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Are Catholic schools in the UK helping children to flourish?

Updated: Feb 28



UK Catholic school educational material

A FEW WEEKS AGO, during a discussion on the various problems facing British schools, I was presented with a defence of the material routinely given to our children: LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter resources, feminist propaganda, and so on. “This stuff”, I was told, “is happening in the real world and we can’t hide our children from it, therefore we have to present it to them”. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that.


I suggested that my interlocutor might forearm her own children for the reality of divorce by having a screaming row with her husband when he arrived home that evening, before storming out of the front door with a packed suitcase. She didn’t seem keen.


This “it’s the world in which we live” defence is a common one, especially amongst Catholic headteachers and educators struggling to uphold the Catholic faith in their schools. It is meant to silence extremists, of course: like me and any other middle-aged mums concerned about their children’s formation.


What is missing from it is any recognition that presenting such things to our children, without first providing them with the right foundations, is not wise and helpful but foolish and dangerous.


15 years ago, shortly before purchasing our 11lb Christmas turkey, I gave birth to my 11-pound-six-ounce son. I spent the next 6 housebound weeks blissfully breastfeeding my wonderful baby boy, with nothing else to do but nurture him, and nowhere else to be but home.


On television at the time was “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here”, a show in which a group of celebrities are placed together for 3 weeks in the Australian jungle. With baby in one arm and a cuppa in the other, I began to watch. Each November, with memories of that happy time, it has become staple viewing in the Bennett household.


While watching the celebrities trapped in the jungle this year, a spat broke out between maître d’ Fred Sirieix and YouTuber Nella Rose. His crime? He, aged 51, described himself as old enough to be Nella Rose’s father. She is 26, so it was nothing but a statement of fact. The young YouTuber was very angry about this: didn’t he know that her own father had died?


After a night of tossing and turning over the injustice of it, Nella decided that she wanted nothing more to do with Fred.


The following morning, in response to what appeared to be a genuine, if baffled, apology from Fred, Nella said: “I don’t care how you said it to me, it’s disrespectful, I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t want to be around you, I only allow people to disrespect me once. I want to stay away from you, I don’t want to eat your food, you live on that side, and I’ll live on this side.”


Nella’s behaviour is typical of what I have observed among young people formed by a failing education system that no longer has human flourishing as its goal. For far too long our children have suffered under educational establishments that fail to recognise what kind of creature we are and pay no attention to a superior telos beyond the subordinate aim of exam success. Ripped from families and fed a diet of grievance, victimhood and feelings our young people – as HW Crocker puts it – “cultivate shallowness, superficiality and solipsism as a philosophy of life”.


In the Abolition of Man, CS Lewis describes human beings as having three parts: The Head (intellect, reason, rationality), The Belly (instincts, sensations, feelings, appetites and passions) and The Chest (Just and Noble sentiments and virtue – which serves as the liaison between the human mind and stomach).


“Dangerous trends in philosophy, pedagogy, culture, morality and even politics and manners, are having the effect of ripping human beings apart – cutting away the chest … and either evaporating into pure intellect, or devolving to a state in which our animal nature is totally dominant”, observes Michael Ward in After Humanity.


When Catholic schools present young people with divisive material like that produced by Black Lives Matter and the false anthropology of self-appointed LGBTQ+ advocates, we do not help them to cope with the real world. Instead we create the conditions by which they become enslaved to it, breeding anger, resentment, bitterness, victimhood and narcissism.


Only those who have a proper grounding in truth and recognise that they were made by love and for love, can then critically evaluate such “real world” material in order to challenge the false assumptions on which they are based.


“There is love in me the likes of which you have never seen,” says Frankenstein’s monster, “and there is a rage in me the likes of which should never escape. If I am not satisfied in the one, I will indulge the other.” What schools choose to cultivate really does matter.


If Catholic schools in the UK continue to fail our children by turning their faces away from Christ towards the glittering lies of the age, then our likely fate will be, as Catholic author Clare Walker puts it, “a demonic mixture of the head and the belly – dispassionate intellect and reason thrown together with untrammelled animal appetites… devoid of the healthy integration and restraint necessary for us to be truly human and for our society to be truly civil”.


Perhaps we can only hope that three spirits will visit the UK education secretary Gillian Keegan this Christmas, causing her to implement sweeping educational change before it is too late.

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4 Comments


Excuse my Yankee ignorance of English Catholic Schools. Are your Catholic schools under the jurisdiction of the local Ordinary in the UK? Does the state (government ) fund Catholic schools?

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Hello Andrew. Happy New Year to you and yours.

In the UK the state entered into partnership with the Church and funds Catholic education (though the Church owns the land on which the schools are built and the buildings themselves)

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Good stuff. I taught in a Church school and watched the Christian influence get weaker and weaker as the school was encouraged to take in non-Christian children and had to employ non-Christian staff. Morning Assemblies became twice weekly "Acts of Worship", but were mainly secular in content.

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Sadly it appears to be the picture almost everywhere

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