Conscripts or Volunteers? The Status of Learners in Faith-Schools

  • Kevin Williams


It is common both for those in favour of, and those opposed to, faith-schools to invoke the rights of parents in support of their positions. The rights and wishes of children are rarely raised in the debate and this is what I propose to do in this chapter. By concentrating on this specific aspect of the theme, most of the general issues regarding compulsion come into dramatic and clear focus. One irony about the debate in the Christian context is that within its tradition of moral theology, children were judged to have reached the age of reason at seven. They were deemed responsible, that is, capable of answering (responding) for themselves without the mediation of adults. At this age they were said to be capable of exercising moral responsibility and thus of committing mortal sin. Though this view has been significantly qualified, the second half of the last century has seen research affirm the impressive reasoning abilities of young children. So where does this leave the debate about the status of learners in faith-schools? Although we can acknowledge that parents who choose these schools for their children are concerned about their educational and spiritual welfare in making this choice, there are children who may reject the faith stances of their parents or indeed simply the choice of school. Certain conditions must be met in order that the presence of children in faith-schools can be considered morally and educationally acceptable and certain qualities must be exhibited by educators.


Young People Religious Belief Moral Responsibility Religious Faith Religious Education 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mater Dei Institute of EducationDublin City UniversityDublinIreland

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