By Laura A. Ciminelli Catholic schools across the country are teaching students to be better liberals, a trend that has drawn fire from conservatives who say the curriculum is too liberal.
A group of Canadian Catholic bishops and others say the trend is harming the education of young Catholics, especially those who have no formal religious education.
The Canadian Association of Catholic Schools says students are being taught by some Catholic schools to think critically, reflect critically and avoid personal conflict, all things that conservatives say are important.
The group’s director, Father Thomas C. Kelly, said the curriculum has grown more liberal in recent years, but he is not sure how the change is affecting students.
He said that a lot of the time students are taught that they need to be nice, kind and compassionate, and that is not always true, adding that students are also told that it is better to be politically correct than to be moral.
“What we are seeing in the curriculum that is changing is that it’s becoming a more politically correct curriculum,” Kelly said.
Kelly said some of the changes have made the curriculum more sensitive to political concerns.
But he said he does not think that it has caused students to question their faith, and he says it is a learning experience.
“You are learning about the world and how to be a good citizen and to be kind and respectful and you are also learning to question the status quo,” he said.
Catholic schools have long taught that the Catholic faith, which was founded in the 16th century, is about love and acceptance.
Some are teaching the faith teaches tolerance, compassion and selflessness.
The curriculum in some Catholic school systems has also become more critical of homosexuality, abortion and gender roles, said Kelly.
He added that some students are given materials to examine for their grades and how the curriculum would work with those topics.
“We want our kids to have the opportunity to grow up and grow in their faith and in their education,” Kelly added.
He also said he is concerned that some Catholic educators are not being very open to learning about social justice and how students might apply it to their own lives.
“I don’t think there is a good understanding of how to do it, how to apply it in the real world, what it might mean to people who are outside the church,” he added.
But he said some Catholic teachers have been teaching the curriculum in an honest and open way.
Kelly is concerned about the influence of the United Church of Canada on the curriculum.
He said the church has a history of making a lot out of being secular and its leaders have been seen as being more conservative.
“It’s not a great picture of the church’s values,” Kelly told the CBC.
Kelly says the church and its schools have been able to move in a different direction, and is working to strengthen the church by teaching students about diversity.
He says he hopes that the change in the Catholic curriculum will allow more students to see the value of being a good person and of standing up for what you believe in, not just as a Catholic, but as a good human being.
In its new curriculum, the Canadian Association for Catholic Schools is teaching students how to develop an “emotional intelligence,” a key concept in the Christian faith, said Cimino.
It says this is a skill that can be learned and applied in many areas of life.
Cimino said it is important that schools do not give the impression that this curriculum is “conservative” or that it teaches that there is no value in human rights, equality and compassion.
He is worried that some schools are not taking this approach.
“These Catholic schools have a moral obligation to teach this kind of material and that’s the only way they can learn to do so,” he noted.
In a recent video posted on the group’s website, Kelly says the Catholic education system has a “tremendous capacity to teach critical thinking, empathy, compassion, justice, empathy and faithfulness.”
The group said it wants to make the curriculum accessible to students across the world.
“The Canadian Catholic schools and their staff are doing an outstanding job in preparing young people for the next generation of leaders,” it said in a statement.