The virtue of a Catholic education

CBC Fremantle places an emphasis on students gaining experience in public speaking with many opportunities including the Oracy programme, leadership courses, community and House Masses, Mother's Day Liturgy, TRJ Prayers of the Faithful and as recently as last night the AEP STEM showcase. The virtues of public speaking are many, and self-confidence is as important as any. Boys should be supported and guided through the art of public speaking so that the anxiety is not detrimental to their health, and I hope that is always the case at CBC Fremantle.

Our success in recent years has been phenomenal. We have had several boys compete in the Lion's Club Youth of the Year and in that time produced two Australasian Winners -- Jordan Green and Riley Faulds. Riley also won the Premier's Anzac Award in 2015, which involved written and spoken elements, accompanying the Premier Colin Barnett to the centenary anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. This series of successes was added to this week when Year 12 student Cooper Hagen narrowly missed out on taking the honours in the CEWA Speaking for Faith competition. Cooper made his way to the final by winning his heat and making his way through to the final six competitors.

A couple of separate events occurred this week which made his speech so pertinent and prompted me to share it with you. The first of these moments occurred as I am conducting exit interviews with the Year 12 students.  Without exception, the one common thing they all talk about is the role the College played in the formation of their moral compass. Now the reality is that all CBC Fremantle has done is to support your values, but I quite happily take the credit. The second event highlighted what happens in the absence of a moral compass that has selflessness at its centre. Regardless of one's political leanings, the shenanigans in Canberra this week are hardly the modelling that young people need to believe and positively participate in civic life. As adults, all of us, parents, teachers, sports stars and politicians, have an obligation to provide the kind of modelling that makes Gospel Values attractive. We are all flawed and can at times fail, and that is when regret, apology, contrition and accountability should kick in. I hope that we can continue to work together to help form the best possible young man in your son, a man who forms attitudes and actions based on Gospel Values, does his best, is accountable, is selfless and values the 'other' in his life. The world certainly needs more CBC gentlemen.

Is there a place for Catholic schools in Australia?

By Cooper Hagen (Year 12)

Catholic schools have long had a place in Australian history, spanning all the way back to the colonial era of this nation, providing education to many when few could access or afford it. A Catholic education had arguably been an essential pillar in the development of Australia. However, in a society that appears to be more secularised and less Christian in its values and lifestyles, we must ask the fundamental question: do religious schools, specifically Catholic schools, have a place in Australian society?

In the 2016 census, the number of people claiming to be non-religious was the predominant response for the first time ever. With 30.1% of people stating that they had no religious affiliation, with Catholic being the second most common response at 22.6%, a 2.7% decline from the results in 2011. This continues a consistent trend that has shown a decrease in the number of religious people in the country for well over two decades. This is most likely a response from an increasing emphasis on secularised morality becoming present in contemporary society, and also religion itself becoming the target of ridicule from men such as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry or even the late Christopher Hitchens that have had an influence on the way today's youth view religion.

So far these indicators do not bode well for the future of religion in Australian society. But the question of religious education in Australia has become a rather controversial debate, with many, especially on the left side of political discourse, suggesting a complete cut to funding for religious schools across the country. In addition, with the Gonski 2.0 scheme set to take effect in 2020 we will see the slow and gradual removal of government assistance for religious schools.

Many, including me, strongly believe that this removal of funding will utterly devastate the ability of Catholic schools to function in this country. These schools would lose vital resources needed to operate, forcing them to close their doors to the community, or raise their fees to a degree that many may find unaffordable. The result would be a continuous degrading of the place religion still has in our society, opposing the Bishops' Mandate in Western Australia which seeks to ensure the continuous development and improvement of Catholic education in the state and to foster the growth of Catholic communities. Cuts to funding would dramatically impair this goal. There are currently more than 1,700 Catholic schools operating in Australia, with more than 750,000 students – approximately one in five – attending these schools. In addition, these institutions employ more than  60,000 teachers and provide quality schooling to many in the community who lack access to even standard education, often in remote areas across the country. In consideration of these points, from a purely pragmatic point of view we must ask ourselves what it is that we gain from removing existing educational infrastructure, putting many out of work and weakening the education standards for so many children? The answer is absolutely nothing.

As someone who is not religious, I believe that one of the most fundamental aspects in my development into a good young man is the role CBC has played in providing me with not only a brilliant education, but a set of morals and virtues seldom found in contemporary society. This is reinforced in the maxim of the school: today's boys…tomorrow's gentlemen.

This school has instilled in me values such as charity, service and brotherhood, which are all based on those found in the gospel and most importantly, the direct teachings of Christ. These teachings – in my mind – are rather counter-cultural compared with contemporary beliefs present in today's society that be described only as ever increasingly void of morality. In addition to this, I have been able to observe the Catholic practice throughout my time at CBC, which has instilled in me a deep respect for the faith. Through observing all the good that this school, and many others like it, have done for the local community, I am left to believe that there is an intrinsic place for Catholic schools in this nation and in society as a whole. As such, it would be a shame to see educational institutions struggle and possibly disappear, denying future generations the same privilege that was afforded to me.

Mr Domenic Burgio