From the Principal's Desk....
Teaching what matters
Though always going on behind the educational scene, occasionally conversations and debates about what should be taught in schools and through higher education break through into the public domain. We ought to be teaching what matters.
Just now around Australia there is debate about the federal government’s plans to partial deregulate higher education. A proposal is to remove the cap on fees that universities and other institutions can charge for the courses they offer. One of the contributors to the debate proposes that there should be absolutely no contribution of taxpayer funds for university courses because graduates have the life-long benefit of the knowledge and skills they develop in terms of high salaries. Such a position presupposes knowledge to be solely a personal asset or a private good. It suggests that knowledge exists fundamentally for the benefit and use of individuals. Knowledge in all of its manifestations - content, skill, and the capacity to access information and apply it innovatively in diverse contexts - exists for the benefit of all.
It is true that significant benefits of knowledge potentially accrue to individuals, however from the Christian perspective, knowledge is similar to the environment, our earth’s resources, and the economy; they are public goods; they belong to and ought to be at the service of everyone.
A decade or more ago now the Australian Catholic Bishops issued a social justice policy document on the economy. With a smart play on words, they called it “Common wealth for the common good”. What we know and what we have should be at the service of all, without excluding the benefits that also accrue to individuals. Knowledge can never be the sole passion of individuals alone.
Similarly, the use of and application of knowledge must be guided by amoral conscience. As an example, early commentary on the downing of MH17 speculated that while the missile system suspected of involvement is a very sophisticated weapon, it is able to be operated by very unsophisticated individuals. Knowledge in itself is morally neutral; however its’ ethical use demands the appropriate formation of individual and collective character.
At its essence, this is the business of Catholic education. Formation of our students so that they have the capacity to use the skills and knowledge they acquire in a just and ethical manner is the heart of Catholic education; it can never be an optional extra or an add-on. It is foundational.
This is 'teaching what matters'; the development of a moral capacity and willingness, fashioned by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Knowledge in all of its manifestations is for the common good. Ethical application of knowledge demands a well formed moral conscience - and from our Christian perspective, a conscience nourished by relationship with Christ.
Mr Luke Reed