Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Pope on Education

My aunt was visiting yesterday and politics happened to come up. She is very much a liberal on many issues. And there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this. For the most part, politics should not divide people the way it does. Today, however, politics is entering areas where it shouldn't. Law means legislating morality - but in a culture that rejects morality and a nation which is becoming more secular, some laws and many court rules have become quite opposed to basic morality and the natural law.

Typically the Left argues with the Right over abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and gay marriage. While my aunt is very pro-Life and supportive of the Church, the discussion yesterday focused on just war doctrine and in part on education. My aunt took the typical liberal view that we should spend more money on education and less on the military. I, as a teacher in a Catholic school, had to disagree.

Students at a public high school each receives about $10,000 a year from the tax payer money for their education. Private schools run around $3000-$4,000 per year (obviously not from tax payers!). By looking at the level of education that comes from private school versus a public school shows that money doesn't make a great difference. In other words, raising the amount tax payers spend to $13,000 per student will probably not improve the education of the students. Actually statistics show that more students should be sent to private schools! Hence the need for vouchers.. but that's another topic entirely!

One would wonder what the difference is between a good Catholic school and a public school. I found it interesting that during the discussion the pope was speaking to Catholic educators and I believe he hit the nail on the head on this very question:

"When nothing beyond the individual is recognized as definitive, the ultimate criterion of judgment becomes the self and the satisfaction of the individuals immediate wishes. The objectivity and perspective, which can only come through a recognition of the essential transcendent dimension of the human person, can be lost. Within such a relativistic horizon the goals of education are inevitably curtailed. Slowly, a lowering of standards occurs. We observe today a timidity in the face of the category of the good and an aimless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. We witness an assumption that every experience is of equal worth and a reluctance to admit imperfection and mistakes. And particularly disturbing, is the reduction of the precious and delicate area of education in sexuality to management of 'risk', bereft of any reference to the beauty of conjugal love."

In other words: truth, goodness, and beauty are related. We can only subjectivize beauty (especially "the beauty of conjugal love") and relativize morality if we deny any real objective truth. When we say "anything goes" or "different strokes for different folks" we lose the ability to say anything with certainty. Moreover, the very desire for truth within the student is quashed. "What difference does it make?" the student may ask, "All I really want to do is play video games now."

We don't need more money, we need truth, goodness, and beauty. We need God. Unfortunately we won't be finding Him anywhere near a public school these days...

1 comment:

Andy said...

while i agree with your overall point on the lack of overall quality of public education, AND that throwing money at the problem will not solve the problem, i can't help but get behind any plan that diverts money AWAY from the George W. Bush War Machine.