Thursday, October 12, 2006

Government Aid to Catholic Education Always has Strings Attached

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Sharon at Clarity's Journal who teaches at St Scholastica wonders why the voucher program hasn't been expanded in Minnesota.

The Minnesota bishops recently issued a pastoral statement asking that parents have more access to school choice. I haven't heard much discussion of school vouchers lately, even though the most recent Supreme Court decision opened up school funding options. The bishops emphasize that decisions about offering children access to private schools through "tax credits, vouchers or scholarships" should be based first on the child's best interests:

They are finding out in England, where the government pays a substantial portion of Catholic School costs that government aid has strings attached. Joanna Bogle, who with her husband Jamie has a TV show on English Catholic History on EWTN and is a many times published author, reports in her new blog, auntie joanna writes, on proposed changes in English law that will require more "diversity" in Catholic schools.

Jamie came home from a meeting of the Catholic Union - of which he is Chairman - with worrying news about Catholic education.....three-pronged Govt attack on Catholic schools. First, the quota" idea; a specific number of places at Catholic schools will be reserved for non-Catholic pupils. The Anglicans have already agreed to this for their schools. It will mean a mess: at present Catholic schools are v. popular and over-subscribed, and all priests know about the families who suddenly start coming to Mass and getting active in the parish as they want to get their children into a good local Catholic school.... this has its own absurdities, but it will be even more ridiculous if practising RCs are turnd away so that the school can fill the places with the neccessary quota of non-believers! And then, because non-believing families won't really be happy with aspects of Catholic teaching and practice, we'll get newspaper reports of complaints and protests :"My child was forced to take part in a weird ritual...." "This Catholic school insulted by family by attacking our [gay/divorced/cohabiting/] etc lifestyle.....".

Next, we have what has already been introduced: schools may not interview applicants for places as this makes the schools too "elitist". This means that if a Catholic family do manage to get within the possibilities of winning a place at a Catholic school, they won't be able to explain their specific needs and wishes at an interview....will have to rely on bluff and paperwork (this will militate against good families who aren't good at filling in forms and making their concerns look impressive in writing).

Finally - and this is really shocking - a Govt minister is about to introduce a Bill (in the House of Lords) establishing that teenagers from the age of 16 have the right to opt out of all religious worship in school, apparently on the grounds that he considers it's their 'human right' to do so. This has been in the offing for some time, and has been encouraged by the story of the college in S. London where there were complaints that pupils were "forced" (???) to take part in Mass and a May procession. As was pointed out at the time, if you attend a Catholic school, you can expect to find Catholic activities as part of the deal....like attending a sports college and finding you are expected to take part in sports.

All the above will mean that Catholic schools will find it increasingly difficult to exist as proper Catholic, worshipping communities. And the argument will be: why should it be only 16-year-olds who have the right to opt out of religious worship? Don't younger children have human rights too? We'll get media hype about sobbing non-Catholic youngsters who are forced to attend Masses they don't understand or sing hymns which frighten them with tales of crucifixion and blood, or something.....
[snip] auntie joanna writes

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