THE recent federal election has brought into sharp focus a number of issues which should be of concern to those involved in Catholic education. The political process within our democratic tradition has been demeaned by the actions of the political parties during the campaign.
In the lead up to the election, parents sought debate on the critical issues to be addressed in an open, honest and realistic manner. The reality was a total lack community participation in policy development, a complete denial of debate on major policy issues, a stretching of the truth, to put it charitably, by the major parties for political gain and bans imposed by the parties on candidates expressing their opinion on issues.
How does this equate with a democracy founded on freedom and justice?
What example are we setting for our young people who naturally feel alienated from the process?
Recently, significant funds were used to develop the Discovering Democracy materials for use in our schools.
How different from the ideal was the reality of the recent election? How could young people be blamed for becoming cynical and seeing themselves alienated from the system which promotes a ‘winner take all’ philosophy? Where is the concept of the ‘common good?’ Issues such as environmental sustainability, so central to the aspirations of our youth, rarely rated a mention and were usually dismissed as being associated with the ‘loony fringe’.
A critical issue for Catholic schools is the future of refugees. Where was the debate on population and immigration policy during the election? Only after the election did we hear any critical comment of both major parties for their unprincipled stance.
It is an offence to everything we proclaim to turn our backs on these people, fleeing from terror in their homelands and then to be linked with terrorism themselves.
Our reputation throughout the world as a humanitarian people, only recently acknowledged as we discarded White Australia, is now being seriously questioned.
Our schools have a special orientation towards the poor, those deficient in human resources, competence, power and, in many instances, acceptability.
This will inevitably lead to conflict with the competitive and materialistic aspects of contemporary society.
A political system which appeals to the basest emotions and fears of the population and an education system which subserves the status quo are destined for failure and despair. Education is the hope of our civilisation and we must be about giving our young people valid reasons for living and hoping.
Our students are moving into a world in need of regeneration and renewal. They must see themselves as being able to make a difference. Christ’s message was about setting people free – from fear, despair, aimlessness and petty ambition.
If our Catholic school communities don’t stand up for the weak and powerless, for an authentic democratic process and for a future based on justice and peace, who will?
PAUL DICKIE Executive officer,Federation of Parents and Friends Associations of Catholic Schools Brisbane, Qld
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
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