As Australian Catholic school abandons tests and grades, critics are concerned

May 19, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Sydney, Australia, May 19, 2019 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- A Catholic school in west Sydney has done away with grades, class levels, and tests to promote a more personalized school experience – but educational experts are skeptical.

St. Luke’s Catholic College in Marsden Park is now offering a curriculum personalized to each student, as well as life coaches and staff to build a broader range of skills.

The high school students study essential curriculum, like math, science, and english, three days a week. During the rest of the week, they can pursue their own interests, like music, graphic design, and sports.

“The current model of schooling was designed in the 1800s for a world that was built for manufacturing,” Principal Greg Miller told ABC News.

Because the world has changed, he said, the students benefit from different lessons with life coaches to focus on a student’s strengths and passions. This system is called inquiry-based learning.

“Studying for a test where content changes dramatically, in today’s world, will not help the students to respond to real-world challenges and problems as they arise,” said Miller, according to ABC News.

“Their ability and capability to ask and pose questions to collaboratively work with each other is what’s needed.”

According to The Conversation, a review panel of the government released a report last year that reinforced the idea of personalized curriculum and levels based on progress.

However, some experts have expressed concern that inquiry-based learning is an extremely experimental model where students could miss out on key parts of the core curriculum.

Jennifer Buckingham, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, said there was not enough evidence to back the new model.

“It is an experiment that isn’t based on the evidence that we have about what is effective instruction and what are effective models of schooling,” she said, according to ABC News.

“There have been a few schools around Australia adopting this style of teaching, this style of schooling, and at the moment the evidence is suggesting it’s not been as successful in things like literacy and numeracy. And therefore for the children at that school there is a great risk that this experiment will fail.”

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Wisdom, gratitude, healing, fellowship: A military family’s journey to Lourdes

May 18, 2019 CNA Daily News 2

Lourdes, France, May 18, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Every pilgrim to Lourdes has their own motivations and reasons for making the journey. For the Mayors, the International Military Pilgrimage came with an additional grace: a family reunion.

Captain Mark E. Mayor and Captain Matthew N. Mayor are identical twins. Both have served for a decade in the U.S. Army. While the two have been stationed together in the past, they now live a continent apart. Mark is stationed at USAG Wiesbaden, in Germany. Matthew is stationed at Ft. Jackson, SC, but is a student at Northwestern University through the Army Advanced Civil Schooling program.

Last year, Mark and his wife, Malori, were both pilgrims on the Warriors to Lourdes trip. Malori, a registered nurse, volunteered on the medical team, assisted with helping wounded pilgrims, and played the violin at Mass throughout the weekend. This year, all three of the Mayors made the journey to Lourdes.

Mark and Malori told CNA that they are taking a different approach towards this year’s pilgrimage. Last year, they said they both came with a “spiritual agenda,” and were praying for a specific intention. This year, they said they are instead coming to Lourdes with an attitude of gratitude, and will be more relaxed about the experience.

“Coming with an agenda, though, was something that I think was a mistake, last year,” said Mark. This year, he intends to seek wisdom, something that he thinks he and his wife were inadvertently granted last year as well.

During the 2018 pilgrimage, Malori and Mark were praying they would conceive a child. This did not immediately happen, but Malori thinks that she received the gift of courage to break down the stigma and taboo of infertility. She used her blog to share stories about infertility and to inform her readers about holistic, natural, Church-approved methods of tackling fertility.

“I think that’s what we needed, that was our miracle for last year, even though we came with an agenda, God gave us the wisdom to seek out the right resources,” said Mark. “I think that’s the key takeaway with this pilgrimage.”

Malori is now expecting their first child, who is due in January 2020.

“Even before I became pregnant, though, I was kind of reflecting on last year’s experience at Lourdes, and realizing that I need to come here with a different posture, a different attitude; not ‘give me what I want, right now, on my timeline,’ but to just come with gratitude,” she explained.

This gratitude is “not necessarily for infertility–that would be very, very hard to be grateful for that cross itself,” but rather for how she and her husband have grown through this experience together.

Matthew told CNA that he had first learned of the Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage through his brother and sister-in-law, and was inspired to apply for this year. He said that he came into Lourdes with an open mind, and that he is seeking healing for both physical and mental wounds.

“My only expectation is to come here with an attitude of gratitude, to be thankful for the blessings that I have in my life right now,” said Matthew. Matthew also explained that he is looking forward to fellowship with members of the military, as the transition from living on a base to living in the civilian world can be jarring and lonely. The chance to interact with others is “a huge deal for me, to have that fellowship” he said.

Both Mark and Matthew have suffered from their time in the military, and both have been diagnosed with having post-traumatic stress. Mark also experienced a traumatic brain injury. They both spoke about the importance of civilian interaction with members of the military after they have returned home, as they both believe this is key to preventing and treating mental illnesses that many troops experience.

When a member of the military returns home, Mark explained, they are “separated from the tribe,” which can trigger depression and other mental wounds. The International Military Pilgrimage is a way for people to “get the tribe back together,” and is a therapeutic experience for the pilgrims. And while the pilgrims are from different nations and from different branches of the military, Mark is comforted by the fact that they are all in Lourdes to worship God.

“We all celebrate one universal Catholic faith,” said Mark. “It’s just something that I find it really humbling.”

Lourdes is famous for its baths, which have produced 70 confirmed miraculous healings, and hundreds of other cures. The Mayors say they have all been deeply touched by their experiences taking a dip in the ice-cold water.

Malori called her trip to the baths “life-changing,” and said that it came with a sense of peace. Matthew agreed, saying it was an “eclectic and powerful experience.”

“My intentions were for continued healing in body, mind, and spirit, and for the grace of continued wisdom to fulfill and refill my well of fortitude,” said Matthew. He said he was grateful and thanked God for being present for him in that moment.  

All agreed that Lourdes is a special place, and that the addition of the pilgrims attending the International Military Pilgrimage only increases the town’s unique sense of holiness.

“Minus all the people coming here with illnesses and wheelchairs, maybe this is a little bit of what like Heaven is,” said Malori. “Everyone’s so peaceful and all these different countries coming together at the military pilgrimage–maybe this is like a taste of that.”

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Venezuelan bishops say ending legislative immunity ‘hijacks’ democracy

May 17, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Caracas, Venezuela, May 18, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The Venezuelan bishops’ conference has expressed opposition to a decision of the country’s Supreme Court, which has requested that legislative immunity be revoked for members of the National Assembly accused of treason, conspiracy, instigation of insurrection, civil rebellion and other charges.  That would open the way for legislators to be tried for those alleged crimes.

“With this request, the will of the Venezuelan people, who freely elected the National Assembly is, in fact, abolished,” the bishops charged in a May 15 statement.

They also said that Supreme Court requests on the matter “constitute disrespect and a transgression of the commitments enacted with the different international bodies on human rights.”

“The denial of immunity without previously determining its merits and ignoring the rights of the National Assembly, contravening the express constitutional provisions, gravely harms the functioning of democracy,” the bishops added.  

They also explained that these decisions in practice constitute “the hijacking of popular sovereignty,” which is represented by the legislators elected by the will of the citizens.

“That is the essence of a democracy: respect for the will of the people and the observance of the due legal and judicial processes.”

They also reminded that in the face of a political crisis a peaceful solution is required. “We reaffirm  the will for an institutional and democratic solution to the political and social situation in Venezuela.”

The Venezuelan bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission pointed out that more than 30 representatives of the National Assembly are not exercising their functions because of the violation  of their parliamentary immunity, while others have been arrested, are in exile, or their election was invalidated as occurred with the representatives from Amazonas State.

“We categorically reject the persecution against the political and social leaders, especially against the Representatives of the National Assembly by means of criminalization and stigmatization, placing pamphlets on their residences or graffiti that put their lives at risk and that of their families,” the reaffirmed.

The bishops’ conference has asked the authorities to respect the will of the people. They also demanded  that “the security of persons that are the object of persecution and intimidation be guaranteed.”

“We ask God for the wisdom necessary for an institutional and peaceful solution to the grave political, social and economic crisis that has deepened in recent weeks, deteriorating democracy and the quality of life of the Venezuelan people, especially the poorest,” they concluded.

 

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