Roy Peachey, a convert, a parent, a teacher and a home-educator, has written a thoughtful book on a subject that should concern all Catholic parents: Out of the Classroom and into the World: How to transform Catholic Education. What he writes is both wise and provocative, constantly reminding readers (essentially other parents and teachers) what Catholic education should be about: helping its students to become saints, as Pope Benedict, regularly quoted by Peachey, stated in his visit to the UK in 2010.
If this goal seems a tall order, the author makes some pertinent suggestions on how to move, slowly, towards it: recognising that our faith should permeate the whole ethos of the school, rather than be relegated to a “religious class” which only serves to emphasise the separation of faith from the rest of life as well as from other school subjects. Peachey’s aim is not to criticise existing Catholic schools (though he does comment that on the whole they have massively failed to pass on the Faith), but to argue for a wholly different approach.
This approach, which I suspect is more easily attempted by home-educators than in formal schooling, includes slowing down the pace of education; keeping class sizes small; tailoring teaching to the individual’s needs, interests and abilities rather than delivering a one-size-fits-all syllabus which clearly fails the many children who cannot jump through the narrow and rigid educational hoops presented to them; most especially recognising that education – which is distinct from “schooling” – “happens in any encounter between two human beings. Education is all about relationships.”
Underlying all Peachey’s persuasive arguments is the conviction that “Schools should learn from homes and not the other way round.” Too often parents deliver children to school without questioning what they are being taught, rather than accepting that they are the primary educators of their children and that a school’s task is to build on the values, guidance, training and wise parenting that should begin at home.
If parents reading this instinctively quail faced by their responsibility, Peachey is encouraging as well as challenging, passionately convinced that “The truth is that if we become more faithful Christians, then our schools will become more essentially Catholic and if our schools become more essentially Catholic, then our students will become more vitally human.” It is worth reminding oneself that to be more vitally human – rather than simply oriented towards a self-centred individualism and worldly success – is to be orientated towards sanctity.
Along the way the author emphasises the need to return to prayer (rather than being sidetracked by Mindfulness which he describes as “essentially secularized Buddhism”), restricting or banning the use of electronic devices in the classroom and guiding pupils towards works of literature rather than the latest socially-engineered piece of fiction. He also reminds us of our Christian priorities: “We were created to know, love and serve God…not to get into college and find a well-paid job.”
My synopsis does not do justice to this profoundly important book. It is only 167 pages. Do read it.