State schools 'can't shut out the moral demons'

NON-DENOMINATIONAL schools offer no moral protection to young people against the consumerist, liberal ills of western society. Only Roman Catholic educa-tion can give them the foundation they need, Professor Patrick Reilly, former lecturer in English literature at Glasgow University, told a Catholic Education Commission conference last week.

Professor Reilly is regarded as a leading intellectual voice of the Catholic community and told an invited audience at St Margaret's Academy in Livingston that only Catholic schools held a coherent, logical and strong position on moral and ethical issues.

Non-Catholic schools, "God help them", were increasingly helpless to resist consumerism.

"We must not look to anyone else to save us. Secular non-denominational education can no longer help, because it cannot give what it does not possess. I'm not trying to blame anyone but the bottom line is that secular education no longer has a metaphysic or an ethic to defend the human being against the dehumanising degradation of the modern world," Professor Reilly said.

Only through a Catholic education were people able to find a true definition of the human being and a true explanation of life. "What's the use of knowing French verbs and quadratic equations if you do not know who you are?" he asked.

Children were being brought up in a "moral wasteland" and "running amok" after the spectacular failure of the liberal project of the past half century. "What we were derided and villified for has disastrously come to pass. At the highest government levels, the priority is now how best to instil in our children basic values and rudimentary citizenship, things taken for granted in the obscurantist past that the liberals were so eager to destroy," Professor Reilly said.

Young people were faced with "junk food for the soul" now that basic standards had been eroded.

Professor Reilly highlighted marital breakdown and the devastation of family life, child abuse, alcoholism, drugs and Aids as indices of "a profoundly sick society". Large sections of young people were in open mutiny against any kind of authority and values taught in school were sabotaged by the every day world.

He said: "Every day 15,000 crimes are committed by children and every day a teacher is attacked in a classroom. Many thousands of children are running amok in the stone jungles of our cities and towns, our so-called centres of civilisation. We are both spectators of and participators in the most massive failure of education in the west in modern times."

It was little wonder that 40 per cent of teachers left within two years of their first post.

THERE'S A PLACE FOR US

The concept of self-discipline and respect for yourself and others has been at the heart of the revival of St John's primary in Barrhead, Matt Lynch, a lawyer and school board member, told the conference, which was timed to feed into the national debate on education.

"These are the basic Catholic principles that prove absolutely that there is a fundamental place for Catholic schools in Scotland," Mr Lynch said.

A school that had suffered from being in one of the country's most disadvantaged communities had been turned around by Frances McGrane, the headteacher.

When he first come into contact with the school more than 12 years ago, the roll stood at 188. It was now 250 and parents were using placing requests to get children in.

Academic standards had risen significantly and HMI had commended the school.

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