INFERIORITY The Problem Of Efficient Teaching
By PROFESSOR LOUIS W. RENOUF
Of the many difficulties that beset our Catholic schools two are brought into especial prominence at this season, the interval between the end of one and the beginning of another school year, when parents are considering the progress made by their children and heads are appointing new masters and mistresses.
From parents in various places come the perennial complaint of the relative inefficiency of the schools, while to many heads comes the difficult task of finding teachers competent to fill vacancies caused by retirements, changes in curriculum and other causes.
So different are these seasonal problems that their relationship is apt to be overlooked, and this may have something to do with their long persistence, for proper consideration brings out the fact that they are, in many cases at least, very closely related, Many of our schools, including practically all our secondary schools, are in the hands of religious, the profoundness of our debt to whom we are perhaps too prone to ignore. The chief qualifications of a religious life are, however, not proficiency in any one or more lay subject of a school curriculum or in the capacity to impart knowledge, and for this reason alone the real wonder is not that some of our schools are relatively inefficient in one or other respect, but that the majority of them are not generally inefficient.
Catholic Inferiority The time has come, however, when we Catholics as a body must no longer tolerate being inefficient in any subject which bears upon either our own Catholic welfare or our status—individual as well as collective —in any of the multitudinous activities, from the creche to extreme old-age, which go to make up.modern life, and the crying need for Catholic efficiency in every walk of this complex modern life makes the task of the school head one of increasing.difficulty. So difficult is this task, indeed, that many heads appear to be oblivious to the fact that we are, as a body, in a position of general inferiority, for which they, in spite of the tremendous amount of firstclass work which they have done, are in many ways responsible. • The recent introduction of Science with the still more recent inclusion of Biology into the school curricula has made this fact painfully obvious during the last few years, especially during this present year when many schools are trying to change over from Physics and Chemistry to General Science (Elementary Physics, Chemistry and Biology, the latter including both Zoology and Botany). Because the four science subjects appear under the common heading of " General Science" many heads regard them as one subject, with the result that applicants for posts are expected to teach not only these four subjects and, in a school which is making the change-over, higher Chemistry and Physics, but also at least Mathematics. One school asked for French, another for Latin in addition, while still another wanted Geography, Physical Culture and Games! I General Science Reasonable though the combination of Mathematics with Physics and Chemistry may be in some cases, General Science requires a pre-eminently biological outlook from a teacher who is to make it attain its objects, an outlook which but rarely is possessed by a real mathematician. Moreover, the science subjects require very careful laboratory as well as lecture preparation, the former covering not only the successful performance of at least demonstration experiments, but also the obtaining and keeping in health of living plants and animals as well as the storing of preserved specimens of many and various kinds, plus all the concomitant bottlewashing and other spade-work.
But even if Mathematics and Biology were a natural combination and science subjects required only the ordinary work involved in the teaching of non-experimental subjects, to what standard in any one branch of knowledge could a teacher attain who tries to meet the requirements enumerated above? So continuously would he or she have to turn the ordinary grindstone that even if the odd " free " period were not taken up with corrections or supervision, it comes so infrequently and reserves of energy are so low that the pursuit of a particular subject or line of work even sufficiently far to qualify for a higher degree is quite out of the question. Then what hope can most of our lay teachers, those who should be the shining lights of Catholic intellectuality in the general darkness which overclouds the modern world, have of ever reaching a standard such as will make them a power to be reckoned with in their own particular field of knowledge?
" Dead End " Roles If those in whose hands is the raw material in its most plastic stage, upon which the future of British Catholicism depends, have but little hope or prospect of ever reaching any real status in a line of work for which they have a special aptitude, how can they be expected to instil into their pupils an enthusiastic determination to become as proficient as they possibly can in some particular direction or other, according to natural aptitude and
opportunity, not only for their own sakes but still more the honour of their holy religion. Any yet how, without this stimulus during their early and impressive years, are young Catholics ever to be imbued with the outlook necessary to force them to make good our deficiencies in coming into prominence in public life, in the professions, and in the trades? And unless Catholics do throw themselves into public life after becoming so proficient that they cannot be ignored, how is the tide of anti Catholic, an and anti-God influences to be stemmed?
We fully realise the difficulties, including those of finance, with which our school heads are faced, as well as the conditions which force a teacher to accept posts, but at the same time we know from actual experiences the suffocating effects of demands such as we are criticising, and we beg those in authority in our schools to go all-out for proficiency even to the extent of leaving some subjects entirely out of their curricula rather than including them under conditions which are damaging to the cause of Catholicism as a whole.