Catholic schools combat sectarianism
This week’s editorial leader
In most of the world, a Catholic education is seen as an unalloyed good. There is an appreciation that 2,000 years of educational experience have left the Church well placed to shape inquiring, thoughtful, effective adults. Yet in Scotland, where a quirk of Scots’ historical reluctance to have their children schooled alongside those of Irish immigrants has left a few 100 Catholic schools in the state sector, the attitude is more hostile. Not even the fact that they clearly outperform their denominational equivalent can dent the hostility.
While there is never a shortage of critics desperate to claim Catholic schools enflame those lingering tensions, the opposite is true. Sectarianism is a ropey old corpse in Scotland; its posthumous belches mainly notable for the attention they receive.
Catholic schools were a crucial part of killing off institutional sectarianism by allowing the creation of a Catholic middle class whose economic muscle could not be denied a prominent place in Scottish life.
We see the echoes of that past in that significant numbers of Catholic school pupils are the children of modern immigrants to Scotland, who hope their children can also take advantage of a Catholic education to secure a brighter future.
Embedding the teachings of the Church in their ethos allows these schools to create a sense of community and collective endeavour no amount of reworking the curriculum can achieve.
This is why successive, increasingly secular Scottish governments have left well alone. They know that doing away with Catholic schools would abandon many Scottish children to a much worse education.
The Catholic Church in Scotland’s great contribution to the life of the nation is the creation of an education system that has helped end sectarianism, lifted countless thousands out of poverty and continues to outperform its non-denominational equivalent.
That achievement is rooted in the Faith and teachings of the Catholic Church.
You cannot take the Catholicism out of these schools—it is at the core of what they are. It is not liability to be prodded, doubted and questioned; it is the reason for their success.