Catholic Schools Asked To 'Infuse' Study of Peace Into Curriculum
Boston--Roman Catholic schools can no longer call themselves "Catholic" if they do not "infuse" the concepts of peace and justice into the education and training of their students, said religious and educational leaders who spoke at the 81st annual meeting of the National Catholic Educational Association here last week.
The teaching of those concepts, the leaders said, will translate itself into political activity and a new public policy for a "fairer way of life."
"We have the power to destroy ourselves," said Sister Loretta Carey, director of the Fordham University/ncea Center for Education for Justice and Peace in New York City, "and I don't think we have the psychology or the morality or the perspective that that kind of power requires."
How Catholic educators can assist in promoting world peace was a major topic of discussion at the conference; several speakers focused on ''infusion," a teaching method for integrating justice and peace concepts into school curricula.
First Meeting Since Letter
The conference, which drew more than 15,000 Catholic educators, was the first national meeting of the ncea since the National Conference of Catholic Bishops completed a "pastoral letter" condemning the use of nuclear weapons and calling for an "immediate, bilateral, verifiable" agreement to halt the testing, production, and deployment of new nuclear weapons.
According to Sister Carey, who has for the last four years traveled across the country teaching "infusion-method training" to more than 400 Catholic education leaders, "We need an education to catch us up to what our potential is."
The seminars are designed to equip participants with the information and skill needed to train others in infusion techniques.
"We are talking about certain ways of looking at the world and ways in which students organize their information--not just for competition and for getting ahead and for self-aggrandizement, but for the community and for other folks."
The first step in training teachers is to convince them that peace education "is not optional in their teaching in a Catholic school," Sister Carey said, adding that people "must realize that this needs to be a part of every Catholic school and that a school really cannot call itself a Catholic school unless it is part of it."
The sessions begin with a review of Catholic social teaching, including an examination of the Bishops' pastoral letter on the use of nuclear weapons.
'Teachers at Their Best'
In addition to providing educators with instruction on conflict analysis, conflict resolution, and methods for achieving cooperation in a conflict situation, they are provided with extensive training in developing lesson plans that integrate those concepts.
"Our sense was that lesson planning was the professional activity of teachers, that that is where teachers are at their best, and that that is where they should be transformed," Sister Carey said.
The approach promotes peace and3justice concepts in "every subject area, at every grade level," she added.
Several teachers who spoke at the conference described examples of successful infusion programs at their schools.
A course in environmental science, for example, can be a good place to begin a discussion of land use and the ecological and social issues involved when a land-development project is considered, said Michael S. Griffin, chairman of the religious studies department at Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford, Conn.
Although the text the class used did not address such issues, the teacher led students in a discussion of how the land was to be used, what problems the use might create for the people who live there, and whether the project would yield economic benefits for local residents or only for outside investors.
Deliberate Materials Selection
Other teachers at the school "deliberately choose course materials in which peace and justice concepts can be addressed," Mr. Griffin said.
English teachers frequently choose reading materials for their students on the basis of the social issues they address. Reading The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison or My Planet 'Tis Of Thee, a novel by Isaac Asimov about global interdependency and survival, often is required and followed by class discussions on the issues raised in the readings.
Students' research papers also must address social issues. "They are covering the skills of writing and research, but they are also bringing in materials which deal with the jus6tice theme," Mr. Griffin explained.
The goal of infusion is to "raise the awareness" of teachers and students to the need for social change, Sister Carey said.
"Undoubtedly, this will translate into public policy," she predicted. "Education is one of the very important ways social change takes place. In this country, fortunately, we are a free society and changing minds is a political activity. I believe there will be, there must be, a change in the way we are conducting ourselves and our affairs."
In another session, the Rev. Robert F. Drinan, professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Centerel35lin Washington, D.C., and a former U.S. representative, told conference participants that the religious leadership is on a "collision course" with the United States government.
"The struggle against our government has just begun," he said. "The questions will become more complex and challenges more demanding. As Christians, we have openly repudiated the use and the threat of the use of nuclear weapons. The consequences of that courageous commitment are just beginning to become clear to us."
The stand against nuclear weapons and military aggression is one that is necessary for the salvation of the "entire future world," Father Drinan said, adding that the Catho3lic church, and Catholic schools, must be influential in the peace movement.
"I have a vision and a dream," he said. "I dream and pray that 50 years from now historians will look back and see a world that has set aside or greatly curtailed the possession of nuclear weapons and be able to trace nuclear disarmament to the moral initiatives of Catholic leaders in America."
And that vision is not impossible, he told conference participants, ''because Catholic theology has the most developed moral system in the world and Catholic schools in America may be the best organized and most visionary of such institutions in the world."
Vol. 03, Issue 32