I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized After the Catechism

After the Catechism

Carmel Heaney
Carmel Heaney writes: There was surprisingly little public reaction when, in January of this year, the then minister for education rescinded Rule 68, a directive to national schools which privileged religion. The rule had been in force for fifty years. This situation reflected not so much indifference as a tacit recognition that in fact the zeitgeist had been whittling away this regulation, in spirit if not technically, for at least a generation. A recent address (May 18th, 2016) by the secretary general of the Department of Education and Skills may be assumed to reflect contemporary attitudes. His audience was the Association of Trustees of Catholic Schools. Concepts such as “choice in provision of ethos” and the “need for plurality” are not exactly what the framers of Rule 68 had in mind. The Catholic church itself underwent changes during the Second Vatican Council which impacted on traditional practices in religious education. The council included a new understanding of secularism in its remit. One of the results on the ground was a trend towards providing for preparation of the sacraments (Holy Communion and Confirmation) in parishes rather than in schools. Thereby, it was thought, community involvement would be strengthened and faith formation of the young would be nurtured within a committed environment. Post-Rule 68, schools under church patronage (96 per cent of all primary schools) will still be imbued with the church ethos. The present minister for education and skills, Richard Bruton, has, of course, initiated a programme for the divestment of church patronage of primary schools. But progress is likely to be slow, not least because of the opposition of parent groups. So, paradoxically, the spirit of Rule 68, if not the letter, may be expected to survive. The cynical might suggest that parental support for church schools was motivated by a desire to maintain a system of priority access for the baptised. Equally, it could be said that education in church schools is seen as contributing to the formation of young people in a morally good way of living, and contributing also to an acceptable ethos for society as a whole. How will this outcome be achieved if religion is no longer privileged as an instrument in the education of the young? What will replace it? This is the framework within which this essay considers the pros and cons of religion, philosophy and secular spirituality in primary education. It is…



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