Flawed view of Catholics

16th May 2003 at 01:00
While Fred Forrester's letter (TESS, May 2) claimed to be a response to the proposal of the Roman Catholic Bishops to appoint a director for Catholic education, it was just really an attack on the existence of Catholic schools, something Fred has done many times in recent years.

What suggestions does he have for dealing with what he perceives to be the unpleasant reality of the Scottish educational scene? Rewrite the 1918 Act, which is "uniquely flawed"?

Apart from such a rewrite, he argues against the existence of Catholic schools because there are no Muslim or other faith schools. This is strange logic.

He seems convinced that all Catholic schools are a collapsing edifice, but ignores the reality that many of them are being pressed to accept increasing numbers of pupils, whose parents seem very anxious to have their children admitted to them.

His final suggestion that religious education should continue in the home and the church is generous but misplaced and again conveniently ignores the crux of the debate, which includes the view that school education should include the formation of young people with a sound value system - not just a narrow focus on skills training. Inconvenient though it remains, many parents want the right to choose.

Mr Forrester is one of a group of people who want to influence the nature of schooling in Scotland but seem to have only one view of Catholic schools: abolish them. However, unless this group shows more inclination to address the issues, which the Catholic community legitimately places on the table, there can be no future dialogue.

Catholic schools are a fact of history; they are popular with parents and young people, not all of them Catholic. Religious beliefs may be regarded by some as erroneous, but many others claim the right to regard them as foundational in education.

True respect - or tolerance to use the PC word - is marked by permitting communities who wish a school education integrating religious faith with other elements of the formal and informal curriculum to have their choice.

For some that is the essence of the educational experience in the new Scotland.

Faced with such a view, expressed by a considerable part of Scottish society, Mr Forrester seems unable to cope and wants to destroy what he does not like. And this from someone whom many think has contributed much to Scottish education.

Fr Ken McCaffrey RE adviser Diocese of Dunkeld Mar Street Alloa

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