Irish Educators: There's No Value-Neutral School

Promotes Cooperation With Home and Parish

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DUBLIN, Ireland, APRIL 6, 2011 ( A partnership of Irish Catholic educators is affirming that there are no value-neutral schools, and thus parents must choose what particular ethos and vision they want their children to learn.

This was one of the points affirmed today by the Catholic Schools Partnership, established Jan. 28, 2010 by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Conference of Religious of Ireland in order to support Catholic education in that country.

The partnership, which includes members from the various educational institutions across the nation, today held a press conference for the presentation of a position paper “as part of an ongoing consultation process on the future of Catholic schools in the Republic of Ireland.”

It called for responses to this document, which it will reflect on in the discussion on the “nature, purpose and future of Catholic schools.”

The document asserted: “There is no such thing as a value neutral education.

“All schools, whether established by the state or by one or other voluntary group, necessarily and implicitly espouse a vision of the human person and give expression to a particular ethos by their choices, actions and priorities.”</p>

It acknowledged that “some people argue that schools should adopt a neutral stance in relation to religion,” inferring that “religious belief is purely a private matter and should have no role in the public sphere of education.”

“However, those who would exclude religion from school also espouse their own ethos,” the partnership observed. “They impart a worldview, a philosophy of life, just as much as the person of faith.”

“Moreover,” it added, “they imply an understanding of the nature of religion which is philosophically mistaken and unjustified.”

Particular beliefs

“Some schools in their structures and curriculum embrace a particular belief in God,” the educators noted. “Others present all religions and atheistic humanism as equally valid responses to the question of God; others demand that such beliefs be left at home and not influence the life of the school; others ban all mention of God.”

“But the question of God will not go away,” they stated.

“Catholic schools are committed to the deepest respect for both faith and reason and as such they contribute significantly to the formation of rational and mature citizens of our democratic society,” the document affirmed.

“One of the most notable characteristics of Catholic education is a respect for faith and reason,” it added. “This helps to explain why such schools are so popular throughout the world.”

“The Church continues to be involved in education as it forms a central part of its mission and because there are parents who wish to have their children educated in a context which respects both faith and reason,” the partnership affirmed.

Dynamic contribution

They added, “We hope that those educated in such a context will be able to make a dynamic contribution to our democratic society, to the life of the church and to the dialogue of faith and culture.”

The document affirmed: “Catholic schools in Ireland are a living expression of a long and varied tradition of education inspired by the life of Christ.

“Such schools emphasize the dignity of the human person as a child of God called to work with other persons in creating an inclusive community in service of the common good; where knowledge is sought and respected while faith is nurtured and challenged.”

The partnership outlined a vision for the 3,400 Catholic primary and post-primary schools in the country, including principles such as: “parents are the most important educators of their children” and “home, school and parish work together in support of Catholic education.”

“Rooted in an understanding of the human person as a child of God, redeemed by Christ and destined to share in God’s own life forever,” education “is a lifelong process of human growth and development in response to God’s call,” the partnership affirmed.

“It begins in the home, continues in the school and matures through involvement with the Christian community in the parish,” it explained.

The documents noted that “these three dimensions of home, school and parish must work together if Catholic education is to truly attain its goal of forming mature human persons in the image and likeness of Christ.”

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