Sir.—Mr. Eller of the Westminster Schools' Commission, speaks (September 3) of providing Catholic education "for all Catholic children whose parents want it". But there is a fine distinction here between what we, as Catholic parents, actually do want and what we are told we ought to want; so much so that stern admonitions, even threats of spiritual sanctions, have been uttered.
The 1959 Statement by the Hierarchy on Catholic children in nonCatholic schools speaks of the had example set weaker Catholics and lays great stress on the necessity of obtaining one's Bishop's permission to send a child to a non-Catholic school, the implication being that this will not be readily forthcoming. One wonders if copies of statements like this are sent to the Ministry of Education—in their dealings with whom our Bishops lay constant stress on the rights of parents?
If our 'Hierarchy really believe in parental rights in education, why are they not content to let the final decision in these matters rest with the parents?
One cannot help but compare the difference in lone of communications addressed to parents in this connection and those addressed to the different Ministers of Education by the Catholic Education Council since the war (obtainable in booklet form from the C.T.S.).
Quite obviously (front the numbers of Catholic children in State schools) many Catholic parents are quite indifferent about education and it would seem that Catholic schools arc a clerical. rather than a arental obsession.
Obviously, the ideal thing is to have good Catholic homes, efficient Catholic parishes and good Catholic schools. We quite obviously, living in an imperfect world, cannot have all three and we would do well to discard the most easily expendable.
Possibly both priests and parents have relied too heavily on teachers in the past. If we all pulled our socks up and saw to it that our children were properly instructed at home and in Church. nobody need he unduly preoccupied about schools.
A school is not first and foremost a religious foundation. Homes and Churches are, and it is in these two establishments that religion should be "caught".
Mrs. Mollie Watts Sale. Cheshire,
Sir,--Your leader of August 27 on schools prompts me to pose the question—Are Catholic schools a waste of money if we do nothing to provide social activities to interest and hold our school-leavers?
From all sides and all lay organisations one continues to hear the cry---"How can we prevent large numbers of our school-leavers from lapsing from their faith?" Can we really blame the youngsters when in most parishes there is little or no after-school contact with them?
Where there is contact, it is but superficial, for we have nothing to offer them in the way of club premises. In those parishes fortunate enough to have parish halls taken up by adult organisations or bingo sessions, whilst young parishioners are left to find their own amusements in jazz cellars and doubtful surroundings.
The constant cry is for more and more money to build more and more schools and churches (very commendable), yet rarely does one hear of plans to build a suitable church hall. Have we got our priorities wrong?
Ten years ago, I suggested in these columns that diocesan plans for a new school should embody plans for a hall as distinct from school premises proper; a building where the mixed youth of the parish could meet every evening for planned and guided activities.
A good many ventures could he shared with adult parishioners thus providing a community feeling. in cases where L.E.A. allow the use of a school. one evening alone is allowed; in some cases none at all. This is totally inadequate for the continuity of activities such as amateur dramatics, competitive games, Catholic social doctrine discussions, etc.
If we really want to hold our young people, new halls and better use of existing ones must be given top priority. It were better that Mass be offered in a stable and our school-leavers "nursed" than have new churches first and the children left to battle against undesirable outside attractions.
We seem to try to be modern in the style of our new churches. Can we not also adopt a modern approach to youth activities? And in the matter of dancing let us not shake our greying heads if the boys and girls want a "pop" session one evening a week. Remember that the graceful waltz was once condemned. Let us cater for the social needs of our modern youth and not look askance at them for daring to he "with it". There are many very good boys and girls who are nevertheless with it and they must have an influence for good on others.
When we can offer them accommodation and capable advisory assistance, then, and only then, can we hope to claim their attention sufficiently to make them amenable to guidance.
Dan MeGeown Chessington, Surrey.
Sir.--1 hope the Beaumont Old Boys will forgive the somewhat ironic feelings with which I read of the furore at the proposed closing of their school. This month our son. aged just sixteen and mentally retarded, is going away from home for the first time to an epileptic colony. and there is no alternative for him.
After a lifetime of a Catholic environment, the love and help and prayers of parish clergy and teachers, and of patient religious teaching, he is to be thrust into an almost completely secular atmosphere with the minimum of Catholic practice and presumably no religious instruction or formation at all.
And all this at the worst time in his life for such changes. There are only three of these establishments in England for young males; Iwo if not all are run by private trusts and all are non-Catholic.
When Catholic businessmen can give vast sums for a new cathedral, and when parents and Old Boys of Catholic public schools will gladly provide the money for the improvement of these establishments, one wonders sometimes how real is the Catholic conception of social justice. One in 300 of all our children are mentally retarded in some way; some authorities say the proportion is higher, so that the numbers among five million Catholics must be considerable.
When are our Catholic people going to begin to think ecclesiastic .ally of the problems of these exceptional children" and their families? The incidence of mental stress and breakdowns within these families is just as high as in similar situations over contraceptive methods, probably higher.
Yet awe is not even a State college for the training of teachers for mentally-handicapped children, those innocent ones who are beloved of God and their parents but of very few other people. "Inasmuch as ye do it to the least of these My little ones, ye do it unto Mc."
Sir,—The recent correspondence on Catholic schools seems to have wandered considerably from what I took to he its original point. D:scussion on the value of a sixth form in a Catholic school, on education by religious, on convent school education, though valuable in itself. seems totally irrelevant to the future of Catholic education in this country.
It must be pointed out. that the vast majority of children baptised Catholic never attend a grammar school, a public school or a convent school. Something of the order of 70 per cent of our children are educated, at the secondary stage, at secondary modern or secondary modern-type schools, that is if they manage to get to a Catholic school at all.
Is this position Likely to improve? It seems unlikely. Not only do we have to contend with our expanding child population but another problem looms large. The nation has become fed up with the secondary modern and seems to be going comprehensive. We will almost certainly have to follow suit. The necessary modifications to existing premises that this will entail will increase a burden that is already too heavy. We' will fall even shorter in the provision of comprehensive education than we have in the provision of secondary modern education.
Various authorities in the past have suggested that from the point of view of instilling Cathol'cism our schools are not efficient. Very high leakage figures have been quoted and general opinion seems to he that a substantial portion of our children lapse on leaving school.
This may or may not he an indictment of Catholic schools. But whatever the case may he, something ought to he done about it and since lapsing occurs after leaving school sonic sort of provision for those who have. just left school seems to he indicated. The provision of a youth service with social, educational and spiritual functions might prove to he a very good thing indeed. But such provision rcqii;res facilities and trained men and these cost money and we have no money.
Thus it is that we have one further meaning for the phrase
we cannot afford Catholic Schools". Because all our money is spent on schools we are unable to develop any other social service: thus Catholic ex-pr'soners go to the Quakers for help, the down-and-out goes to the Salvation Army. we have virtually no youth service and our Housing Association cries in the wilderness for funds.
Those engaged in education know that it is quite feasible to provide for the instruction of Catholic children within State schools. Would it not he wise merely to improve our existing schools, give up the chase after more — we seem doomed to lose it any way — and provide for instruction of Catholic children in the State schools. (Already a considerable number attend such In this way not only might the quality of our existing schools he improved but we might also he able to afford to develop other most worthy and valuable social services? Who knows it might be that the Apostolate of the Church call be more effectively pursued in this day and age through the medium of social services other than primary and secondary education?
K. J. Purbrick, Barnet, Herts.