July 13, 2012
Catholic education and citizenship
The dimension of citizenship is often central in discussions about the aims of education. For example, Catholic education should balance the following four elements in educating children and young people:
Faith and Life integration: integrating their faith and life through the development of the whole person (spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically, socially and emotionally)
Excellence and Equity: encouraging them to strive for excellence by making the best possible use of all their talents and abilities
Lifelong learning: helping them to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for successful transition to further education, training or employment, and the strong foundations needed for lifelong learning
Active citizenship: preparing them for their present and future lives as independent persons, citizens, parents, workers, learners and members of their faith communities, and empowering to contribute to the common good of society.
The last element in this list focuses on citizenship - not just any kind, but an active citizenship that is concerned for the common good of society. This concept of citizenship acknowledges Jesus’ answer in relation to the authority of government: “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God”. It does not however mean blind allegiance to any government, but rather an engagement that supports the common good. This may mean that what citizens say or do isn’t always understood as being supportive by government, as Dom Helder Camara’s famous quote reminds us: “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist”.
In South Africa, Catholic schools ought to be educating young people that will help make our nation great.