This volume represents something of a departure from standard texts on Catholic education since it is concerned to open up a dialogue with others who are not directly involved in Catholic education or, indeed, who are not themselves Catholic. It reflects the writings of those working within and from without the Catholic tradition. Section One offers a robust account of not only the nature and aspirations of Catholic education but also what it may and may not provide to the wider democratic polity. In so doing the essayists either implicitly or explicitly ground Catholic education in a self-reflective and critical discourse as to what Catholic identity and an education system premised upon such an identity might mean. Section Two offers the perspectives of `critical friends' who pose some interesting questions about the nature and exercise of authority. But they also offer encouragement constantly to re-visit our deepest convictions and perceptions about what we, as Catholic educationalists, have to offer our communities.
Topics include the place of laughter, alternative epistemological grounding for the curriculum, spirituality and inspiration, relationality, politics and citizenship, leadership and management, identity, judgement and commonality. The contributors are writers, teachers and artists of national and international standing and include the composer James MacMillan, the philosopher John Haldane, and the psychologist James Day, in addition to a number of well-known and highly respected educationalists such as Joseph O'Keefe, Terence McLaughlin, David Carr, John Hull, Malcolm MacKenzie and Robert Davis.
This book is a thought-provoking and stimulating contribution to what is certain to become an increasingly lively debate, sweeping away clichés to replace them with a more robust discussion than has tended to be the case in recent years. It asks difficult questions and provides new avenues for exploring the evolving nature of Catholic school systems in challenging some of the shibboleths of post-modernity. It deserves to be read by anyone interested in the practice and politics of Catholic education, whether they be student, teacher, administrator, school governor or politician. It is not only a book for the Catholic community but for the wider communities which we serve.
James C. Conroy has taught at schools and colleges in England and Scotland and is Director of Religious Education and Pastoral Care at StAndrew's College, Glasgow.