Monday, October 6, 2008

On the Christian Education of Youth

Every method of education founded, wholly or in part, on the denial or forgetfulness of original sin and of grace, and relying on the sole powers of human nature, is unsound. Such, generally speaking, are those modern systems bearing various names which appeal to a pretended self-government and unrestrained freedom on the part of the child...attributing to the child an exclusive primacy of initiative, and an activity independent of any higher law, natural or divine, in the work of education....such men are miserably deluded in their claim to emancipate, as they say, the child, while in reality they are making him the slave of his own blind pride and of his disorderly affections... - Christian Education of Youth by Pope Pius XI

This quote, and this encyclical, has been used as an argument against unschooling.

What is interesting is that Suzie Andres, in her book on Catholic unschooling, uses this and similar quotes from the encyclical, to promote her understanding of why unschooling can be a choice for Catholic homeschoolers.

Andres writes ~ page 39 - A closer reading of the Pope's words us that unschooling is not forbidden for Catholics. Note that the objectionable methods of education attribute to the child ' an exclusive primacy of initiative..'. We can respond that because the child is always the primary agent in his learning, it is fitting that he is often the initiator of his learning as well. This is precisely what unschooling allows. Unschooling, however, does not require that the child be the only or exclusive initiator.

Moreover, the Pope is especially concerned with preventing parents and educators from witholding religious instruction on the false belief that the child must initiate every area of his formation and education. In our defense of unschooling we have emphasized the need for parents to refrain from over-teaching, and the importance of their actively respecting the child's ability to learn without too much interference. But this is not equivalent to saying that unschooling parents cannot initiate areas of study.

Consequently, unschooling as we have defined it is not one of the modern systems of education the Pope here condemns.Furthermore, reading on in this encyclical, we find in the next paragraph a description which more accurately applies to unschooling, and which the Pope then approves.

Pope Pius XI states:'If any of these terms are used, less properly, to denote the necessity of a gradually more active co-operation on the part of the pupil in his own education, if the intention is to banish from education despotism and violence, which, by the way, just punishment is not, this would be correct but in no way new. It would only mean what has been taught and reduced to practice by the Church in traditional Christian education, in imitation of the method employed by God Himself towards His creatures, of whom he demands active co-operation according to the nature of each;.....Here we find that the Church not only allows for unschooling, but even places it in line with her tradition. page 40

A Catholic can choose to unschool, without fear of compromising their Faith.

Just as a family can live and share the Faith, so can a family share each individual's educational life; their thoughts, their interests, their activities.

Education happens, sometimes through osmosis and sometimes through a more rigorous study.

" All men by nature desire to know." Aristotle, in Metaphysics.


Cindy said...

Great post, Leonie

Barbara C. said...

I think this can also be interpreted as more about the concept of "un-parenting" rather than "unschooling". Some unschoolers and some non-unschoolers tend to equate the two.