Although Catholic and educate together schools are similar in that they both aim to develop a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development, they portray different teaching approaches where it comes to religious education in the school. Catholic schools teach children about the love of god that is present within us all and that we should live in the belief of god. In direct contrast to this, educate together schools don’t believe that god has the answers or that religion is the centre of a child’s moral development, these schools teach the importance of values such as respect and equality towards one another. But both schools do believe in developing moral values they just go about teaching them in different ways. For the purpose of my assignment, I will explore, with the guidance of Hession (2015) Particularity and Pluralism: Educational Philosophies in Irish Primary Schools’ in Catholic Primary Religious Education in a Pluralist Environment, the differences that are present in the teachings of educate together and Catholic schools.
A) What truths or ideas concerning the human person are assumed by each philosophy?
“Educate together schools are multi-denominational schools which espouse and explicitly secular ethos.”(Hession, 2015, p.47). Hession (2015) outlines that these schools relate children to the natural order of space and time. Their values, beliefs and principals are centred on the scientific paradigm in understanding life and creation. This is a secular school and it may take its image of the human person from a more rational social science and from liberal philosophy. The main philosophy at the bases of the schools’ approach to education can be described as worldly. As Hession (2015) states, this is in contrast with the catholic school philosophy which contains a transcendent dimension.
Educate together schools are concerned with equality of respecting all individuals regardless of their race, religion, or ethnicity. The main aim emphasised in these schools is to ‘foster an understanding of values’ (Hession, 2015, p.48). Children in these schools learn to develop values such as social justice, inclusiveness, self – esteem, valuing self, self-motivation, human dignity, confidence, trustworthiness and respect for their environment. These schools promote the basic values of social morality and virtues as they cannot give priority to any world views.
Hession (2015) highlights that Educate together schools use the learn together Ethical curriculum and it is described as “the formal method of fostering pluralist values in students” (p.48). This curriculum that is taught to children puts an emphasis on equality, justice and active citizenship. It also helps children develop moral decision-making, critical awareness, inner discover and individual empowerment. The strand aims to promote a ‘pluralist approach’ (p. 49) to religions. This means that children are taught to celebrate a plurality of religious and non- religious stances for living. Children are given the opportunity to explore their own religious identity and they also learn to have respect for others with varying spiritual stances.
On the other hand, “the philosophy of Catholic schools is based on a Christian view of life, and educational values in Catholic schools are negotiated within an explicit horizon of faith.” (A.Hession, 2015,p.49) These schools are concerned with the meaning of life and that there is a transcendent dimension to life. They also emphasise that “life is best lived within the context of love and worship of god” (A.Hession, 2015,p.49) Catholic schools talk about education in relation to the presence of god in oneself, in other people, and in the created world. Hession (2015) describes that God is seen as being part of everyone’s lives and therefore god’s love and attention is at the centre of their education. Children develop openness to the will of god and they develop forgiveness, compassion and mercy towards others.
In catholic schools, it is taught that ethics cannot be separated from a person’s religious life. It is also taught that religious education has a prominent role in the moral education of students. Hession (2015) outlines that Catholic educational schools view justice as something that goes beyond human effort and rests on god’s promise of justice. Catholic schools, teach about acting with respect to oneself, others, the world and god. Love is prioritised as a virtue and so is gratitude, love of self, god and others, gratitude for life and to god.
b) What does the school suggest to children life is about? What does it suggest they might hope for? What vision does that school offer that might help them develop meaning and purpose for their lives? What does it say to them about human failure and suffering?
Hession (2015) explains that Catholic schools assume that there is a supernatural or transcendent reality as well as the natural universe of space and time. They believe that god is a being that will help and guide children through their lives and they also believe in the science of the world. They suggest to children that life is affirmed within a transcendent horizon and god is the foundation of all reality. They teach that god is the deepest meaning of everything created, god creates the world we live in, including ourselves. It is told that god will always be by our sides, he is a part of us and he will give us strength and love to strive.
In direct contrast to this, Hession (2015) explains that educate together schools suggest that there is only the natural universe of space and time. They explain that life is affirmed within an immanent horizon. These schools do not make any commitment on either the nature of truth or metaphysical reality or spirituality, or the existence of non-physical entities such as god, souls or angels. They give children the freedom to believe whatever they want and they suggest that life is about believing in oneself and discovering their own social, cultural and religious identities. They believe that human autonomy is valued over religious authority. They teach children that they should choose their own path and decide what is true for themselves using their own human powers of rationality.
In catholic schools, children develop hope in the promise of god’s future for them. They learn to understand that god has good things in store for each of us and they must believe that god’s love for them is unconditional and true.
On the other hand, educate together schools, give children the hope of justice, equality and respect for one another. They foster the virtue of inclusiveness, valuing self and teaching them confidence and independence for their future.
Hession (2015) highlights that in educate together schools, religious instruction does not take place during the school day. It teaches children that religion is a private matter, but each child is given the right to practice their religion if they wish. These schools convey important values to children such as inclusion, equality, respect, and justice. Children learn to be respectful of others no matter their race, ethnicity, religious group, culture, class, gender etc. Children are invited to explore other people’s religious and spiritual identities while being mindful that others may think differently to them. They instil the value that all cultures are valuable and that each person’s perspective is important. From educate together schools children see that all religions are important and they should be open to other people’s beliefs. They also suggest that life is about developing a positive attitude towards other cultures and beliefs.
Catholic schools, suggest to children that religious education plays an important role in the moral education of their lives. Students in these schools are taught to prioritise the virtue of love and that a good life is seen as a life lived in the love of self, others and creation of god. Students also learn to foster the virtue of gratitude, not taking life for granted and acknowledging their dependence on others and on god.
c) What is the purpose of education according to this model? What attitudes, dispositions, values/virtues or practices are emphasised in the formation of children in each type of school? What is the place of religious education in each type of school?
Hession (2015) outlines that the purpose of education according to educate together schools is to offer to help children develop purpose for their lives. They talk about the development of the person and the powers of human nature. By this they help children develop intellectually, physically, emotionally, spiritually and morally. They foster the value of education for wholeness which excludes a transcendent dimension. The development of rational autonomy, critical openness and civic mindedness is undertaken in this school. They focus on public or civil moral formation, eg. education for human rights advocacy and activism. They offer education in values such as, equality of respect for all individuals, tolerance, personal autonomy, freedom of conscience and rational autonomy. Students learn values such as equality, respect for others, freedom of conscience and personal autonomy in these schools.
Hession (2015) also states that in catholic school, they also help children to develop meaning and purpose in their lives. They foster the development of all human abilities – intellectual, physical, emotional, aesthetic, spiritual/religious. They say that education for wholeness includes a transcendent dimension. They foster the development and discipline of all powers of body and soul. Children inculcate a sense of the ultimate purpose of life and of moral norms for life and they also discover the personal gift of freedom. Children learn to foster openness, creativity, imagination, sacramental consciousness, perception of beauty, deeper sense of language, joy, capacity for wonder, sense of justice and compassion. Children also learn to develop values such as an openness to god, forgiveness, love of neighbour, self-sacrifice, and acceptance of religious authority.
In catholic schools religion plays a dominant role throughout the lives of children. Religious practice is very much encouraged throughout the school day, through prayer. Children learn to thank god for the love he has shown them, and for their lives. They learn to be grateful for what they have been given and to show respect to others.
In contrast to this, educate together schools view religious education and practice as a private matter that should take place in one’s own time at home. It is not practiced or encouraged throughout the day, but children are also given the right to practice their religion if they wish.
d) What are the strengths/ weaknesses of each type in your view?
Firstly in my opinion, the strengths of an educate together include that all children are seen as independent individuals and as citizens. All students have the right to practice their religion with no judgement or criticism. Children’s social, cultural and religious identities are acknowledged, respected and celebrated in this school. I feel respect and equality towards all individuals is highly promoted in this school also. Children learn to accept all children irrespective of their class, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs or gender.
Then the strengths that are intertwined in catholic schools are that children learn that god is active and present in our lives every day, god loves us unconditionally and they should love others as god loves them. In these schools, children learn the importance of forgiveness, compassion and mercy towards others.
In my opinion the weaknesses for children in educate together schools are that they don’t get the experience of practicing religious beliefs. They don’t learn about the importance of religion or to believe I something beyond the realm of rationality. They solely understand life as being based on the natural universe of space and time. Children do not get to make any commitment to spirituality or the existence of any non-physical entities.
In catholic schools, children are told that there is a god and that we should love him unconditionally. But, I feel they are not given the opportunity to discover their own religious identities. They are made to believe that god is the foundation of all reality without question. Children don’t get the freedom to express themselves religiously and equality, human rights and respect aren’t recognised.
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