This is a translation of the ecumenical council speech made Nov. 18 on the schema on Christian education by Auxiliary Bishop James William Malone of Youngstown, Ohio.
Within the limits of its reduced form, this declaration on Christian education placet. All will concede that the declaration must be amplified, enlarged upon, and expanded into a full document, as the commission which drew up the schema suggests. Thus we suggest a fundamental proposition to undergird and to support our treatment of education, namely that a clear and explicit distinction be elucidated between society itself and the state or government which is society’s political arm or instrument.
It is not sufficient simply to affirm the rights of the Church in education, to proclaim the rights of the family, to delineate the rights of the state and its correlative duties. It is equally necessary to give the reasons why these rights and corresponding duties are what they are; to present both a theological and philosophical basis for the claims we make; to fashion a coherent synthesis that makes sense not only to our own people but also to all men of good will.
Our document justly affirms the rights of parents to choose the schools they wish for their children; their right to equal treatment under the laws of a nation in the matter of education; and equally rejects all monopoly of education as contrary to these parental rights.
But the schema must go deeper and put into perspective the delicate and complex relationships among all those agents with rights in education: Church, state, family, private associations, schools, teachers and administrators and the students themselves. The respective relationships put into focus in modern times by Pope Pius XI in his great encyclical on education Divini Illius Magistri must be developed further. We cannot rest our case simply on the affirmation of rights.
The school is not simpliciter the extension of the home or family; the teachers are not simpliciter delegates of the parents or even of the Church. Neither is the school simpliciter the agent, much less the servant, of the state. Each agent in education has a proper and legitimate interest in the education of its children, but each from its own point of view and within the limits of its own competence.
Consequently, the full schema must include the fundamental distinction between society itself and the state. Society is a social concept which describes the community itself; society means “the people,” as we say in English, “we the people,” whereas in contrast the state is a political concept, much narrower in meaning. The state or the government is an instrument of society, the political arm of society, and its functions and specific duties must he determined by the consent of the people, i.e., by society itself. Society then must be distinguished from the state or government precisely because it is not coterminous with it either in extension or in fundamental rights.
Contrary to some prevalent theories of the state, the government is not and must not become the master of the people but rather its servant. In the field of education, the government must not be the official teacher and arbiter of religion, science, art, literature, music or culture. Rather the state must be the servant of the expressed will and consent of the people with its unquestioned right to see to it that its citizens are fully equipped to fulfill their obligations as citizens and members of the body politic within the field of its proper competence.
Having made this fundamental point, the schema may then proceed to the general principles in education which concern man in the exercise of his highest faculties and in his dignity as a free person. The right of a family to equal treatment under the laws of a state or nation; the repudiation of all monopoly in education as an offense against the dignity of a parent to choose the school he wishes for his children; the right of equal justice in relationship to government subsidies in pluralistic societies; the duties of the Church and the state alike to foster and assist parents in their task and duty: will be brought into clearer focus.
The confusion in education today in most countries of the world, whether of the Occident or Orient, stems largely from a confusion of the bases upon which each agent in education vindicates its rights and duties.
The theory of state monopoly in education is based upon the total identification of society and the state. We cannot answer that monopoly with a theory of family monopoly, or Church monopoly, in the 20th century.
This basic distinction between the people and its political arm, the state, will go a long way toward clearing up this confusion in the field of education.
We plead therefore for the freedom of man in the field of education and indeed as a prime test of the freedom of religion.