' rather than 'She' largely because it wants to give the impression that the Church is a man made institution rather than the Bride and Body of Christ (which of course don't get a mention). That's just one example I remember from borrowing Icons books when my kids were in school.

There have been many detailed examinations of these texts to prove this, not least by Mrs McLeod herself. However, I should just like to mention three vital and central Catholic ideas that are missing. There is, first of all, no sense given that the individual has a soul which he or she must save in order to go to heaven to all eternity and to avoid the horrific alternative of hell. The word “soul” itself is actually difficult to find in modern RE texts. Next, the concept of Christ’s redemption is not fully explained.

Partly I believe because redemption seems to be the 'bad news' to the writers and the word 'SACRIFICE' must never be used. I am a writer and have been involved in rewriting a First Communion book which is used in Catholic schools. My rewrite was heavily edited and I was told quite categorically that the word 'sacrifice' was not allowed.

There is no proper mention of sin, let alone original sin, and so no explanation of the sacrifice of Calvary. Many other items are omitted but the final one I should draw attention to is that there is no sense of The Catholic Church as being the Church of Christ and, therefore, being the only one possessing the full truth. Papal authority is hardly mentioned, let alone infallibility.

Sin was banned in the 1970's. I have a book (Peter de Rosa of course) with some nun saying sin would be bad for self esteem. It was one those things edited out of the book I worked on; kids make 'mistakes' (that need confessing)-they don't sin apparently.

The present holy father has devoted much time and energy in his pontificate to try to put right the teaching of the faith to the young. In his great apostolic exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae, he insists on the following:

"In order that the sacrificial offering of his or her faith should be perfect, the person who becomes a disciple of Christ has the right to receive the word of faith not in mutilated, falsified or diminished form but whole and entire, in all its rigour and vigour. Unfaithfulness on some point to the integrity of the message means a dangerous weakening of catechesis and putting at risk the results that Christ and the ecclesial community have a right to expect from it."
In Scotland, the late Cardinal Winning admitted the problems before the Synod of European bishops referring to "the catechetical desert" and admitting that "teachers (my italics) and parents are now being asked to pass on a faith which they barely know themselves." There has been no admittance of any failings in England and Wales.

I am afraid my view is that is because they couldn't care less.

On the bright side many parents of my age (40's) are realsing that they don't know the faith and are turning to the Catholic sourses on the Net such as EWTN, NEWADVENT and many of the excellent Catholic stuff from the USA and we are learning our Faith and passing it on to our children. This means we can correct what the schools teach. In the end it will be in their homes that children get the faith. Of course life would be a lot easier on this front if we had some support from priests let alone bishops, but that will come too- I think I have seen some signs.

In Catachesi Tradendae, the Holy Father asks the following question:

"What kind of catachesis would it be that failed to give their full place to man's creation and sin, to God's plan of redemption and its long, loving preparation and realisation, to the Immaculate One, the Mother of God, ever Virgin, raised body and soul to the glory of heaven, and to her role in the mystery of salvation, to the mystery of lawlessness at work in our lives and the power of God freeing us from it, to the need for penance and asceticism, to the sacramental and liturgical actions, to the reality of the Eucharistic presence, to participation in divine life here and hereafter, and so on?"

The Holy Father's question is rhetorical but he almost describes Icons. Yet Icons is endorsed by, it seems, just about every RE adviser of every diocese in England and some take dictatorial measures to try to prevent the poor teachers even looking at other material. When the Holy Father last met the bishops of England and Wales, he specifically told them of what ought to be included in religious education. The current recommended RE texts do not obey the Hoy Father’s orders.

The Icons I borrowed had a glowing intro from Archbishop Nichols of Birmingham. This was a disapointment to me because I had heard he was keen on eductional matters. No

The recent dispute, where the Director of the Catholic Truth Society publicly complained that a new series of books for schools by that organisation had been banned in some dioceses, even though it is personally endorsed by his Grace the Archbishop of Birmingham, shows what a bad state we are in.

But as I said the Archbishop endorsed Icons too.

This is just the approach of those who used to forbid the real teaching of reading – forbid anything but the versions approved by the bureaucrats. If a book, is good, of course, then teachers will want to use it and need not be threatened and forced to use it. Even the inspection of Catholic maintained schools, which does not actually address whether children know the faith, has been used to try to force teachers to use the official material, which so many teachers know to be of little use. In one diocese, a letter from the diocesan advisor stated that RE inspectors would be checking to see that Icons were used. Interestingly, if an OFSTED inspector had tried to insist on the use of a particular book, the inspector would have been sacked.

I agree, therefore, entirely with Mrs McLeod’s diagnosis but would have some differences about her remedy. Should conscientious parents take their children away from Catholic schools?

Some of us have had to for a whole load of reasons; bullying; inability to meet SENs; bad RE; bad sex-ed...I could go on and on and don't even start me on the National Curriculum...

I do not disagree entirely, but I would argue for more discrimination. There are Catholic schools and Catholic schools. I agree that some would actually damage the faith.

And it got a bit wearing having to correct so much..

However, many, despite, the poor RE materials imposed upon them, still manage to teach the faith.

Yes this is true and in my local Catholic Primary this is the case. The head is a good man and support his staff in teaching the Faith properly. So they correct and supliment the silly books they are supposed to use. One of the teachers there was not Catholic when she first assisted in Sacramental prep- she is now. Bounce

I should make a comparison with the teaching of reading in primary schools. For years, schools were forced to use hopelessly inadequate materials. Yet good schools, while paying lip-service to using the official methods which did not teach children to read, quietly taught the children about the sounds of English and helped them to read. Similarly, I agree that a Catholic Secondary school which relied upon Icons would never teach children the faith,(my emphasis) but I know schools where, for example, a good Chaplain with his proper approach to the sacrament of Confession has done amazing real teaching. Many Catholic teachers by the example of their own lives (this is true of the teacher in our local primary; it isn't just that she knows the Faith, she lives it- and she doesn't show off) actively teach the real Catholic faith daily, despite the poor official materials.

I should not, therefore, recommend home-schooling, with all its attendant difficulties, unless the local Catholic school is very bad.

I disagree with Mr. Hestor on this. Home education is difficult and I have seen very bad home ed situations-but on the whole home ed is better for a number of reasons which I will deal with later.

I hope I am not guilty of prejudice if I state that Mrs McLeod’s experience has been mainly in the South of England and mine mainly in the North. I find that sensible head teachers and their staff, together with a good input from parish priests with common sense can overcome the undoubted deficiencies of the official RE programmes, which most parish priests, in my experience, deplore.

I do know some priests like this.

Okay more later-this is a long enough post!

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