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Beyond Obedience and Abandonment

Beyond Obedience and Abandonment: Toward a Theory of Dissent in Catholic Education

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 304
Stable URL:
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    Beyond Obedience and Abandonment
    Book Description:

    Catholic schools have achieved academic, social, and spiritual successes, but have also struggled with shifting twenty-first century social values. Confronted with issues such as the proper treatment of non-heterosexual students, disagreements over the ordination of women, and assertions that schools are not properly teaching doctrine, Catholic schools tend to listen to concerns and then resume established institutional programs. In Beyond Obedience and Abandonment, Graham McDonough proposes that Catholic schools embrace dissent as a powerful opportunity for rediscovery in the Church. Building a case for productive dissent, McDonough provides a nuanced analysis of contemporary Catholic education. He considers the ways in which the established body of theology, history, and curriculum theory supports faithful disagreement within the tradition of religious schooling and outlines new perspectives for overcoming doctrinal frustrations and administrative obstacles. Beyond Obedience and Abandonment is a well-reasoned and engaging work that illustrates the limitations of current practices and proposes new designs that will enable greater dissent and fuller participation in Catholic education.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8783-0
    Subjects: Religion
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction (pp. 3-18)

    It is easy to slip into binary views about Catholicism. For example, if a person presents themselves as Catholic, others sometimes assume that they align strictly with the pope or an encyclopaedia definition. If that alignment is off, then they are assumed to be either non- or imperfectly Catholic. Those assumptions are not helpful to the degree that they distort the intellectual, devotional, and cultural breadth within Catholicism; but at the same time, they also raise important questions about how one might describe relationships within a tradition that are not exclusively defined by complete adherence to or rejection of its...

  5. 1 Problems of Writing on Catholic Education (pp. 19-36)

    While preparing this book I frequently fielded questions from people interested in its topic and purpose. Before answering, I would often respond with a short question of my own, asking my interlocutor if he or she had ever been admonished to avoid speaking of politics or religion in polite company. The answer was always “yes,” with a smile that uncovered the anticipation of a well-planned rejoinder. My reply was that not only do I blend politics and religion, but I do so within the field of education. This fact presents a third dimension of sensitivity, for if politics and religion...

  6. 2 Education, Authority, Dissent, and Conscience (pp. 37-82)

    Catholic Education depends upon the presence of the global body of the Catholic Church for its normative sense of purpose, its curriculum, and, not least of all, its self-understanding as an institution. This fact presents an interesting methodological challenge for how one might examine institutional responses to and make proposals about student-presented dissent in these institutions. Since Catholic Education is a worldwide phenomenon which looks to the Magisterial and administrative aspect of the Church for guidance, one cannot speak of dissent in Catholic Education without exposing the Church’s normative understanding of education and authority. Similarly, as individuals respond with varying...

  7. 3 The Context, Challenge, and Changing Face of Canadian Catholic Education (pp. 83-123)

    Catholic Education does not take place in a vacuum. In order to happen, it requires real persons, with their needs and problems, in some sort of relationship, whether in a school, family, or elsewhere. The Magisterium’s theoretical account of Catholic Education at least acknowledges as much in its references to the contemporary concerns of youth today and the mission of schools and other educative relationships to respond to them. Catholic schools’ institutional reality, however, is a struggle with the twin tasks of reflecting the cultures and needs of the persons and communities they serve, while at the same time standing...

  8. 4 Foundational Aims and Concerns in the Theory of Catholic Education-Schooling (pp. 124-144)

    The previous two chapters on the Church’s normative educational theory and on the particular history and concerns in Ontario’s publicly funded Catholic schools have gone part of the distance toward encapsulating a view of the promises and problems that accompany Catholic Education. As a methodological reference point for this whole volume, the introduction of these global and local perspectives and experiences has travelled across the territory of theology, ecclesiology, historical context, and some of the current political problems that emerge for Catholic Educational experiences. For the purposes of proposing a reform of Catholic Education, however, these multiple views, while important,...

  9. 5 A Theory of Dissent (pp. 145-172)

    It is apparent that fundamental disagreements are intrinsic to relationships in religious education, and that these disagreements obtain at many levels. Catholic Education is no exception. In tackling the problems of disagreement within Catholic schools, it might be tempting to be satisfied with simply naming the teacher-student relationship as the most important of these foundational levels because that is the place where these phenomena are probably most immediately apparent and explicit. However, to imagine that a reform to the pedagogical treatment of student disagreement can be considered at only this level is naïve, to say the least. Before considering the...

  10. 6 The Limitations of Current Practice (pp. 173-222)

    A theory of dissent in Catholic Education-Schooling depends on the relationship that Catholicism has with the theological and philosophical concept of dissent, the history of the Church’s own dissent from secular society, and the Church’s record of responses to internally dissenting currents as part of the way its teachings change. This theology, philosophy, and history are essential in establishing the theoretical and practical grounds from which anyone would respond to a discrete dissident view, reconsider pedagogical “best practices,” develop a general institutional policy for meeting student dissent, or advocate on someone’s behalf should their dissenting view encounter resistance. The same...

  11. 7 Pedagogy of Dissent (pp. 223-258)

    An approach to religious education that is based upon the concept of dissent is sometimes the optimal way to meet students’ learning and justice needs in schools and other teaching-learning relationships. The preceding chapters on dissent from the perspectives of history, theology, philosophy, and professional practice could inform discrete pedagogical decisions in this respect, and might definitely be used to describe, interpret, and make valid prescriptions about all aspects of Catholic Education and Schooling. Taken together, however, they do not yet provide a cohesive pedagogical theory to inform practice. This chapter takes that next theoretical step of using their conclusions...

  12. Notes (pp. 259-280)
  13. Works Cited (pp. 281-294)
  14. Index (pp. 295-308)