Paradigm, No. 6 (October, 1991)


Religious Education In Catholic Schools 1950s&emdash;1980s [Abstract]


Frank Boyce

School of Education,
The University of Liverpool


This talk began with a brief survey of approaches to the teaching of religion in Catholic schools during the period 1950&endash;1980. The traditional form was based on the Penny Catechism -- a summary of Catholic doctrine and moral teaching. The methodology supporting this was based on memorisation and rote learning.

The Vatican Council (1961&endash;63) provided the context for new approaches, and new textbooks were produced. Some examples of these were considered: the Kerygmatica approach (On Our Way); the History of Salvation approach (Eleven to Sixteen), by Derek Lance; and the Life Experience approach developed by Ruth Duckworth and Anthony Bullen (A Life in God's Word and Growing Christian).

'Child-centred'approaches -- themes, group-work and individual learning -- drew upon the work of educationists outside the Catholic sector such as Harold Loukes, Ninian Smart, and John Hull. Examples taken from these sources were discussed.

By the 1970s the 'new' religious education was subject to much criticism within the Catholic community. The appointment of Kevin Nichols as the National Adviser on the subject was an attempt by the Hierarchy to rationalize the piece-meal experimental work that had been developing and to establish a national curriculum for all phases of schooling. Nichols' work, Orientations and Cornerstone set out the educational and religious problems to be faced, but did not provide any acceptable answers to those problems. David Konstant's report to the Catholic bishops, Signposts and Homecomings, was considered too abstract and theoretical.

Several attempts have since been made to provide syllabuses that combine the best of the traditional and newer methods. The most recent, Weaving the Web (1988), has sparked off yet another era of controversy with the traditionalists arguing that little reference is being given to Catholic doctrine and moral teaching.


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