The position upheld in this chapter is that religion can be and actually is a strong and preferred factor contributing to good character development if religion is taught and accepted in a certain way. No claim is made that this positive relationship between religion and good character development always takes place, only that it often does. Admittedly, it is easy to point to anecdotes in the lives of some who did not integrate their religious knowledge and practice with their other behaviors.
This chapter is devoted to only certain aspects of religion in relation to character development. It is impossible here to give adequate attention to many religions and religious education issues which could be sources of inspiration and empowerment to lead a good moral life. Hence, the meaning of grace, the meaning of the magisterium, the place of authority in one's life, religious scriptures, prayer, liturgy, the importance of the study of the life and teachings of Christ and other religious leaders, and related important issues cannot be considered in this brief chapter. Readers who seek a recent overview on the content of religious education and related issues are referred to the "Apostolic Exhortation on Catechetics" by Pope John Paul II.1
In view of my own background, the reader should understand that what 1 mean by religion is most proximately the Christian religion and, more specifically, that which is expressed in the teaching and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, the applicability of what is said from my frame of reference should be generally transferable to other groups. For instance, all religions seek to impart to others their specific doctrines, believe that these doctrines, correctly understood, assist in character development, and welcome the best teaching devices to assure instructional improvement as means toward achieving their ultimate goals. In fact, a seminary professor in a Protestant mainline denomination wrote of an earlier version of this chapter: "I fully support your thesis as would [members of our denomination] in general."
In addition to the meaning of religion as used in this paper, our use of the terms "humanism" and "character" deserve some explication. Humanism, a dedication to human values, interests and dignity, is generally recognized and urged by two different groups, the secular and religious humanists. Of course, religious humanists accept religion as an important factor in the human dimension; secular humanists either neglect or play down or deny the importance of religion in the human make-up. In this paper when we refer to humanism we are writing about secular humanism, not religious humanism.
The term "character" also needs explanation, but as it is treated at length elsewhere in this book we only summarize our understanding of the term. "Character" is the sum of a person's consistent ways of moral being and acting; "being" includes one's values and methods of making moral decisions.
The paper contains five divisions:
- 1. How religion adds a deeper dimension to moral education even though at times different religions may offer differing moral solutions.
- 2. We face a special problem: if there is this deeper dimension, why do religious people behave no better than other people? All port's research-based solution on "interiorization" is seen as the answer.
- 3. Major findings of four current investigations of the moral behaviors of religious people as judged from students' non-academic behaviors? One special finding: the advantage of more recent kerygmatic methods for interiorizing religion.
- 4. Modern religious education aims at interiorizing religion through use of varied modern teaching methods. We use as an example the justice theme in modern religious education.
- 5. How volunteer service can be successful as a method of interiorizing and deepening one's religious commitment.
A DEEPER DIMENSION TO MORAL EDUCATION
Most of the moral education programs currently in place employ as their basis for human development various perspectives that flow from philosophical and non-religious humanistic education. Thus, the application of the concepts of justice, civic education, reciprocal understanding of the rights of others, logical reasoning, and the like, play important parts in major moral education programs. All these approaches can and do offer considerable insights to the young people who participate in the programs.
Yet religious perspectives on human behavior offer a much deeper foundation than the above approaches because they deal with the deeper aspects of our nature, our quest for the transcendental, for the will of God, for salvation, and for a future life. Furthermore, religious perspectives provide a deeper view of the person since the person is viewed in relationship to God, and human behavior is seen as being judged ultimately not just by humans but by the Maker of all. A few examples of the religious viewpoint in relationship to human rights, the basis for justice, and forgiveness for personal misdeeds should illustrate the deeper religious dimension; they are offered below.
Respect for each individual's rights is a frequent theme, even a given, in moral education discussions. When such discussion probes into the basis for respect for the individual's rights, recourse is had to a philosophical review of human achievements and abilities, such as abstraction, reflective thinking, and human creativity in works of art and music. These points are well taken, but the religious perspective, in my judgment, is deeper and more integrated. In the religious approach one can see a pattern behind the special human potential to achieve as a gift of the creator of all, and can link it with an overall goal, life now and in a future life. Hence, the rights of the individual are seen as flowing from the universal Creator, not only from a human law or from even an outstanding human document such as the U.S. Constitution.
A second example of the way the religious goes beyond a humanistic perspective concerns the general norms of morality and justice which one uses as a basis for justifying or condemning actions. In practice many of these programs use Rawls' Principle of Justice, the Golden Rule, positive law, or the moral and other effects of one's actions as a basis for decision making. All of these are good sources for determining one's actions or for evaluating them after they have been completed, but they are all based upon human resources, though many see them as reflecting elements of "natural law." For those who can turn to a religious background, however, there is an additional source for decision making and evaluation: declarations of the will of God as revealed in a general code for human behavior in the Bible (e.g., the Decalogue) and in other sources such as in tradition. Various religious groups offer differing views of the ways of interpreting the Scriptures and give different degrees of value to religious tradition. Thus, the religious person in using the Golden Rule and other sources for conscience formation has also the sense of security derived from a further religious source of guidance, with which God's blessing is associated and which can provide a whole integrated context of reinforcement. Adherence to the religious perspective does not make life easier--usually the situation is just the opposite--but those who follow it are deeply convinced that they are doing the correct thing and carrying out in daily life their religious commitment. Their conviction based on faith is not just an additional factor in their lives; there is a qualitative difference which aids also in resisting group or peer pressure and social patterns.
A third special element that religion can provide to the moral approach is the sense of true forgiveness for moral lapses. This is done during liturgies of atonement and reconciliation for those truly sorry for misdeeds and truly determined to reform. Those especially who have offended others gravely by injustice or offended the commands of God have a means of being reconciled. An awareness of this instrumentality as a part of God's ecclesial and social providence consoles and reinforces the sinner's sense of forgiveness. Thus an evil or immoral action does not necessarily condemn one forever to alienation with no hope for reconciliation through remorse and penance. Mary Magdalen and the Good Thief had a direct message of forgiveness. A sacramental faith offers the same sense of relief from sin and the restoration of friendship, once one has truly turned from grave misconduct. Various religions have their own means for assuring those truly repentant of God's forgiveness. But even the best of the moral education programs in themselves have no adequate resource for the need for forgiveness other than that of self-forgiveness and forgiveness from the person or persons offended--which are also important aspects of the problem of one's reconciliation.
While only three examples of the special contributions that religion can offer to buttress and deepen character education programs have been offered above, they could be multiplied. Yet in most cases, the messages regarding standards for human behaviors as urged by religious sources do not differ from those which depend upon philosophical and humanistic sources. But, as indicated below, there are times when the standards differ.
VARIANCE IN MORAL AND RELIGIOUS STANCES
A few cases where religious positions may differ among varied denominations and differ from positions taken by those relying on philosophical and other sources can be briefly reviewed. The recent series of Baby Doe case is an example. A child is born with numerous defects which may be temporarily repaired through delicate operations but which will guarantee only a difficult and relatively short life for the child. Some legal authorities believe that there is an obligation to operate and do all that can be done for the child. Yet many theologians have regularly held that there is no obligation to take extraordinary measures such as a medical operation to prolong life though they would insist on "ordinary care" and would not accept the deliberate neglect of the child that would lead to death by starvation. Another example is that of recent "right to die" and "death with dignity" issues. These have arisen as reactions to excessive prolongation of a terminally ill patient's life through use of highly sophisticated machines, perhaps largely out of concern about medical malpractice suits. Again, religious traditions tend to see such artificial, extraordinary means as not obligatory. In cases such as those cited above, the religiously oriented person accepts the theologian's tradition over approaches that rely upon legal and other sources.
There are special cases where there seems to be conflict within the religious tradition regarding its authentic teaching. The present confusion concerning contraception is such an example, and it is too complicated to consider here. Suffice it to say that in such types of genuine uncertainty, one should follow the dictates of one's own, well-informed conscience.
The position that has been developed in the preceding paragraphs is that for the reasons proposed, religious education should be, for religious people, the preferred basis for character development over the various nonreligious philosophical and humanistic-based programs. Of course, the religious-based program can be used in conjunction with other programs as there is nothing inherently contradictory and much that is mutually complementary in the several approaches. Now a legitimate question arises: If the position stated above is correct in theory, how does it work out in practice? This challenge is examined in the following section.
Critics of religion often point to certain behaviors of religious adherents as a means of condemning religion. For instance, in the past, Christians mistreated Jews; Moslems and Christians assaulted each other; various Moslem sects warred against each other; and Protestants and Catholics persecuted each other. Today, the picture is no different as one looks to conflicts in Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Israel, and Iran-Iraq. Likewise, there have been all too numerous cases of the regular church-going religious adherent who is revealed to be a corrupting force in politics or whose decisions were influenced by bribery. Furthermore, general studies of those who demonstrate racial or other prejudice, obtain a divorce and remarry, seek abortions, or cheat in schoolwork, usually conclude that there is no pattern marking one of the different groups as significantly superior to the other groups. Religionists' behaviors do not vary differently from those of the non-religionists. Hence the natural question arises: How can one maintain that religion and "religious education can be a superior basis for character development?"
THE ROOTS OF A SOLUTION
Some thirty years ago, Gordon Allport, in his classic work, The Nature of Prejudice,2 was concerned about the same issue. His summary statement of the problem is that religion
makes prejudice and it unmakes prejudice. While the creeds of the great religions are universalistic, all stressing brotherhood, the practice of these creeds is frequently divisive and brutal. The sublimity of religious ideals is offset by the horrors of persecution in the name of these same ideals. . . . Churchgoers are more prejudiced than the average; they also are less prejudiced than the average.
In his treatment of the problem, Allport offered the salutary basis for distinctions about religious groups. He noted that faith "is the pivot of the cultural tradition of a group." And one might add that in many cases there are economic factors, such as employment, training opportunities, and housing conditions, which are summarized in terms of religion or presumed religion. For instance, many of the extremists in Northern Ireland may be regarded by the press as either Catholics or Protestants; yet in fact many of them have rejected the tenets of their religion, though they perhaps remain attached to their traditional attitudes and labor under the cultural and economic environment of their peers.
For a solution to the problem of the apparent discrepancy in research concerning the amount of prejudice in church-goers, Allport referred his readers to some unpublished research conducted in a university seminar. The research was done by a Catholic priest and a Protestant clergyman who probed the prejudices of small samples of their own flocks. In each church those tests were divided into two groups, the more versus the less devout or religious. The summary of the studies, which admittedly lacked the sophistication of most of the research with which Allport dealt, is as follows:
In both studies, the same result occurred: those who were considered the most devout, more personally absorbed in their religion, were far less prejudiced than the others. The institutional type of attachment, external and political in nature, turns out to be associated with prejudice.
Allport concluded that it is important in dealing with religion to distinguish between two types of religious adherents. One type belongs to a church "because its basic creed of brotherhood expresses the ideals one sincerely believes in" (the "interiorized" or "internalized" religious adherents). The second type belongs to a church "because it is a safe, powerful, superior in-group" (the "institutionalized" adherents). He reported the former group to be associated with tolerant, non-prejudiced attitudes; the latter group was characterized by an authoritarian character and "linked with prejudice." Whether this distinction is true of all religions is another issue, but it is this writer's contention that the distinction provides a key to an understanding of failures of some to act consistently with beliefs, and contains a key that can open the door to religious educators for assistance in development of adherents from belief to behavior to character.
The implication of the Allport report as summarized above is that those who are charged with the teaching of religion should give special importance to efforts to interiorize religious beliefs. If that is done, there should be obvious results in students' moral thinking and behaviors. Hence, we look next at important research which, focusing on Catholic schools, has included sections that pertain to religious education and correlates of religious education.
RELATED RESEARCH FINDINGS
This section is devoted to a summary of several research studies that included segments on character development and religion. The research material is contained in reports about the general state of Catholic education in both nationwide and inner-city samples; prior media attention to these reports has focused on academic achievements and has neglected references to character and internal religious development. The brief review below looks to appropriate sections of the classic studies by the Greeley-Rossi study, the Notre Dame Study, National Catholic Education Association reports, and the Inner City Schools study and the analysis made by the Guerra group. As with all research, there arc certain limitations regarding methodology in each of the studies. Our conclusions are based upon the cumulative pattern of the research findings, and the limitations in the individual studies are not here a major concern.
The Greeley-Rossi study,3 released in 1966, was based upon 2,753 interviews taken in 1963-64, and supplemented by two thousand questionnaires. Their findings include the conclusion that, in the moral and religious area, Catholic education is most effective among those who have had a complete Catholic education, from elementary school to college, especially if they have come from homes that are strongly religious. Furthermore, they found that "Those . . . who attended Catholic colleges have significantly lower scores . . . for anti-Semitism, anti-civil-liberties attitudes . . . and religious extremism." This writer interprets the Greeley-Rossi findings as emphasizing the importance for character development of consistent, relatively school-intensive learning (the "full treatment" of elementary-school-to-college Catholic schooling is best) that is complemented by related practices and teachings in the home environment (especially "from homes that are strongly religious"). When parents make a partial attempt toward Catholic education (i.e., their children attend Catholic schools for only a part of their education), the effects not as obvious as in the other cases. The challenge to parents who seek religious education for children but who, for one reason or another, cannot do so, is to attempt to match in some way the learning conditions which the Greeley-Rossi report found favorable for moral and religious growth; these conditions for learning are reviewed below in the section on Modern Religions Education.
The Notre Dame Study of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the United States, entitled Catholic Schools in Action, and edited by Reginald A. Neuwien, was also published in 1966.4 The study was based on responses to a special questionnaire administered to 14,519 male and female students in Catholic schools. One of the many pertinent findings of this study was that the students who had the deepest awareness of the implications of religious doctrine were those who were instructed in the new catechesis or kerygmatic method. The researchers were convinced that "54% of . . . elementary school students and 59% of . . . secondary school students reflected" their receiving the new catechesis or kerygmatic emphasis in their questionnaire responses.
Considerable emphasis in the Notre Dame Study was placed on the new catechesis or kerygmatic approach to religious instruction, and so a brief explanation of that approach seems appropriate. It is described in the report:
[It] is a combination of the intellectual and practical emphases and at the same time is quite distinct from both. It is intellectual in that it leads the student to probe deeply into the origins and meanings of . . . religion; it is practical in that it aims explicitly at helping the students to live fully the Christian message. However, it differs from them and transcends them in that it emphasizes the beauty and the joy of Christian faith at the very moment it seeks its truth. It emphasizes that the Christian religion is not something simply to be known or even merely to be practiced; it is rather a total spirit, or better, an inspiration or a life process. It is a view of the [fully developed, integrated] Christian person, as it were, from within. . . . By recognizing and responding to the "good tidings" of the Gospel . . . the Christian [can] enter into a living awareness of the mysteries of his faith."5
In their enthusiasm for this new approach,* the authors of the Notre Dame study predicted that "the next generation of students in the Catholic schools will have a much better understanding of their religion than those of former generations had." In 1983, Francis D. Kelly reported an analysis of inventories administered for more than seven years to more than five hundred thousand eighth-grade students (religious Education Outcome Inventory, the REOI) and to twelfth-grade students (religious Education Outcome Inventory of Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices, the REKAP). Though the report showed the pupils' inadequate grasp of religious or dogmatic technical terms, Kelly confirmed the Notre Dame prediction in stating that the students:
have caught quite well the essential kerygmatic message of Christianity: God's unconditional love for all persons and his personal care of each individual, as well as . . . the redemption and salvation brought by Jesus, God's Son. Catechetical materials affected by the renewal have emphasized these points over the past 15 years and the results are a cause of encouragement. The data indicate that the young people's basic perception of the Christian Message is positive and hopeful.9
The concepts that are emphasized in the kerygmatic catechesis approach to religious instruction are reviewed later in this chapter as we summarize what research has taught us regarding religious education.
The Notre Dame study was generally corroborative of the Greeley-Rossi report with regard to the relationship of the family to religious education. They found that "supportive" families "take considerable interest in religion, and they make prayer and discussion of religious topics a regular part of the home life." An interesting related finding concerning the social class of the parents was that:
upper class status is associated with less prejudice toward minority groups and more frequent mass attendance, whereas middle and lower class status reflects stronger support of religious vocations and of Catholic family values as measured by attitudes toward divorce and mixed marriage.
The report of the study emphasized the importance of home and family complementarity through the observation that there is an obviously strong relationship between active encouragement of religion in the home and the religious attitudes of children. The report mentioned certain practices that encouraged religion among children:
family prayer, commemoration of religious feasts, and discussion of religion. The families where these are a part of daily life or where they occur vary frequently . . . [have] children whose attitudes and values set them apart from those in whose home religion is relatively weak. Parents who may have expected the Catholic school to assume full responsibility for the total religious formation of their children will perceive how essential is the collaboration of home and school.
The third pertinent research report is Inner-City Private Elementary Schools: A Study by J. Cibulka, T. O'Brien, and D. Zewe.10 Reported in 1982, the study used data from 54 inner-city, predominantly Catholic schools in eight U.S. cities. The schools were E.S.E.A. Title I schools whose students were at least 70 percent minority. One of the areas upon which the report focused was that of social behavior, especially behavior toward adults in school, peers, and behavior at home. Teachers, principals, and parents were surveyed for information about social behavior. In general, the schools reported relatively few discipline problems, although some school officials reported that some individuals displayed disruptive patterns regarding "cooperativeness with school authorities and respect toward their peers." This finding suggests that the students in the school were typical children who displayed the usual range of problem behaviors, and so cannot be termed "elitist" in the usual sense of that term.
The Inner-City Private Elementary Schools study contains a pertinent report from parents who had a child in one of the targeted inner-city schools. Parents were asked to respond regarding their child's behavior since enrollment in the school. Thirty-five Percent (1,412 parents) stated that the behavior was greatly improved; 32 percent (1,287 parents) said somewhat: improved; 28 percent (1,112 paren:s) said the behavior was not changed; 4 percent (139 parents) said the behavior became worse.
The Inner-City report differed from the Greeley-Rossi and the Notre Dame findings in one special area, the influence of the home. Using statistical regression techniques, the study came to two important conclusions: (1) In the case of their students, "Family background factors do not overwhelm school impacts" and (2) "quite the contrary, school factors appear to compensate for family background deficits." Where the other two research reports emphasized the importance of the home for collaboration with the school regarding behavior, the Inner-City report viewed the behavior-oriented factors within the school as of primary importance.
The four pertinent school factors viewed as the basis of the success of these schools were: "strong instructional leadership, a concept of shared work, a safe school climate, and clarity of mission and shared purpose." Many good public schools share these characteristics but the details of the fourth factor, clarity of mission and shared purpose, was distinctive of most of these predominantly religious schools. That factor was explained as involving combined efforts by administration and faculty for quality education, a supportive learning environment, shared "religious values and, more broadly, a moral concern for one's fellow human beings."
The importance of shared religious values in the Inner-City schools was confirmed in "repeated emphasis" in interviews with administrators, principals, and teachers. Furthermore, 94 percent of the parents of the pupils in the schools asserted that "learning moral values is essential" for their children. Since the majority of the pupils in these schools were not Catholic--the high percentage of non-Catholic pupils in Catholic inner-city schools is a recent development--they represent a "pluralistic" population. Hence, it would be hard to say that the shared religious values flow from home or parish traditions or beliefs though there very likely existed some shared moral values flowing from their basic Christianity. However, of the 63 private inner-city schools studied, 56 were Catholic, and 7 were either Lutheran or community-type (i.e.. formerly Cathodic schools which were taken over by the local community, usually with assistance of their former directors and usually retaining most of the school traditions). Their religious education (and undoubtedly factors that flowed from religious education like shared values, moral concerns, high ideals) was the main factor that influenced the good behavior of the children, since other elements in the curriculum were those which were required by the education departments of the various states.
Our final research study pertains to two publications from the National Catholic Educational Association: The Catholic High School: A National Portrait,11 published in 1985, and the study by Guerra, Donahue and Benson12 published in 1990. The first book reports results of in-depth surveys of 910 principals of Catholic high schools. The section in the report that refers most directly to the our concerns is in Chapter 5, Religious Education. That chapter reflects the principals' strong emphasis in their schools on the three dimensions cited as central in the important document, To Teach as Jesus Did,13 namely: message (the teaching-learning of Christian doctrine); community (fellowship in the life of the Holy Spirit); and service to the Christian and to the entire human community. The principals ranked among their educational goals "building community" first and "spiritual development" (in accord with Jesus' message) second; they reported that nearly half (46 percent) of their senior students were engaged in some kind of volunteer service programs.
The message of the Guerra group is closely associated with the above report. It depicts the effects of Catholic High Schools on student values, beliefs and behaviors. Noting that numerous reports such as those fathered by Coleman14 attest to the general academic success of Catholic schools when compared with public schools, the Guerra group points to the need for research in both systems regarding non-academic areas. Fortunately, considerable data were available from the annual studies made by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Those studies provide reports of surveys administered each year during the period of 1975-1985 to about 16,000 seniors at public and Catholic high schools from 125 schools. As background for the analysis of drug use, the researchers gathered information about high school seniors' values, pro-and anti-social behaviors, religious attachments and church involvement. The Guerra group was able to subject the 1983-1985 data to special analysis (including controls for parental education, employment, etc.) regarding Catholic students in the public and Catholic schools.
Due to space limitations we can summarize here only some of the findings of the Guerra group. They learned that, when compared with their counterparts in the public schools, Catholics in Catholic high schools:
- 1. were pro-church; they recognized the importance of religion and of making contributions to church. They reported more frequent church attendance than their counterparts.
- 2. showed pro-social values in their concern for others, for contributing money for social causes, in their relatively low pro-militarism attitude and in their belief that they can "make a difference."
- 3. demonstrated behaviors that were judged healthy for dropout prevention, college attendance and completion, academic achievement and in general less "at risk" behavior.
Their findings of outstanding difference between the groups favored the conclusion that the Catholic schools were achieving their goals in the areas for which data were available. Of course, the data pertain only to Catholic high schools,15 but some observers think that conclusions named above apply a fortiori to parochial elementary schools.
In sum, a common theme of the Greeley-Rossi, the Notre Dame, the Inner-City, and the National Catholic Educational studies is that religious education in the Catholic schools is successful. Religious knowledge was the main variable of the Notre Dame study; attitudes and the behaviors of pupils were main variables of the Greeley-Rossi, the Inner-City, and the National Catholic Educational studies. A clue to the success of religious education in the schools was seen in the new catechesis or kerygmatic approach. On the basis of these data it is hoped that those teachers and parents who have hesitated to use the newer methodologies will take the plunge into these new ways. This approach can be especially helpful for parents of children who are not now receiving a Catholic education. Such parents can adapt these factors in whole or in part in their attempts to increase their children's religious and character literacy. Most of these factors are incorporated in the section below on modern religious education, in which there is a description of some methods used by the new catechesis or kerygmatic approach.
ON INTERNALIZATION/INTERIORIZATION OF RELIGION
Before describing teaching methods, it seems appropriate to discuss the goals of catechetical methods. The research reports summarized above and reflection on learning problems of the young, together with the material presented from Allport, suggest a need for an analysis of the problem of "interiorization" and possible means toward achieving it. That problem is an aspect of the more general concern about how we adopt our values in life. Throughout this volume and the companion volumes the issue of the imparting, teaching, or transferring of values from one person to another is often implied and sometimes addressed. Unfortunately, there are no necessarily effective formulas for value transfer or for the interiorization of religion. Nevertheless, there are some observations that can be made concerning the facilitation of the process of interiorization. The observations center upon the awareness of this factor and upon the use of the best possible instructional methods or strategies as described in the next section, Modern Religious Education.
Effective teachers or parents are aware of the distinction between those who have internalized their religion, as opposed to those who have not. Hence, such teachers and parents bring to their work an intensity and care that befits the importance of religious education. Their empathy with the young is transparent and their affection genuine, even if at times they show "tough love." They work hard to develop healthy self-images among the young, and they uphold high, though realistic, goals for them. They are open in dealing with them, and do not refrain from revealing much about themselves. Once such parents and teachers have established a genuine relationship with the young, the sharing of religious values is facilitated since the young like to imitate the ways of thinking and acting that characterize those whom they admire. This intergenerational condition has probably been experienced by the reader, but there is no guarantee that it will be experienced by even those who are regarded as most admirable adults. That this happens sometimes but not at other times is part of the mystery of human relationships; there is no ready formula to explain it. However, the combination of the competent, conscientious teacher working toward interiorization of religious values, and use of varied modern teaching methods is likely to provide the best conditions for success.
MODERN RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
An older generation recalls religious education as consisting of dull lectures, the memorization of formulas, and the questions and answers of the catechism. Because of the importance placed by many generations on memorization, another generation tried to do away with that part of religious learning. Both extremes are clearly erroneous. Memorization of truly important materials has its place in religious education, as it does in history or in chemistry, but neither should it take first place in the learning hierarchy.
In the earlier approach to religious education when pupils were not engaged in memorization, they received a great many lectures or sermons on the topics that were regarded as important. Of course, the use of the lecture or verbal explanation of an issue continues to play an important part in all learning. However, contemporary religious education attempts to appeal to all human ways of learning, not only directly to one's memory and cognitive abilities. Some of these newer ways of teaching are described briefly below. These methods or strategies of teaching are well known to modern professional teachers, but even they may take the occasion to reflect on their use of these various methods, particularly in relation to religious and value concepts. Furthermore, the methods or strategies described briefly here may be a source of information to parents who seek a greater variety in religious instruction at home. The summary of newer methods is, of course, incomplete, and assumes an in-depth knowledge of appropriate religious material, careful, prayerful preparation of the content of the lesson or unit, and skillful use of the traditional chalkboard or other means of emphasizing and clarifying the ideas being presented.
The following teaching methods, as alternatives to memorization and lecturing, will be briefly described: use of visual materials, choice of the best possible printed material such as textbooks, lectures in an original and/or personal vein, and group learning methods, including discussion. Fieldwork, such as appropriate volunteer service, is another especially effective learning strategy and is described in a separate section.
Use of visual materials as a teaching methodology is greatly assisted by developments in modern technology. Reproductions of art masterpieces, film strips, educational movies, and cassette video recordings are all available for the illustration of Biblical materials, for historical and geographical presentation of important religious places. They can be presented on overhead projectors, opaque projectors, video and film projectors. A wealth of visual material is now available from many distributors, for instance, on the Land of the Bible, the Sacraments, religious shrines, missionary activities, religions of various peoples, and religious art. Most schools and religious education centers have at least some of these visual materials in their own collections, or they can be borrowed from a local religious education center. The materials are usually accompanied by helpful teachers' guides. While most teachers are aware of these instructional opportunities, parents whose children are not receiving regular religious education in school or in successful religious education centers should seek the loan of such materials for use at home.
The choice of the best possible printed materials, such as textbooks, is an important decision made well ahead of actual instruction. A careful evaluation of all available materials, such as those housed in a diocesan or college religious education center, includes a consideration of the age and academic level of the students, as well as the correctness and attractiveness of the printed contents. Special care must be exercised in selection of textbooks because of the numerous defects that have been found in many of them. Many educators, including this writer, view it as a mistake to omit using a textbook. It is a definite advantage to learners to have their knowledge reinforced by written material. The textbook can be used as a regular source of ready reference for important religious information when films and videos are not at hand. The textbook is likely to be retained by students if it is clearly written, well illustrated, and attractively printed. The need for the textbook and other printed materials is as important for home instruction as it is for learning and instruction imparted in schools. The parent as home instructor will have his or her own copy of the text and will usually feel the joy of really, deeply grasping new meanings.
Lectures in an original and/or personal vein are important in religious education. Every effort is made to dramatize the message, so as to avoid boredom. The teacher investigates all possibilities of visual materials as a means of increasing attention to the content of the lecture. Without getting into "ego trips" or centering the lecture on one's own history, it is appropriate that the teacher explain what the doctrine, sacrament, or unit being explained means in his or her life, or in the lives of others. Thus, the teacher is a "witness" to faith. Perhaps in the past lecturing and teaching have been too impersonal and thus the application of the doctrine was too difficult for students. For very specialized material, a guest lecturer may be invited. These days it is more and more likely that a full, appropriate lecture may be available on videotape, and the presenter may be a national figure with outstanding charismatic appeal. Alert religious education teachers are aware of these possibilities. Parents who are directing the religious education of their children can also be informed of these possibilities by ongoing contact with a religious education center and can be assisted in obtaining a loan of them.
In the attempt to dramatize lectures in religious instruction, a veritable gold mine is available in material culled from church history. This writer can recall still, some fifty years later, the sense of inspiration felt in a high school senior religion class which contained numerous instances from church history. This was intimately linked with explanation of the various church doctrines which had been challenged in the course of the centuries. Of course, inspiring and dramatic incidents in the lives of saints and other exemplary figures in the history of the church fitted well into this course, and sparked the imagination of many students. There are as many heroic religious figures in the church today and in the recent past as there ever were, and their stories can be incorporated in the religious education program. The lives of such people as Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer and countless missionaries (some of whom may be available for personal appearances as they make visits back to their "native air") are as appropriate as the stories of figures in the Scriptures. In using such history and such lives of exemplary people, care must be exercised to present well-established dimensions of their lives and to choose illustrations and conditions with which the young can identify.
Whether the regular presentation is by the teacher, a guest lecturer, or a videotape, it is important that religious education sessions be concluded with a question-and-answer or discussion period. This enables the teacher to respond to the intellectual challenges, to clear up obscurities, and to encourage a deeper interiorization of the religious education message. That segment of class should never be omitted.
Discussions have come to play an important part in modern education. Unfortunately, some of those who use discussion in religious education do not realize the importance of preparation for profitable discussion sessions, for instance, by selection of challenging "stimulus" questions or even mini-dramatizations. The discussions in large or small groups may follow an instructional session, and they may be directed toward personalizing the main thrust of the instruction. Successful discussions are not used as an excuse for the teacher's lack of proper class preparation. A skilled discussion leader knows when to redirect the flow of the participants from detours and tangents. Discussions may be enlivened by use of specially prepared panel groups and by role playing, techniques which are developed at length in books on group guidance. Many group discussion leaders find it helpful to conclude the session with a summary of the varied viewpoints, the range of feelings expressed by the participants, the new knowledge or appreciation achieved, and such conclusions as the need for further information on specific topics.
As students in religious education become accustomed to the potential of discussions, they become more personally involved. They find that general religious teachings can be discussed in personal terms with the group. (However, successful discussion leaders are on guard to avoid some of the excesses of the values clarification movement in which pupils were put under great pressure to reveal personal matters and to declare their values when they did not care to do so.) If a healthy relationship develops: between the teacher or discussion leader and the group, the discussion period of the religious education program can become a time of deep interiorization of religious and moral insights. In discussions as in lectures, the teacher or leader can model this interiorization through religious witness by stating precisely what the doctrine or subject being taught means in his or her life. Pope Paul VI noted that we "listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers" and that we listen best to teachers when they are witnesses" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, #41). Thus is an real way the teacher or discussion leader becomes role model to the learner in his or her internalization or interiorization of religion.
Evaluation of success regarding the various teaching methods described above and of genuine interiorization is extremely difficult and in the long run can be adequately tested only when one is faced with difficult choices later on in one's life. Yet, for practical purposes of evaluation we must be satisfied with the intermediate indicators of success that can be derived from external behaviors and well-tested knowledge as in the research reported in the earlier section on related research.
Now let us turn to two topics that are often elements of programs in moral education and character development to see how syllabi in religious education often deal with them. Thereby we can illustrate the special dimension that religious approaches offer as compared with humanistic approaches. We look to religious treatment of the themes of justice and of volunteer service to others.
JUSTICE AS A THEME IN RELIGIOUS/CHARACTER EDUCATION
Due perhaps to its emphasis in the Kohlberg paradigm of moral education, justice is a theme or important element in most programs of character education. The purpose of discussing justice in this section is to illustrate its relationship to various other important themes in a religious education and to illustrate the potential for integrated, religiously oriented character development through concern for justice and its correlates.
The justice movement among religious people has received special emphasis in recent years from publicity about injustices accorded minority groups (Japanese-Americans in World War II, American Indians, Blacks, Hispanics, working people, Jews, women, religious groups) and from reflection upon a series of important religious documents. For instance, Pope Leo XIII, as far back as 1891, wrote an encyclical, "Rerum Novarum," concerning injustices incurred by many workers in industry. In spite of numerous other important religiously oriented documents protesting injustice, there are some who see the concept of justice as a secular notion and thus a governmental concern and as opposed to that of charity (in the sense of love, not in the sense of alms giving) as a religious concept and so a concern of the churches. To correct this view, the U.S. bishops recently asserted that justice and charity "are part of Christian social responsibility and are complementary. . . . Justice is the foundation of charity. . . . It is impossible to give of oneself in love without first sharing with others what is due them in justice."16
Many classical religious treatises on justice are found under the heading of duties of which the main categories are duties to God, to self, and to the neighbor. The focus of this section is upon the last category, duty to the neighbor, seen in the same perspective as one views oneself as made in the image of God, redeemed by Christ, and called to an eternal destiny. Hence, even in one's thoughts as well as one's words, all human beings are worthy of the respect we give ourselves. Their spiritual and moral health, their intellectual and cultural status, their material and physical necessities (food, health, housing, employment, health facilities, schooling, etc.) are the concerns of all truly religious minded people.
A development in recent years of the religious approach to justice on the part of religious persons is the more universal application of the principles of justice. "All people" and "neighbors" are really seen as embracing those who live anywhere and everywhere in the world, not just those who live next door. More and more, we are recognizing that we cannot just say to the ill housed and hungry at home or abroad, "Be warmed and be filled, and go in peace" (James 2:16). The call for human justice demands that feelings and convictions regarding justice be translated into actions. These may involve going abroad as a member of a team that assists refugees, raising funds for those exiled by an unjust government, protesting housing conditions, writing to legislators to correct unjust working conditions, attempting to help others both to be just to their employer and to seek justice for coworkers, seeing that procedures that exist to protect the rights of others are carried out exactly, writing or teaching as clearly and as strongly as possible on the theory and practice of justice, doing one's best to exemplify just practices in dealing with peers or with students, or being sensitive and sensitizing others to the need for ethics in professional and other human behaviors. The person who has deliberately adopted a sense of justice will consciously reject opportunities to defraud others. The just person is sensitive to the real scandal given to the young when adults boast of their "putting something over" others, whether the other be the government, the boss, or another.
Does justice mean something different to the person with a religious rather than a humanistic philosophy? Externally, their behaviors should be equally just regarding individuals and social structures. But the religiously oriented person has the conviction that his or her norms are given by a higher absolutely loving, absolutely just Authority, and so has an additional source for confidence and motivation concerning the meaning and importance of justice in his or her life.
VOLUNTEER SERVICE AND RELIGIOUS/
Mention was made above of the fact that many religious education programs now incorporate a segment of fieldwork in their syllabi. Let us
examine that aspect of religious education as an element of character development and see how it compares with similar fieldwork that is primarily humanistic.
Together with teaching doctrine and building faith commitment, the ideal of serving others is emphasized as goal in current religious education literature. The basic note is that, since Jesus Christ came to serve, not to be served (Matt. 20:28), His followers are called upon to show love for Him through service of others. Thus, from their earliest years, children can be prompted to "perform acts of kindness and compassion in the home and neighborhood."
It is increasingly becoming the practice of religiously oriented schools to induct pupils gradually into the concepts of service of others. The concepts that are involved are based upon the earliest Christian traditions, such as the instructions to new converts given by Sts. Peter and Paul that they take care of the poor (Galatians 2:10) and the very existence of deacons whose work was to "serve" the community (Acts 6:2). The tradition of hospitality was important in the various monastic institutions of Europe, and the nursing care of the sick and infirm was fostered not only by the humanistically motivated Florence Nightingale in Switzerland but by numerous religious women such as, in the United States, Mother Alphonse Hawthorne (Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer), St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (Sisters of Charity), and Mother Angeline McCrory (Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm), who founded congregations whose work included service for the sick, the poor, the aged. Hence, Catholic Christians are not newcomers to the concept of service of others.
Concepts of service are based not only upon example and tradition, but upon Church teachings related to the development of a social conscience. Concern for others, based upon an awareness of human dignity. is the theme of numerous papal and bishops' documents which assert that religious people cannot turn their backs upon those who need special help. Instead, as individuals, they are asked to recall that the spirit of Christian faith is love of God as demonstrated to neighbor, that love is demonstrated more by deeds than by words, and that some practical actions of service should characterize the lives of all committed Christians.
Local conditions play a large part in the details of volunteer service opportunities. Some areas have a large number of elderly citizens who need help; there are the sick, the poor, the disenfranchised, the imprisoned, the disadvantaged, the handicapped. Many religious schools and religious organizations focus upon one or more of these groups. Those who do this volunteer service work believe that they are carrying out the Second Greatest Commandment as enunciated by the Lord, to "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Whatever the type of volunteer service in which young people are engaged, and whatever the school they attend, it is important that their service activities be supervised and coordinated by someone who has and shares a mature view of service. Just doing the volunteer service isn't enough. The supervisor of volunteers, as a mature person (whose age is not important), can help others share a sense of respect for different ways of living, different ways of practicing belief in God, and different ways of expressing one's thoughts and feelings. Weekly group meetings of those doing service work can help all involved increase their sense of the wide range of local living conditions and human problems. Through insights achieved in the meetings, the volunteer service and its meaning can become personalized and interiorized. Discussions of volunteer work and sharing experiences may help to inspire some with goals of a lifetime service to others. Others may gain from the volunteer service a determination to do all they can as activists or legislators or perhaps just voting citizens to right wrongs and improve the lot of people in need.
Service to those in need is by no means the exclusive prerogative of religious persons. Service clubs and service activities exist in public as well as in religious schools and in numerous non-religious and religious organizations. Indeed, the recent increase in this kind of activity, especially for the handicapped, is viewed by some as among the more optimistic signs of our civilization, as foreseen by Father Teilhard de Chardin when he spoke of humans' likely "spiritual evolution." The importance of service as an aspect of adolescents' growth to genuine maturity is recognized in Ernest Boyer's17 recent recommendation that service activities be incorporated into the school curriculum as a requirement and that academic credit be awarded for this work. In view of the increasing pervasiveness of volunteer service in our culture, the question arises: How do the religious and the non-religious service programs differ?
Some of the ways in which the religiously oriented service volunteer differs from his or her counterpart who is primarily humanistically oriented have been implied above. While their external behaviors may be practically identical, the origin of their inspiration and their habitual view of the person of the client differ. The interpretation of experiences and the relatedness to the later living of one's life are likely to be influenced by the presence or absence of an important ingredient, one's belief in God, as a living and personal influence in our life, and the related belief that "Whenever you did it [feed the hungry . . . take in the stranger . . . clothe the naked] for the least of my brethren, you did it for Me" (Matt. 25:40). The religiously oriented volunteer, somehow and mysteriously, sees Christ the Lord in the hungry, the stranger, the naked, and in that frame of mind, gladly extends help to those who represent Him.
In summary, this chapter has attempted to answer several important questions regarding the position that religious education is the preferred way to character development. The questions and summary answers follow.
- (1) In theory, why is religious education the preferred method? The religious perspective, including the nature of the person and the ultimate basis for responsibilities, extends to and moves the total human person more deeply than do other approaches.
- (2) Can one account for the differences in the behaviors of religious persons? We used Allport's report of the positive effects of those who interiorized religion, in contrast to those in whom religion was less interiorized.
- (3) Are there research studies which confirm the main positions taken in this chapter? We reviewed several research projects of the predominantly Catholic schools which attested to the successful moral development of pupils in the schools.
- (4) What is meant by the kerygmatic, or catechesis, approach to religious education, as used in some of the research, and how is it achieved? The term was explained, and recent teaching methods for personalizing and interiorizing religious teachings were reviewed.
- (5) Since many moral education programs emphasize justice, how does the religious approach to justice differ from others? The special emphasis upon the dignity of the person provided by a religious vision.
- (6) How does the religious basis for volunteer service differ from that of other approaches? There is a long religious tradition of seeing the Lord in those in need, and that there is an increasing awareness among religious people that the neighbors they should love as themselves are not only those who live nearby but all fellow inhabitants of this globe.
*The kerygmatic approach is supplemented in other recent religious education trends. For instance, the "revisionist" religious educators, such as Thomas Groome,6 emphasize the need for critical inquiry regarding religious tradition and human experience. In addition, the "reconceptualist" religious educators, such as Gabriel Moran,7 seek to understand one's own tradition and, as well, to understand the religious life of other people" and so is very acceptable to those whose primary concern is the ecumenical movement. However, for all its attractiveness, the reconceptualist approach is "still in its infancy," according to Scott8 in the sense that it has not yet been widely applied in the literature and especially in religious education textbooks.
1. Pope John Paul II, "Apostolic Exhortation on Catechetics," Origins 9 (1979), 343.
2. Gordon W. Allport, The Nature of Prejudice (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1954), p. 444.
3. Andrew M. Greeley and Peter H. Rossi, The Education of Catholic Americans (Chicago: Aldine, 1966), p. 168.
4. Reginald A. Neuwien, ed., Catholic Schools in Action (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966).
5. Ibid., p. 152.
6. Thomas Groome, Christian Religious Education (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980).
7. Gabriel Moran, Religious Education as a Second Language (Birmingham, Al.: Religious Education Press, 1989).
8. Kieran Scott, "Three Traditions of Religious Education," Religious Education, 79 (3). Summer, 1984, p. 337.
9. Francis D. Kelly, "Evaluating Our Catechetical Efforts," Momentum, May 1983, pp. 13-14.
10. James G. Cibulka, Timothy J. O'Brien, and Donald Zewe, S.J., Inner-City Private Elementary Schools: A Study (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1982).
11. The Catholic High School: A National Portrait (Washington, D.C.: National Catholic Educational Association, 1985).
12. Michael Guerra, Michael Donahue, and Peter Benson, The Heart of the Matter: Effects of Catholic High Schools on Student Values, Beliefs. and Behaviors (Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association, 1990).
13. To Teach as Jesus Did (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 1973, p. 9 (No. 30) and passim.
14. J. S. Coleman, T. Hoofer, and S. Kilgore, Public and Private high schools (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 1981). J. S. Coleman, and T. Hoofer, T.. Public and private high schools: The impact of communities (New York: Basic, 1987).
15. Readers may be interested in Harold A. Buetow's The Catholic School: Its Roots, Identity, and Future (New York: Crossroad, 1988).
16. Sharing the Light of Faith: National Catechetical Directory for Catholics of the United States (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, Department of Education, 1979), p. 94.
17. Ernest Boyer, High School: A Report on Secondary Education in
America (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), pp. 202-15.