MAY I offer one or two comments on the article by Mrs. Joan Richards in your education feature of March 3. and on the correspondence which has followed it?
1 —1 am a firm believer in
Church schools, secondary as well as primary. The arguments advanced by Mr. Gordon Dimmer and Mrs. Richards were rolled out nearly 30 years ago at the time of the 1944 Education Act. They were then widely accepted by the Church of England authorities.
Many Church of England schools were handed over to the State and became undenominational. I have met and talked to many Anglicans since then, but very few who would claim that the secularisation of their schools has produced any notable increase in the size or fervour of Anglican congregations. or any detectable strengthening of the Anglican impact on contemporary society.
What it has produced, if the last ten years in my own corner of the world is anything to go by. is a growing determination among Anglicans to hang on to what aided schools they have left. to add to their number where possible, and, in the absence of an Anglican school, to get their ehildren, if they can. into a Catholic school.,
On the evidence of their practical experience I see no reason for thinking that we should gain anything by doing now what they did nearly 30 years ago.
• In 1944 there did exist a Ad fairly general intention that the State schools should retain a definite. if minimal, Christian character: religious education is still the one compulsory subject in any State school timetable. But the years since 1944 have witnessed a considerable change in the general attitude towards this provision among those who determine the character of our State schools.
Over the years the force of the original intention has been weakened. There has been a move away from positive Christian teaching, through studies in Comparative Reli
gion, to moral education based on "situation ethics" — when, that is. the matter has been taken up at all.
3 It is true that a measure of power and control in the State schools is still in the hands of men and women who belong to generations which. on the whole, accepted. even. if only informally, the general Christian standpoint: but they are now a declining minority and the generations which will succeed them will not share their outlook, and may not be prepared to tolerate its propagation.
By this I do not mean that we may be in for positive persecution. but there are more effective indirect ways of skinning the Christian cat. The agitation for the abolition of compulsory morning worship in schools and for the removal of the statutory obligation to include religious education in the timetable are pointers in this direction.
4-Mrs. Richards mentioned in her article the development of this Torquay school (Cuthbert Mayne) as a joint Roman/Anglican secondary school. The origins of this go back eight years or more and are to be found in three things: local Roman lack of numbers: local Anglican disillusionment with the results of Anglican schools 'policy since 1944; and a group of local people. Roman and Anglican, who knew and trusted one another as Christians should and sought a common solution of their problems.
Anglican pupils have been entering the school in increasing numbers since 1965. Since 1968 they have done so by formal agreement. We have two Anglicans among our foundation governors. and a major extension of the school, now starting, is to be jointly financed.
It is not for me to say whether or not the experiment is proving successful--but business is brisk and the customers seem very satisfied.
Anthony F. Grist Headmaster Torquay, Devon.
FORG EVE the irrelevant thoughts, but when I read P. B. Robinson on Catholic schools (March 17) my mind said "Spirituality? — Poppycock!"
From my observation of children (and I have taught infants, juniors. middle school and seniors, with 70 as the upper age limit at night school), T have conic to the conclusion that the much revered spirituality which' alienates Catholic families from children brought up in State schools is nothing better than neo-Christian superstition which builds some families together with an iron hand; keeping the uninitiated out (and what better?) if they are not acquainted with their devious thoughts and practices.
Most young people today are too honest to embrace a cult more interested in its roots than the flowers which are beginning to appear on a new cosmic plane; and when they conform to spirituality in this sense, it is only from a bewildered sense of loyalty and love for their rather dotty parents.
I find the honest Christian approach of children I teach— many of whom no longer go to church—stimulating, refreshing and regenerating in this sad sick world of ours today. Do you really want to shut them up in a shadowy half-world of exclusiveness and call it spirituality?
More and more I find myself agreeing with Colin Morris in his book "Include Me Out!" (Fontana 25n.) when he says: "When our churches have crumbled and our vestments have rotted and the wind blows through the ruins of our ecclesiastical structures, all that will stand and have external significance are creative acts of compassion—the effectual signs of the presence of the kingdom."
This is what I think our be loved and most spiritual Pope John was trying to tell us when he kicked off his red silk slippers and took to walking shoes.
Spirituality (the likeness of Christ) is to he found not in our exclusively Catholic schools but in the kind of primary school I thank God my children went to —half Catholic, half other denominational children; two, sometimes three devoted Religious and at least one of the lay staff non-Catholic and. thinking specifically of one of the most inspiring of all teachers, one non-churchgoing teacher.
How right Mr. Robinson is when he says: "We must aim to make education relevant to life." But surely we can do this only by admitting that life into our Catholic schools and not passing by on the other side?
Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire.
SLJRELY nothing hut good
can come from some critical positive thinking and plain speaking on the whole question of denominational schools. In your columns we shall no doubt be hearing the old arguments both for and against, and, we may hope, some fresh contributions to help us in the future.
But it does not help to overstate the case, as if the loss of our schools would necessarily be a death-blow to the faith and morals of our children.
In your issue of March 10, G. Stern writes that "The Poles and Czechs would be glad beyond measure to have but a part of what she (Joan Richards) is proposing with such levity to throw away." That may be, but I happened recently to be discussing this very point with a Polish family, long resident in England, who had been on holiday at home in Poland with relations.
Religious instruction is forbidden in the schools there, and even the practice of religion is, indirectly at least. discouraged on Sundays when sport and social outings for youth are organised by the State as counter-attractions.
But the result, apparently, is far from a collapse of religion. The young people simply go to Mass at a very early hour on Sunday morning and then go on the outings. The religious education of children is organised. on a parish level. outside of school hours.
Thinking of possible future developments, can we say that the average British parish Community is aware of its responsibility for the religious education of its own young parishioners?
(Fr.) T. J. Rice Haywards Heath, StIssex. Vera Doran