Put your faith in the facts;Letter

19th March 1999 at 00:00
IT IS always interesting to read a review of a work which one didn't edit; it is even more interesting to read a fulsome account of the book one should have edited. By virtue of its substantial wish-list Chris Arthur's review of Catholic Education: Inside-OutOutside-In (TESS, March 12) falls into the latter category.

It is true that the volume actually written is not a pedagogical work, it is also self-evident that it is not concerned with Muslim education nor does it address, in any substantive manner, the possibility of integrated schools (worthy topics though these undoubtedly are and they will assuredly be addressed in other places).

These issues do not feature as central concerns of this book because they did not fit with the broad aim of engaging in a discourse about the philosophy and theology of Catholic education. The creation of this particular conversation seemed to the editor and other authors to offer, in Arthur's very helpful phrase, a theoretical prolegomena.

In the introduction to the book I suggest that it offers a wide-ranging discussion of both the gift of Catholic education to the polity and its limitations. One of these limitations is that there isn't an essay on every theoretical, practical and pedagogic topic which might legitimately be addressed in this arena. In his closing comments that this volume is more homespun than Armani, Arthur inadvertently stumbles on the purpose of the epigraph, the use of which he decries. The point is that the current respectability of Catholic education among the chattering classes and its redoubtable academic achievements depend upon the maintenance of both the notion and reality of faith communities with all the virtues of local strengths and sustainability derived from principles of subsidiarity and root nourishment.

The Armani-like fame of attainment-target successes and subsidiary concerns with other forms of faith-based education are chimera if the basic conversations as to purpose and relationships are neglected. To do so is not to ignore the conditions of postmodernity (whether these be socio-ethical or epistemological) but it may lead to a rejection of its shibboleths and values.

A slightly more careful reading of the text would have revealed not only the importance of the homespun but also that the "Hay" for which Arthur searched in the bibliographies was not an author but the title of Paul Muldoon's latest collection of poetry.

James Conroy Department of religious education, St Andrew's College, Bearsden

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