St. Paul said that we are all part of the one body of Christ. The individual parts of the body all have their particular meaning and function, and all work together in unity. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer. (1 Cor. 12:12-27) We should apply this beautiful image to today's society and culture.
Not long ago I spoke with a lawyer who represented a school district. Very quickly I realized that to him, the school district was the school board and the administrators. I asked, "What about the teachers?" "Oh, no," he replied, "They're employees of the district. And they have their union." To complete the picture I asked where the students fit in. He had no answer. We didn't get to the students' parents, or the community.
Let's keep going. I then asked the school board, "Who decides what is taught in our schools." They answered, "The state." I called the state and asked the same question. They answered, "The school boards."
How many teachers relate to what others are teaching? How many attend faculty meetings that deal with unifying the curriculum? More deeply, how are the teachers educated? I once asked the President of a large university, "What unifies your university?" He answered, "Nothing. Every school operates separately." I said, "This university is a 'versity,' without a 'uni.' He nodded and said, "If you want to go around and talk to all the deans about correlating the curriculum, be my guest. I can't do anything about our disunity."
School board. Administrators. Teachers. Teachers' union. Students. Parents. Community. Dis-unified universities. The picture I get of education today is that of a system that is broken into many, separate, unrelated--and at times warring--pieces. There are some cases of team-teaching and cooperative learning, but in general any sense of over-all unity is missing. But much more needs to be done. In Catholic terms, instead of looking like the one, unified, beautiful body of Christ, our education system looks more like Humpty-Dumpty after he fell off the wall.
If our children are getting a fragmented view of education, then aren't they also getting a fragmented view of the world? And possibly of themselves?
In the Transforming Society section of this blog, I mention that we are spiritually empowered and responsible to uplift and where necessary correct our society and culture--without imposing our religion on anyone. The world that we are called to uplift and correct consists of the people we meet every day. Our schools are right in our own neighborhoods and community. Our children deserve nothing less than our best efforts--and many teachers, administrators and school board members are more than willing to receive our well informed help, offered in loving good will.
Vatican II said we can help make the world more human. Spiritually in this context, that means working for a better education for all our children--an education that academically enlightens and forms the whole student, the whole school, the whole community, the whole world. That kind of wholeness is academically and humanly valid, and can be achieved without any reference to anyone's religion.
As Catholics, of course, we see everything with the eyes of Christ. Take a look at your schools. Christ is there, waiting for you.