Pell urges more study of classic English texts

As part of a broader attack on relativism - the idea that nothing is absolute - Cardinal George Pell told the National Press Club yesterday that injecting postmodernism into the school curriculum threatens to normalise "moral and social disorder".

The Australian reports that he criticised schools that abandon traditional English programs in favour of "critical literacy". These schools are effectively trying to make students agents of social change, normalising "moral and social disorder".

Cardinal Pell was speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra (pictured).

"While parents wonder why their children have never heard of the Romantic poets, Yeats or the Great War poets, and never ploughed through a Bronte, Orwell or Dickens novel, their children are engaged in analysing a variety of 'texts', including films, magazines, advertisements and even road signs as part of critical literacy," Cardinal Pell declared.

Debate has raged in recent months about the educational value of the critical literacy program, which encourages students to approach all texts - from books through to television commercials - from the point of view of the possible suspect motives behind it.

It has been described by advocates in the education sector as a "radical educational idea" that openly politicises the classroom.

Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson, who has been scathing about the ideologically driven nature of critical literacy, said last month its proponents were "doing significant damage to our future".

Cardinal Pell also criticised the political agendas involved in the critical literacy approach.

In a broader attack, Dr Pell warned against the "dictatorship of relativism", a phrase coined by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in an address in Rome just before he was elected to the papacy as Benedict XVI.

Dr Pell said Australians should be aware of "the effects of an increase in the secular-relativist bite into Christianity": previous moral norms society accepted such as standards on lying, breaking promises, assault, abuse and cheating would be vulnerable to revision.

"Conscience would become personal preference - a polite term for 'doing it my way', and clear thinking and past wisdom would be repudiated and ridiculed," he said.

Hard as it was to believe Australia would ever reject the most fundamental moral principles, "it was hard only 50 years ago to believe we would abort 100,000 babies a year, contemplate men marrying men, killing the sick, experimenting on human embryos."

Pell's text message: English syllabus has no morals (The Australian 22/9/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Sydney | Cardinal George Pell: The Dictatorship of Relativism: Address to the National Press Club, Canberra (Archdiocese of Sydney 21/9/05)
National Press Club of Australia

Latham book sad - Pell (Daily Telegraph 21/9/05)
Pell blast for pop learning (Herald-Sun 22/9/05)
Pointed lesson (Sydney Morning Herald 21/9/05)

Pell warns on curtailing unions (The Age 22/9/05)

22 Sep 2005