VALUES FOR LIVING
Michael McGrath (Director, Scottish Catholic Education Service)
The Church’s recent commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Papal visit to Scotland caused me to reflect upon Pope John Paul II’s visit to St Andrew’s College of Education in Bearsden, then Scotland’s Catholic teacher training college.
Reading the words he spoke to staff and students in 1982, I was struck by the sharp insights he offered into the challenges facing Catholic schools at that time. He recalled his own earlier remarks on the role of the Family: “It is necessary to recover an awareness of the primacy of moral values, which are the values of the human person.” He also reminded his audience that the Catholic school should be “a community whose aim is the transmission of values for living.”
Last year, the Catholic Education Commission asked a working group to develop a resource which would help teachers to consider the importance of values in the lives of young people. The outcome of their efforts is an attractive new resource – ‘Values for Life: nurturing values and virtues’. This has been designed as a publication which will develop teachers’ understanding of values today, of how they are acquired by young people and of how they can be learned in school. In particular, it explores a Catholic understanding of “Gospel values”, based on Christ’s teaching as expressed in the Beatitudes.
The values contained in the Beatitudes are unconventional; they run counter to the trends of society. Jesus uses them to challenge our priorities, to help us to learn that, in order to be happy – “Blessed”- we must be peace-loving, merciful, pure of heart and meek. Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent publication ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, summarises the paradoxical nature of the Beatitudes:
“When man begins to see and live from God’s perspective . . . then he lives by new standards. . . Jesus brings joy in the midst of affliction.”
Values for Life not only unpacks Gospel values for teachers; it also teaches about the meaning of virtues – the personal habits which each of us can develop to live moral lives, doing good for ourselves and for others. It helps teachers to understand the teaching of the Catechism on virtues such as faith, hope, love, prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance and to connect these to current educational priorities.
Values for Life will help school managers to plan appropriately for Curriculum for Excellence, the new framework being developed for the teaching of all subjects in primary and secondary schools. It takes each of the values engraved on the Scottish Parliament Mace – Wisdom Justice, Compassion, Integrity – and defines them in Christian terms. It provides detailed examples of how schools can make provision for the development of these values in the lives of young people. It helps schools to consider how to express their values in important school documents and policies.
In addition to the Values for Life textbook which is aimed at teachers, complementary resources have been provided for other purposes. A CD provides, among other materials, three attractive presentations with images and music on different aspects of values and how they are expressed in real lives. There is also a set of attractive posters which illustrate each of the Beatitudes and the Gospel values contained within them. These can be used in schools and parishes to stimulate reflection and discussion on this important issue.
The development of this Values for Life resource is important for all Catholic schools. It offers particular support on an issue which can be difficult for teachers and for parents today. We live in an age when our values are often determined by convenience rather than by conscience, when the autonomy of the individual is paramount, when the wisdom of faith is unknown to so many. To counter a pic’n’mix approach to moral decision-making, young people need help to understand the core values and beliefs upon which to build good, healthy lives, with Jesus at the centre. Values for Life will certainly help teachers who are committed to nurturing young people in values and virtues. This is why information on this resource has been provided to every Catholic primary and secondary school in Scotland.
For this reason also, the theme of this year’s Catholic Education Week (26th January to 1st February 2008) will be ‘Teaching Values for Life’. At this time, resources will be available to schools and parishes to encourage parents, teachers and young people to focus on the issue which Pope John Paul II had identified as vital for the wellbeing of society some 25 years ago.
Further details of Values for Life are available from:
Scottish Catholic Education Service, 75 Craigpark, Glasgow G31 2HD
Tel: 0141 556 4727 Email: mail:sces.uk.com Web: www.sces.uk.com