Catholics II

It’s a Catholic morning, it would appear.

The Catholic and Orthodox churches have sent representatives to a conclave to discuss an exploration of shared understandings and teachings on the topic of the family.  The resulting joint statement can be read here.  
While much of it is not surprising and a good starting point for further joint discussions, I found one aspect particularly interesting, as it’s something that doesn’t seem to get a lot of press in religious circles – the issue of education and the primary responsibility thereof.
This document emphasizes and affirms that the parents have the primary obligation and responsibility of education.  What a welcome change to the prevailing attitudes (at least in the US) that education is strictly a matter of outsourcing.  Don’t get me wrong – I believe that public (and parochial) educational institutions can and do provide a very valuable resource for parents in educating their children.  However, the schools remain only that – one resource.  Moves in recent times to prevent parents from exercising oversight of the education their children are receiving are disturbing at a fundamental level that echoes now-denounced practices in the early 20th century of removing children from their cultural environs to impose a ‘white’ or ‘Western’ education and world view on them.  As quickly as most people would be to decry these practices as grossly misguided, many people would argue that today, the schools know best, and therefore need to be allowed to develop and implement educational policies and content without having to gain parental approval – or even allow parental oversight.  
However, criticism of the school system is not the intent of this Catholic joint statement.  Rather, it ultimately is a criticism of the philosophy that parents have been sold, which says that they are not qualified to oversee their child’s education, and that they further shouldn’t be held responsible for it, since they need to be busy at work.  Economics is seen as more important than the education and development of a child.  Parents need to be brought back to an understanding that, while they may choose to augment their child’s education with public or private educational institutions, it ultimately is only an augmentation, and the primary responsibility remains theirs.
What remains now is for the Church to work towards providing the sort of support structures necessary to convey this message in meaningful ways to families.  It’s one thing for the Church to blaze the moral trail, but such admonitions and exhortations are meaningless without focused, specific strategies for assisting parents in taking responsibility again for their child’s education.  Partly, this means equipping parents to do so.  Partly, it means challenging the idea that economic issues of production and consumption necessarily need to eclipse the primary duty of the family to raise up responsible members of society.  
Once again, I have great admiration for the Catholic willingness to take hard positions on important issues.  I pray that there will be plenty of people – Catholic and other denominations – willing to take up the cry and the struggle and to reach out to parents who desire to fulfill their God-given duties, but need help in doing so.  And I hope parents everywhere won’t sit still and be told that their child’s education is none of their business, or that they don’t have the right to make decisions about the education their child receives in a system that their tax dollars directly support.

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