Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Schools confront the globalisation of superficiality

  • 27 April 2012

We live in an Australia of burgeoning secularism, one where individual choice can be seen as its own justification. Within this context, educators of young people, particularly within the Catholic system, face two challenges in particular: the need to educate for choice, and the need to educate for depth.

Confronting today's young people are choices of an extensive nature, far more than confronted their parents — not just choices of websites, or choices of TV stations, or choices of stores in shopping centres, but also choices concerning values and beliefs and lifestyles.

A choice enables us to be free, but choice is not its own justification. Education about choice is a real challenge for those charged with forming the young.

Five or six years ago, Allen Close wrote an article in the Weekend Australian in which he reflected on his generation, which was then just touching 40. He was struck by the childlessness of so many of his social circle and of the failure of himself and others from his circle to have established sustained relationships. He wrote;

What happened that so many of us have ended up entering middle age the way we have, on a grim treadmill of hope and disappointment. Our marriages ending, our families are split asunder, our assumptions about life devolving into confusion and loneliness?

We had choice, is my answer. More, I would suggest, than most of us knew how to handle. We got selfish, or greedy, or something. We left our partners because we could. We terminated our babies because we could. We discarded the rules, loosened the ties that bind, stretched the limits of the allowed, and this left us dependent on instincts, on our untutored human frailty.

In the fight for freedom which we considered our right we lost the quiet skills of commitment and relationships. We lost the gentle wisdom of putting our own needs second ... the art of love.

Unless there is education about discernment, the consideration of what directions and consequences choices will lead us to, students may make disastrous options or at the least become mired in indifferentism.

Another challenge is the need to educate for depth.

When in Rome for the canonisation of Saint Mary MacKillop in 2010, the then recently deposed prime minister, Kevin Rudd, visited Fr Adolfo Nicolas SJ, the present Father-General of the Jesuit order. In the casual way that one employs when having morning tea with someone, Rudd asked Nicolas