As numerous surveys have shown over recent decades, the young people leaving Australia's Catholic educational institutions have been seriously deficient in the belief and practice of the Faith. The vast expenditures of government and private money and the employment of thousands of teachers, academics, bureaucrats and other experts have achieved very little spiritually speaking - with the occasional distinguished exceptions.
In any other human enterprise, such dismal results would prompt a back-to-the-drawing-boards approach, numerous sackings and radical reviews of policies. In the case of the Catholic Church, however, there is little evidence of this. In effect, the Church remains burdened with the dead weight of unproductive educational instititions it cannot or will not discard or reform.
The only solution in the short term is to allow alternative educational initiatives - outside of the "official" system - to prove themselves.
Catholic lay people, with faith, vision and courage are often better placed than those within the system, to take a fresh look at what needs to be done. Their initial efforts will seem like lighting a candle in the dark, a drop in the ocean. However, if they prove themselves on a modest scale, others may follow their lead, learning from their experiences. One might even hope that the more open-minded and adaptable of our established educational structures would take a leaf out of their books, once it is established that an uncompromisingly orthodox, back to basics approach works.
In the current issue of AD2000 (pages 10 and 11), we have two inspirational accounts of just such initiatives, one in secondary and the other in tertiary education. Those with the courage and self-sacrifice to attempt the "impossible" through these ventures need every support and encouragement from the rest of the Church, as the future will depend on whether their examples eventually catch on and even gradually reignite the faith around the country.
Michael Gilchrist: Editor (email - email@example.com)