Page 5, 17th March 1972

17th March 1972
Page 5
Page 5, 17th March 1972 — Argument for and against accent on Catholic schools

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Argument for and against accent on Catholic schools

'HE article by Mrs. Richards in your Education section will do nothing to help the cause Iof Catholic education. and could do a great deal of harm if parents were so ill-advised as to consider her arguments to have any real validity, or were in any way representative of Catholic opinion.

The case for the continuance and expansion of our schools is well documented and has the support of all the bishops and the overwhelming majority of Catholics in this country. This is not to say that the present system is perfect; indeed there is plenty of room for improvements and development. The effectiveness of our schools is evidenced, not only by positive results, but by the efforts being made by the declared enemies of Christianity to close them. We know the motives of humanists, secularists and other enemies of religion, and can deal with them and with their activities. But it is difficult to understand the attack on our schools from within the Church. Mrs. Richards, and the small but highly vocal group who share her views, would do well to examine their own motivations in this matter. Amongst other things the claim is made that there should be an enquiry into the effectiveness of Catholic education. Catholic teachers are proud of their schools and have nothing to fear from such an enquiry. In fact, a few years ago, following the publication of the Greely-Rossi Report in America, the Catholic Teachers' Federation devoted a great deal of energy to examining the feasibility of such an enquiry. The project was abandoned for a variety of reasons including cost and validity. Any projected enquiry would need very careful construction and validation. The sponsoring authority would have to be convinced that the information sought would be obtained as a result of the enquiry — and that the value of such information justified the cost and effort involved. Recently, my attention was drawn to a list of questions drawn up by a group whose thinking on our schools is similar to that of Mrs. Richards. This list looked most impressive, but for research purposes would be useless because (a) the questions invited answers which, in my opinion, could not be quantified; and (b) the average intelligent Catholic parent would be hard put to understand what the questions meant, let alone attempt answers! Mrs. Richards' article was full of half-truths. naive assumptions and non-sequiturs. For example what does she mean by "good parents . . . produce 'quality' Catholic children who have never been to a Catholic School"? As a simple statement it is very likely true, but is she claiming that they are "quality" because they didn't have the benefit of a Catholic school? And what about the many many more good parents who are prepared to make considerable financial sacrifices to send their children to Catholic schools in order that the "quality" of the children's Catholicity may be consolidated? Also there are countless instances of good Catholic parents who owe a strengthening of their faith to the teaching and example they received in Catholic schools. Mrs. Richards' remarks about the Religious are unworthy, and do a grave injustice to the vast majority of those nuns whose lives are devoted to education. Her suggestion of closer links with other Christian schools is the only useful and positive feature in her article. Throughout the country there are several such co-operative projects under way or firmly planned. These experiments should be followed with interest and results carefully assessed before we launch into a full scale operation. Her self-styled "shocking" idea that we should "unite" with our brethren in state schools together with her views on our schools in Northern Ireland and her preference for the Koran are all evidence of Mrs. Richards' muddled and illogical reasoning. To answer each of her points would require more space than a letter permits. May I appeal to Mrs. Richards and all who are concerned about our schools to cease sniping and to work from within to rectify such failings as do exist; to ensure that all Catholic parents have the opportunity to send their children to Catholic schools, and that children in Catholic schools are taught by Catholic teachers whose qualifications and prospects are equal to those of their colleagues elsewhere.

Peter Carney, M.Ed. Hon Secretary, Catholic Teachers' Federation Tittensor, Staffs. I WRITE in support of Jean Richards' article on religious education. In an alldenominational school a child can learn to respect the beliefs of others and to be part of his local community. Isolating Catholics does not help us to "go out and teach all nations," and isolating Catholics in N. Ireland does not appear to have helped the situation there. On a personal note, the teachers who mostly influenced - my religious beliefs -in a school staffed partly by religious -were the visiting priest who gave some of the religious knowledge lessons and a teacher who was a Quaker.

K. O'Shea Sutton Coldfield.

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