At the Ninth Council of the International Union of Catholic Women's Leagues held in Rome in April , 1934, representing the constituent Leagues of Europe, America, and Canda, were laid down some general lines of study for the years 1935-—8. Among those in dicated for Commission IV, whose indicated, for Commission IV, whose province is " Intellectual Work, with special regard to University Studies," are two concerned with : " The Adaptation of Catholic Feminine Teaching to the particular role of women," and " The specifically feminine training of the intellectual woman."
Although the English-speaking Leagues are few, and their membership comparatively small, their contributions to the discussions, especially on special, industrial, and educational subjects, are followed with interest and attention.
A survey undertaken by the Union in 1932 revealed two features apparent in most of the European countries with which we are familiar in England. One, the in creasing secularization of school teaching, and the other the in creasing number of women compared with that of men, engaged in the actual work, especially in the Primary and the lower ranks of the Secondary Schools. And with regard to the influence of University studies on the young women embarking on such, most of the testimony was to the effect that "too frequently the university milieu brings about profound disharmony between their Christian faith and their intellectual outlook and convictions. We are, of course, familiar with the same clash in mental and spiritual development in our lads and girls in school and college; and at the moment [With the general, abandonment of restraint and seriousness perhaps there is displayed a rather excessive want of ballast.
In 'The Sower' (Oct.—Dec., 1934) by a thoughtful writer, herself a University woman, was an article on "Catholic Girls at Oxford." The main point for the consideration of parents (and in deed also for those who stand in loco parentis) is that only a girl who is really studious, who loves study for its own sake, or who is planning to enter a profession where a University degree is essential, is wisely sent to Oxford.
Apparently there are already signs that for daughters, as well as sons, the low estimate of value held as to residence at one of the older Universities, which has so dishonoured the privilege, is merely that of a social cachet, or a frivolous interlude for adolescence. The enquiries of the International Union served to show that in Continental countries Catholic youth, both lads and girls, are often found attending the neutral, or State Universities, though there are Catholic Universities existing. Hence the grave peril to their moral and spiritual development. Here, of course, there is no choice, but ecclesiastical authority and responsible well-wishers unite in providing certain safeguards.
Hence the satisfaction with which we note the proceedings of the Association of Convent Schools at their Annual Conference in May, 1934; in which are enrolled more than 70 Religious Orders c f women, many having a large number of schools. H. E . the late Cardinal Bourne presided at the opening, and to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of his priesthood was presented with an illuminated address by the Association and a purse of £200. His Lordship the Bishop of Lamus gave the inaugural address, which dealt with the " Problem of Education in the Modern World " ; when among the many changes is " the separation of religion and life." Hence the need for emphasis on points that will first produce and then sanctify strong personal conviction, and thus lead to action, not passivity.
Illustrating the present secularization of life, the Bishop instanced the morality without religion, economic life on non-Christian lines, literature and art untrammelled by moral and religious restraints, and above all the disastrous secularization of the teaching in the schools. After some trenchant paragraphs indicating how the Christianity that is known but not lived has no inspiration for, and is no leaven working in, humanity; and that the habitual separation of religion from daily life is partly the outcome of faulty teaching, his Lordship described the symptoms of the incomplete morality that had perhaps been laid down. Such is found in the stress upon negation; what not to think, not to desire, not to do; the remedy would be to dwell upon the positive; what to love, what to will, what to cary out, especially avoiding mere prohibition with its paralyzing effect. Though these counsels might seem of general application, it is probable that owing to the greater (external) docility of girl-pupils, prohibition, avoidance, passivity, have been unduly emphasized; moreover it fits in with the attitude of aloofness, restraint, and discrimination which inspire the ideal of " good form."
The Rev. James O'Mahoney, O.F.M. Cap., Ph.D., D.Litt., read a weighty paper on the " Christian Philosophy of Education," showing its absolute reality and the need of recognizing this; when, as at the present moment, a separatist philosophy accompanies the divorce of religion from social life. In a forcible paragraph Father O'Mahonev quoted the words of Prof. A . E . Taylor: It may quite well be that the future philosophical student of history will yet find the most significant and disquieting of all the social changes of the Victorian Age to be the Combination of Stateenforced primary education with the transference of the work of the teacher to the hands of laymen under no effective ecclesiastical or theological control." In a later section the reverend Father dwelt upon the concept of personality, and that to the teaching of Jesus Christ is due the recognition of a man or woman as " an autonomous being of infinite worth " ; whence it follows that it is for Education to help the individual being " t o realize that perfection for which nature evidently intended him." This is a strongly consoling principle with which to oppose the loose theories about self-realization and self-expression being left unimpeded and unrestrained.
Three profoundly interesting and oratical papers were contributed by women; one by Mother Genevieve Hutchinson, R.S.C.J., on " The Training of the Girl for Home Life," and two on " The Sixth Form in the School": Miss Hewetson, H.M.I., treating it in its academic aspect, and Miss Strudwick, M . A . , High Mistress of St. Paul's School, in its social aspect. Miss Hewetson's eminently practical and constructive address contained some wholesomely astringent counsels. Apparently the " lecture" system still holds in some schools, described by Miss Hewetson as consisting in the giving " a weak paraphrase of a textbook." In the vivacious rendering of a VIForm girl thirty years ago it meant that, instead of the pupil learning the lesson and saying it to the mistress, " the mistress just learns it and repeats it to us " ! Miss Hewetson considers that "most girls are conscientiously overtaught," and the opportunity, value, the necessity of directed private study but little regarded.
Certainly it must be allowed that how to use a book, and how to master a subject are enterprises quite beyond the power of many Secondary school leavers.
Miss Strudwick's contribution was equally practical, and at once original and of far-reaching import. As Head of one of the largest schools for girls in the country, with a well-established tradition of sending forth girls equipped for intellectual work, trained in artistic and aesthetic appreciation in specialized duties belonging to Social Science, and also in the domesticities—with moreover, a consciousness of responsibility— the speaker brought together the essentials of teaching and learning. Especially may be welcomed her emphasis on concentrating less on developing the very few who are fit for "leadership' and more on producing " intelligent and worth while followers."
The present poor equipment of the rank and file, the average lad and girl , is evident in the uncontrolled readiness to question, to oppose, to thwart—openly or secretly—any measure or proposal issued under authority. So far from such being the manifestation of a free and in- dependent spirit it shows the disorderly and ill-conditioned mind; the " herd " instinct rampant yet servile Not of such comes the disciple—whose making is discipline. Those who heard the address and those who have since read it, will alike endorse Miss Strudwick's assertion that "what we do need to be concerned about is the quality of the rank and file." We have left the consideration of Mother Hutchinson's paper to the last because not only (as the President observed) is its beautiful content in accord with the principles declared by the eminent ecclesiastics who had spoken, but also its exposition recognized " the art and practic part of life " treated by this distinguished laywomen. Any thoughtful adult will allow that if teaching other people's children was ever an easy task it is so no longer.
Mother Hutchinson touched briefly upon the variety of the preparation demanded for the growing girl today, in contrast to the less exacting one of filling a sheltered niche in the home of past days; and the difficult environment, which modern conditions and lax standards of thought and conduct provide, that confronts her on leaving school. Nor does the curriculum— as ordained by State authorities and examining bodies—offer satisfactory scope for developing her best powers. Mother Hutchinson's reference rpminds us that weare reaping the tares-bestrewn sowing of the ardent pioneers of Higher Education for women.
To dissipate the notion that no real intellectual work was within a woman's scope, and to combat the ideal of feeble attainment in trivial accomplishments as a becoming grace, they (necessarily) felt themselves impelled to insist upon like subjects and methods of study for women as for men. As a consequence, the early secondary schools for girls modelled their curriculum on that of the Public Schools for boys, with the unspoken aim of preparation for University work. Never in accordance with actuality the assumption became grotesque when the academic aim was adopted in the multiform secondary schools of Municipal Authorities. For some years the headmistresses— who in very truth stand in loco parentis to hundreds of young girls—have agitated for modifications in the various examinations which, while not particularly suited for the boys concerned, are singularly valueless for the girls.
Mother Hutchinson's reflections and counsels deserve wide and attentive reading. She recognizes that beyond the frontiers of the home the special gifts and characteristics of the woman are needed and have their place; and shows that the educator, in seeking to train and develop them for the opportunities and responsibilities of life, has " the whole nature of the woman on her side." This supposes that the education is not only Christian but Catholic; for only so can we hope for the " women strong in principle, balanced in judgment, restrained and purposeful in action," to quote Mother Hutchinsons eloquent conclusion. (By S. Cunnington in the "Sower")
- Malaya Catholic Leader, February 23rd, 1935 (1935.pdf pp81)