Primary Educators League

Assisting parents in the eternal vigil of protecting the freedom and holiness of their families.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Do Secular Programs have a Place in Catholic Schools?

Are secular programs compatible with Catholic education?

The vast majority of parents who make great sacrifices to send their children to Catholic schools do so in order to provide their children with more than a purely secular education. They do so in the knowledge that a purely secular education does not address the totality of the human person as body AND soul. They do so in the confidence that there is more to reality and to man’s place in the world than a merely secular culture will admit or address.

Does it follow, then, that secular material has no place in a Catholic school? And in light of the current “safe environments” discussion, is it possible that secular “safety” curricula have no place in a Catholic school or religious education program?

At first glance, it seems that secular programs have no place in a Catholic school because parents expect and indeed deserve more than purely secular education, especially in the area of human sexuality. However, in the spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas’s maxim “test everything and retain what is good”, it seems that Catholic parents do not need to eschew all things secular in their children’s education, provided that the material in question is compatible with Catholic teaching in the areas of faith and morality.

The concept of “personal safety” curricula, it seems, is not in itself inimical to Catholic education. It is the particulars of the curricula that may be incompatible with Catholic teaching in the areas of faith and morality, and thus parents, pastors, principals and teachers should carefully evaluate each curriculum against those criteria.

The parents of Primary Educators League have evaluated some of the proposed “safety” curricula and determined that some may not be compatible with Catholic faith and morals, while others may be. For instance, the “Talking About Touching” curriculum for Pre-K to fourth grade does not seem to be compatible with Catholic faith and morals, as it is a program developed and recommended by groups that do not share the Catholic vision of human dignity and human sexuality. Thus the appropriateness of its use in a Catholic school seems questionable. Furthermore, TAT introduces very young children to information and scenarios for which they are not ready and which could violate their “years of innocence and tranquility”.

The “safe environment” program for grades five through eight, “Out of Harm’s Way” from the KidWISE Institute, contains valuable lessons about internet safety, responsible decision making, and heeding one’s “inner alarm”; all of which are compatible with basic standards of personal safety and decency. Where the program seems to depart from Catholic moral teaching, however, is in the emphasis on a child’s body as being his or her “possession”, which could lead to the dangerous logic of “abortion rights” and the right to “do what I want with MY body”. Furthermore, the KidWISE Institute’s philosophy of helping children cultivate their “personal power” may place too great a burden on them to protect themselves, not to mention giving them a potentially false sense of confidence in confronting evil in the world.

On the other hand, the “safe environments” component of Formation in Christian Chastity uses material from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the US Dept of Justice, both of which are secular sources. The Guidelines for personal safety measures, while secular in their presentation, nonetheless do not confront children with scenarios which could compromise their innocence. Nor does the program seem to present children with directions which may place too great a responsibility on them for their own protection. Thus, the "safe environment component of FICC does not seem to be incompatible with Catholic faith and morals. Furthermore, FICC is especially attractive to Catholic parents in that it provides the proper context for any discussion of human touch and it fosters collaboration between parents, churches and schools in the task of both educating and protecting children.

Primary Educators League recommends that every parent evaluate the proposed “safe environments” curricula and discuss them with other parents. Then, parents will be equipped to continue the discussion with their pastors, principals, DREs and anyone else responsible for teaching/leading their children. It is Primary Educators League’s mission to encourage parents in this direction and provide a forum for the discussion. Some components of secular “safety” programs may indeed be helpful to Catholic parents in this present culture, and thus should be considered rationally and prayerfully.


Blogger Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz said...

For those who are interested, I wrote an article for Catholic World Report on the fact that many catechisms currently used are published by big business with no interest in Catholic orthodoxy at all. You can find it at my blog at

Monday, May 15, 2006 7:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Tuesday, September 12, 2006 9:41:00 AM  

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