Who We Are Our Schools Learning & Wellbeing Professional Learning Employment Policies & Publications News Centre
  • Australia’s GNP – and the Gospel. 

    Back in 1968, Robert Kennedy, in his address to the University of Kansas, made a startling speech. It is, to my mind, so powerful that I want to use a long quote. While Kennedy was speaking in an American context,  it is not hard to replace his Americanisms with Australianisms. He said:

    Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values to the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product...if we should judge America by that...counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for those who break them. It counts for destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonders in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of nuclear warhead, and armoured cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. 

    Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

    It is a sobering thought. I believe it is a challenge that should be in the mind of every parent, every teacher, every day.

    What sort of world are we educating our young people to build? More of the same? Have we not learnt anything since 1968? Is our world to be one where the only things we value are the things we can count? Is our world to be one in which bosses in the financial industry take home obscene salaries, while those who care for our environment, our children, our health often earn so little? On a smaller lever, but one of great importance, we can ask, “Is the success or failure of our schools to be measured merely by a simplistic set of test scores?” The recent “Occupy” movements in so many cities ask these same questions. While we might not necessarily agree with the “Occupy” methods, their message was certainly one that needs to be heard.

    In Catholic schools we are both privileged and challenged to present an alternative view. We have the benefit, which so many other schools do not, of having a shared value system, a system based on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And it is a system of beliefs and values to which we all claim to be committed.  Very few other schools or systems enjoy that privilege. But, I wonder if we take proper advantage of our shared commitment.

    We are privileged and challenged to present that life view, a view that values and honours the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, not the economic product.  We teach and we honour compassion, generosity, love and justice. And we present that view because we believe that our God is love, that we find God through the expression of these wonderful qualities and that they bring our world closer to the world of God’s creation.

    As schools, as families, indeed as all of society, we need constantly to reiterate that the values expressed in our Gross National Product are not always the values of God,  and nor should they be our values. Catholic Education provides a unique and powerful opportunity to make that point in the minds and hearts of tomorrow’s adult citizens. Let us hope and pray that the worth of our nation in another 44 years is not measured simply by the Gross National Product.