Everything But the Baby: Rethinking the Ed in Religious Ed

 

I have updated my update to “What’s Really Wrong with Catholic Religious Education? Everything” to include links to a wide variety of responses. The conversation continues here and in comboxes and on social media, and starting Monday the Patheos Catholic Channel home page will have a central link to posts tagged Rethinking Religious Education. But today’s post from my friend and Patheos neighbor Sam Rocha deserves, I think, an endorsement all its own.

Sam, a philosopher and father and educator and enthusiastic-but-impossible-to-pigeonhole Catholic, is the author of A Primer for Philosophy & Education—a tiny little book with a lighted match on its cover for good reason, because it has set off quite a tick tick boom among folks who care about the love of wisdom (which should be everybody, right?).

Sam’s response takes the Everything in the title of my original post very seriously. He suggests that trying to fix religious education—no matter what the age of the “student” or the politics or preparedness or methods of the “teacher”—is just so much deckchair shuffling on a sinking cruise ship called the Scholastica.

In our parishes and churches, the sacraments have been schooled. We treat them as we would a high school diploma. A religious credential.

Catechesis, then, has often become the schooling for the credentials of the sacraments. This is the logic of most religious education nowadays, even the ones that seem to be thoughtful and alternative thinking. There are no alternatives to schooling today. Our Church itself, the ecclesial structure and bureaucracy and petty ethics, has been schooled.

Francis is radical because he is an unschooled pope.

Please read it all, and let Sam and me know what you think.

Many readers took me to task for throwing out the baby with the bathwater by suggesting (as a thought-provoker) that we envision Catholic religious education that wasn’t child centered. Sam goes further, asking us to unschool faith formation entirely. He’s suggesting, in other words, that we throw out the bathwater and the classroom and the teacher and the progress reports and the homework, all of it. Everything but the baby.

Tick tick boom.

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  • http://platytera.blogspot.com Christian LeBlanc

    It still looks like your arguments would apply no less to the entire Western model of schooling. Do you propose the same wholesale revision there as well?

  • http://platytera.blogspot.com Christian LeBlanc

    “unschool faith formation entirely”

    I unschooled my “catechism class” years ago. I think it’s a wonderful approach where it can work. But to do so required, and still requires, a lot of time and energy that I don’t believe more than a few percent of people are up to, be they parents or teachers, secular or faith-formation.

  • Stefanie

    When I read his blog post…especially this part ” Those who worship a living God, a God beyond all the gods and idols
    of our era, a God who cannot be named or contained or described, a God who is a
    terrible student, a God who is beyond the intellect, a God who is not “smart” or
    “successful” or a CEO, a God who dwells in darkness and pain and misery, who
    doesn’t forget the needy, a God who is not a catechist or a dog trainer, those
    who worship this impossible God, already know that CCD and catechesis and adult
    formation and all the classes and courses and old cassette tapes are nothing,
    and must remain nothing, in comparison to the real stuff of mystagogy: the
    Liturgy, prayer, life and work, and love. Conversion.:

    I began to think about Aquinas and the Angelic Doctor’s realization that it truly is impossible to put God’s mysteries and desire into words. A wordsmith and deeper thinker who finally realized that looking upon our Lord in the monstrance led him to thoughtful silence and surrender. Lately, I find that Holy Mass often brings me to that thoughtful state.
    When a teacher of religion is nourished like this — and the nourishment is our Lord Who is fully present in the Eucharistic Host at all Masses — traditional and ‘new’ — you can nourish others. As a religious teacher (RCIA & Confirmation) of students 4 years old to 75 years old, I stopped forcing programs on myself and on the students. Their weekly lessons are created from a variety of resources (scripture, Church fathers, science, litanies and other prayer, homilies from John Chrysostom to Pope Francis, lives of the saints, liturgies old and new) tailor-made to their needs and to serve the above ages. I just add more or less information as needed. It is a lot of work — close to 10 hours of prep work to 1 hour of class — but I want them to be well-prepared for the battleground.
    The Holy Spirit does the rest.


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