Having let the original Abortion Bill be passed almost without a struggle and conceded the field in the matter of the erosion of public morality (watch any BBC or ITV play today, listen to any comedian, note the number of "X" films• accepted passively by our Catholic reviewers), is the Catholic Church in England now about to preside over the dissolution of Catholic education?
In the summer of 1974, a letter by Professor Keohane in the Catholic Herald produced a sudden (and belated) flurry of interest in what was happening in higher education at Catholic institutions and shortly afterwards some vaguely defined official body let it be known that it was its intention of seeing that no (repeat zero) Catholic colleges were closed.
Well, we know now that two have been axed and it is whispered abroad that others are on the way out. This is in consequence of a downward revision of estimates by the DES for the number of teachers needed in the 1980s. One hears it bandied about that a drastic fall in the Catholic birthrate, matching that of the birthrate as a whole, means that fewer Catholic teachers will be needed in the future.
This is manifest nonsense. It would only make sense if all Catholic children attended Catholic schools at the present time, So what we want to know for starters is: what proportion of Catholic children in England and Wales do attend Catholic schools?
Perhaps the Catholic Herald can find out the answer and print it along with this letter. It may well be that the number of Catholic teachers in training needs to be cut to the extent that is suggested. Can we have a statement on this with the supporting facts and figures and not this guff about the birthrate that has been printed in the Catholic Press and indeed elsewhere.
Let us know further about Catholic colleges in higher education. One hears about new courses unrelated to teaching. But it has been the traditional function and raison d'être of the Catholic colleges to train Catholic teachers for Catholic schools.
Can the existence of Catholic colleges in higher education be justified in the context of new courses not related to teaching? For whom will these colleges exist if not for Catholic teachers? What will the standing of these colleges be? How will they relate to the overall pattern of higher education in England and Wales?
While considering these questions, there are others possibly to be thought about. Already we have seen evidence of the determination of some teachers to have the compulsory teaching of religion in schools abandoned, and the Catholic Herald recently published a resolution against Church schools put forward for possible consideration at the NUT's next annual copference.
The Labour Government was preparing a new Education Act when Edward Heath incontinently tipped therh out of office in 1970. Will the present Labour Government, in the fullness of time, get down to the same business? If so, are Catholics prepared to oppose the humanist and secularist lobbies that will bring pressure to bear not only for the ending of religious teaching and the daily act of worship in schools, but of religious schools?
There are the makings here of a great debate on the whole future of Catholic education in England and Wales. Why not throw your columns open to it? Let us have it all, from the Catholic Education Council, the Catholic Teachers' Federation (with their membership figures in brackets to indicate the import of what they have to say) and last but not least the hierarchy.
Mrs Whitehouse has been doing a fair job of putting the finger in the dyke in the matter of the erosion of public morality, but in the area of Catholic education we cannot look for outside help. We have got to get down to it ourselves — and we've got to start being realistic.
What we want is a national
policy for Catholic education in the eighties, and we want it now. What a pity there isn't some Catholic educational publication to link together all the people interested in this matter. In default of that, as 1 suggest, please throw your columns open,
And don't titillate in the way you did recently when Peter Nolan wrote about an impending meeting between the DES and the CEC on the following Tuesday and, one week later, had no word to say about the outcome. Follow this matter up, week by week, lest we all wake up one morning and find, as in too many other recent matters, that we've lost by default or by pussyfooting or sheer incompetence or whatever you like to call it.
J. G. Fisher 12 Alston Street, Reading, Berkshire.