When we speak of Catholic Education, we may think of schools whose students and professors are only Catholics. Yet, this doesn’t necessarily have to follow, if we look at the meaning of the word “catholic” and what kind of education it intends to impart.
Education which is “catholic” does not connote any exclusiveness but something “universal,” or that pertains to the “whole.” It refers to something inclusive, for all persons without discrimination.
It is not surprising then that in some Catholic schools like those in Thailand or Pakistan, the majority of students and some of its professors, do not belong to the Roman Catholic religion, but are even believers of other religions.
Thus the purpose of Catholic education, since it is something inclusive and aims at the whole, is for the common good.
We see this implied in the Declaration on Christian Education, promulgated by Pope Paul VI more than fifty years ago: first, “All people of whatever race, condition or age, in virtue of their dignity as human persons, have an inalienable right to education.”
Second, “this education should be suitable to the particular destiny of the individuals, adapted to their ability, sex and national cultural traditions, and should be conducive to amicable relations with other nations in order to promote true unity and peace in the world.”
And third, “true education aims to give people a formation which is directed towards their final end and the good of that society to which they belong, and in which, as adults, they will have their share of duties to perform.”
Catholic education and local cultural traditions
Catholic education wishes that all people should receive an education as a basic universal human right. But since there are many cultural traditions, it should be suited to their cultural and national milieu and therefore inherent in education is the requirement that it be “conducive to amicable relations with other nations in order to promote true unity and peace in the world.”
In this world tormented by divisions, we can readily see the need for Catholic education. While education is facilitated in this millennium by the advance of technology, in a world characterized by many cultural economic, social, religious divisions, we need a kind of education that promotes peace and universal brotherhood. We should see education as a right for all and not as a privilege only for a selected few. From this perspective, we can embark on a journey towards peace together, as members of the human global family.
Moreover, if the dialogue among peoples in the realm of education were absent, the effort to educate can fall into a form of fundamentalism, giving too much emphasis to the role of religion. This can refer to a nationalistic ideology that excludes and expels other people of diverse beliefs from one’s own country. Such has already caused millions of people to flee from their very nation due to threats that are sometimes unimaginable.
By whom should a young man or woman be educated?
The answer could be the root of the many problems in the world today, depending on who calls the shots in giving an education to the young. From the point of view of the authors of education, the Declaration makes an important affirmation. It states: “since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators.”
This is a very important tenet in catholic education and all parents have to consider this. When a state ideology claims the right to impart whatever they like, the state steals from the parents their primary obligation.
“The family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs.” It has to be the family, and not any state or institution, that should be the first school, since the first basic unity of society is the family. Society rather is invited to help the family perform its basic role in educating their children and not vice-versa. Another salient point that needs to be emphasized in Catholic education is the basic right of parents and the family as the first school. Hence the declaration of Catholic education underscores: “Parents who have the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools.”
The duty of the State
Consequently, public power – which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public or state subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents can be truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children. It invites public power and the state to do their service to citizens.
Catholic education really puts its emphasis on the basic cell of society which is the family. Any state or government for that matter is thus invited by this document to protect this right and do whatever it can to help parents fulfil their rights and duties.
Though respecting the principle of subsidiarity in granting the private sector the possibility to serve in the field of education, the same Declaration desires that teachers be adequately formed, equipped and supported through good basic salaries from the state. Moreover the health of its students are to be promoted and encouraged through a school environment which is morally, spiritually and physically healthy.
Since the universal character of Catholic education can contribute to the wholeness and unity of the world, we cannot fail to realize that, especially in today’s world tormented by all kinds of divisions, and from the basic authors of education, who are basically a child’s parents, this Declaration on Christian Education (Gravissimum Educationis) proclaimed by Pope Paul VI more than fifty years ago on October 28, 1965, proves to be more important than ever today, if we want to continue to hope for the future of our country and of humanity.
Post Credit: New City Magazine – June 2016