My dear Parents,
Thank you for coming tonight. I want to talk a little about the ideas behind the subject-choices we are offering next year.
First, next year is a very important year in education in New Zealand. There will be a new education curriculum coming into force in 2010. Karen Sewell, Secretary of Education writes enthusiastically that it is “an outcomes-focused curriculum”. Now when I tell you that Karen Sewell is a lesbian and that she ruined Green Bay High in West Auckland by throwing out uniforms, morals and sensible teachers, you will be rightly suspicious of her enthusiasm for the new curriculum. We had one of her teachers come to us at St Dominic’s in Henderson, and this teacher said to me, “I do enjoy it here at St Dominic’s. You believe children can be bad!”
You would be right to suspect Karen Sewel as Secretary of Education and the Government that appointed her and the Government that is leaving her in office. What she is promoting is a type of education where it matters less what the child learns and more whether the child acquires the values the State wants it to have. For example the State wants our children to believe that nothing can be known in an objective way; that knowledge cannot be passed from those who know to those who do not know, and that the children have to make up knowledge from their experience.
This new curriculum has no prescription for what the children should know. It makes children dependent on groups to know anything and it makes children dependent on groups to continue to know anything. Thus what children know can never really be tested. (Where would we have been if Archbishop Lefebve had been educated like this?)
You can see why we can’t afford to enter the State system, through integration, attractive though the bribes are.
You can also see that our school is in danger because legally, in order to keep our registration we have to prove that we are reaching the same standard as the state schools. We must bear in mind that the government is aiming at a monopoly of curriculum and to force on all children a view of humanity that is not the Catholic view. We have to look at what we can pose against these major threats.
First we have the SSPX, both supervising and teaching in the school.
Then we have the Dominican nuns with educational roots that go back to 1206 and a good relationship with the Fanjeaux teaching Dominicans.
For the most part we are not getting our Sisters trained in State Teachers’ Colleges and we are watching over their education carefully so that we are really offering a Dominican education. What our constitutions call, “an education of characteristic Dominican quality”.
The principles of Dominican education:
1. Education is hierarchical and at the top of the hierarchy comes Catholic Doctrine and philosophy. This is why we are not willing to keep or retain in our school girls who are not practising the Faith or who ridicule the Faith in class or in the playground.
2. Other subjects follow behind Catholic Doctrine and they must be seen as part of the order of a Christian world, which we are trying to re-establish.
3. The education we offer is essentially feminine – not inferior to boys’ Education- but adapted to the feminine nature and vocation. Thus our school is more of a liberal arts school, because such subjects prepare women for their special vocation. Don’t get the idea that we don’t want girls to do higher study, but we would rather they do it here in our extramural programme than among the troubles and temptations of the University.
Now, why do we teach the subjects we do have, following in hierarchical order behind Catholic Doctrine and Philosophy?
Catholic Doctrine I have already mentioned. We are here to save souls and it is necessary that the girls have a good knowledge of their Faith. We are blessed, also, to have Fr Laisney teaching the senior girls a subject called “Apologetics” which contains a good deal of doctrine and philosophy.
But, following close behind Catholic Doctrine, we need to have Literature. In reading good literature we can see that in the world there is a coherent society which must be Christian if people are to be happy and to save their souls. The younger girls can see, for example, in reading Robert Bolt’s play “The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew” that it is necessary to restore Christian order in a society that has been broken down. Interestingly the hero, Sir Oblong Fitzoblong, begins by rebuilding the Church. By the time they reach Seventh Form the same girls are finding that a character like Steerforth, in “David Copperfield” is truly destructive because he is totally spoilt and selfish. They can also see that King Lear’s mismanagement of his Kingdom is a real betrayal of his duty and that this betrayal leads to trouble in the Kingdom. Of course Grammar and Spelling are important. We hope to teach them not only from the excellent grammar books we use but also by alerting the children to what good writers do in the carefully chosen texts they study.
Latin we teach even at a high level in our school, and we will continue to keep teaching it. Latin has influenced every other language in Europe and it is also the language of the Church by which she has been able to express exactly her theology and to offer her unchanging liturgy. Latin (and Greek when we have it) carries a treasure of culture and civilization and religion without which the children will grow up not knowing their own heritage. If the children want it we will offer AS level Latin; and we ask all to continue Ecclesiastical Latin twice a week after they have done their IGCSE. This ecclesiastical Latin gives them a knowledge of the Church’s vocabulary and of the great works of the early Fathers of the Church. Latin is also a great former of the mind – thinking skills.
Modern Languages come behind Latin. They give us access to the literature of other countries and also to the culture of other countries. In this age when French is the language of tradition we can hardly do without French.
We teach History and Classics because they help the children to understand the fabric of society and to realize that the more a nation is Christian in its structures, culture and power the more happiness and moderate prosperity will reign for all. Thus the children can verify the points taught in Catholic Doctrine class, just as they saw them in literature. They also learn about classical literature, art, architecture and people of the classical period.
Art History teaches them to appreciate beauty as a reflection of God’s beauty. It helps the children to distinguish between true art and false art and alerts them to the false philosophies behind inauthentic art.
We also teach Biology, which teaches the children that creatures made by God make up a Divine Order, about which the ultimate answers come not from Science but from Revelation.
Mathematics being an orderly subject teaches reasoning and helps modern youth who prefer to use tricks rather than their intelligence. They need to develop a logical mind and to give the answers and the steps that helped them to get there.
We teach Music, and will teach more of it as our resources develop. Music helps the children to understand the highest truths of the Faith through another means and, also, the harmony of all creation.
We also teach Geography to Form 4 level when the children sit their IGCSE. It teaches the children to appreciate God’s glory and order and also the dwelling place He has made for man.
A few words about Discipline and Atmosphere of the School.
I have first to say that we are very pleased with this year’s girls. They are a joy to be with and to teach. What we look for is good will, active co-operation and trust in the teacher. We expect that with your co-operation and ours this state of affairs will continue.We look for honesty among the children and the ability to take an increasing amount of responsibility for their education and their religious formation as they grow older. We suggest that you show a great and consistent interest in your children’s studies. There may be a few subjects where they get past your level of expertise but you can always follow Catholic Doctrine, English, History.
I’m against excessive homework myself, but children do need time to reflect on what they have learned in class, to assimilate it and thus to grow in maturity. They need, for homework,
• A regular after- school schedule.
• A quiet place to study.
• They also need their weekends organised in such a way that they get time
to do their weekend homework, and to rest and do healthy activities.
• Consistent attendance at school is also important. I realize that the pupil can be really sick at times, but there are some pupils who seem to stay home for little rests. It’s frustrating for the teachers who attend consistently themselves, always to be having to catch-up pupils whom we suspect of taking days off for little reason.
Before I finish, I would just like to mention that we are taking an initiative for next year that may interest you when your daughters reach Form 7. From next year we are setting up an extramural department for girls who want to study extramurally and yet have some support by staying on this campus. They will have a place to work, to plug in their computer, and tea and coffee making facilities. Some of the sisters, having done extra mural studies themselves, will be available to advise them.
I think that all of us, Priests, Nuns, Laystaff and Parents, working together can achieve great things in this little school. We need to because we’re not going to get any help from the New Zealand Curriculum and the aims of the New Zealand Government are quite different from ours. Let each of us take up our share of the task and work for the renewal of Society and Holy Church.