How a Catholic Worldview Inspires a Catholic School's Special Education Policy
Below is the Principal’s Address I gave at our school’s Annual General Meeting from May 24th…
First I would like to talk about what makes us special. There all sorts of schools in the province. There are public schools, private Christian schools, other religious school, private non-religious schools, and other Catholic schools. What sets Catholic schools, specifically Cloverdale Catholic School, apart from the rest? What is a worldview? What, specifically, is the Catholic worldview?
At it’s very essence, a Catholic Christian worldview is the worldview of Jesus Christ Himself. The more we see the world and its inhabitants as Jesus does, the more we are aligned with Christ’s worldview. How does this differ from the secular worldview? After all, do we not share the values of the “secular” world; truth, beauty, science, making the world a better place, freedom of speech and tolerance? First of all, part of the “Catholic intellectual tradition” is to define our terms. What does a typical secular person mean by words like “truth” and “beauty”? I’m fairly certain that the Catholic definition of these terms would differ from the secular one. Nevertheless, let us assume for a moment that we do agree on the definition of these terms. What then differentiates the “Catholic” worldview from the secular one?
I would argue the fundamental difference is why these things matter. Beauty, truth, science, the environment etc… do not matter for their own sake. They matter only insofar as they contribute to our eternal destiny. Through knowledge of truth we understand the truth of God. Through appreciation of beauty, we grow in our love of God our creator. Through environmentalism, we share in God’s gift of creation by caring for our common home. Through the lens of a Catholic worldview, all aspects shared with a secular reality take on an eternal purpose. In believing that we are all destined for immortality, we erase the boundaries of class, race, religion, ability, and utility. In a Catholic worldview we see all people as beautiful, good, and worthy of love not just based on their usefulness and achievement, but because they are children of the King, our creator. If all ends in death and nothingness, there are human limitations to how far we will go. With an eternal purpose in mind, or a Catholic Worldview, there are no limits to our love and care. Not even death can stand against our eternal purpose; to know, love, and serve God and be happy with him in this world and the next.
As an example let me discuss how a Catholic Worldview has influenced how we approach Special Education at Cloverdale Catholic School. At CCS each and every child is valued and treasured, not because of their potential as learners, athletes, musicians, or future workers, but because they are created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore when we accept students into our school we do not consider how much their support will cost or how challenging certain behaviours may be. We accept all children unconditionally. I am proud of the progress we have made in the area of Special Education. When I started here 8 years ago we had only a few Special Needs students and only 3 Educational Assistants on staff. Now, we have 14 designated Special Needs students and 14 Educational Assistants on staff. We have gained a reputation not necessarily for expertise in the area of Special Education, but in our willingness to love, accept, and support every child and their families unconditionally.
Let me conclude by answering the question that may be in the minds of some; that is great for kids with special needs, but how does it help my child? First of all, I have seen countless examples of students growing in gentleness, compassion, and acceptance by working daily with kids with challenges. But I think the real impact is far deeper than that. What I want for my children is to know deep down that they are loved unconditionally not just by God, but by the adults in their lives who they admire. What greater way for them to learn this than by seeing unconditional love at school every single day. They can look around themselves in every single classroom in our school and see that unconditional love at work. When my child fails a test, loses a game, or makes a stupid mistake they can know that like all the students in the school, without exception, they are loved and valued not because of what they can do, but simply because they are a child of God.
Thanks for reading!