Appendix: Content Digest
Bishops Teaching Children
A Practical Method
By Which Roman Catholic Bishops
Can Personally Direct
The Religious Education
Of the Children of Their Dioceses
Cambridge, Massachusetts USA
Written in the Year of the Great Jubilee
Eight Practical, Realizable Goals
Sacramental and Moral Foundations
In order to fulfill the obligation to see to it that 'all' the children are indeed learning 'as much as possible,' periodic monitoring of the extent ('as much as possible') of the religious knowledge of each and every child in the diocese ('all') is needed.
Thus, even the right and duty of Catholic parents to teach their children about the faith takes on its full meaning only within the principle of subsidiarity. It is beyond an individual family's inherent moral competence to monitor the religious education of other people's children.
Nor can parents monitor even their own teaching without comparing what their children have learned to the knowledge other children possess.
Thus, if the fundamental basis of the religious education of Catholic children in a diocese were the inherent moral competence of individual families, the moral obligation to see to it that 'all' children in a diocese were effectively schooled in the faith would be morally impossible to fulfill. It would be no one's business - indeed, it would actually be immoral - to see to it that 'all' were learning as much as possible.
To make a small pun - no one would have the right to 'see,' so no one could have the ability to 'see to it.'
Only the local church as a whole, under the local ordinary as its chief teacher, possesses the sacramental character, and by that character, the moral competence, to be the teacher of 'all,' and therefore, to monitor the religious education of 'all.'
That teacher should teach 'all' 'as much as possible' about the faith. Particularly in advanced technological societies, unremitting practical efforts to increase intellectual knowledge of the faith among 'all' Catholic children is a moral obligation.
Further, the entire local church, and all its members, possesses at least an initial sacramental competence to teach, under the local ordinary as chief teacher.
The Bishops Teaching Children method is fundamentally antagonistic to the current system of religious education. The Bishops Teaching Children method takes seriously the sacramental character of the local church, under the apostolic authority of its local ordinary as chief teacher. The Bishops Teaching Children method asserts that the local ordinary, and the whole local church under him, really is the teacher of 'all,' and that this sacramental character and apostolic authority must be directly reflected in the diocese's system of religious education.
By contrast, the current system of religious education at least in practice, if not theologically, denies this, because the current system has its foundation in 'privacy.'
Can you teach a student while being forbidden to ask him any questions about what he knows? Can you monitor a student's progress while being forbidden to know his actual progress?
Teachers have an inherent right and duty to learn what each student knows, and to monitor each student's progress. Otherwise, they would be unable to teach.
The student protests: "It is a violation of my 'privacy' to force me to tell you what it is I know. Further, 'monitoring my progress' simply means continual violations of that same 'privacy,' and multiplies the wrong done to me. You have no right to learn the extent of my knowledge, because that violates my right to 'privacy.' If I, or someone I know, is satisfied with what I have learned, that ought to be enough for you."
Please note: whoever you are, if a student says this to you (and is able to make it stick), you have no ability to serve as his teacher. His assertion of 'privacy' has eliminated your ability to teach him.
Anyone who has no moral competence to ascertain what a student has already learned, can not be that student's teacher. A teacher requires direct, specific knowledge of what a student has learned, in order to be able to assume the title of 'teacher.' A student who, by invoking a right to 'privacy,' makes it impossible for someone to have direct, specific knowledge of what the student has learned, has rendered that person unable to be called his 'teacher.'
Here we get to the crux of the extraordinary antagonism between the moral and sacramental preconceptions implicit in the Bishops Teaching Children method, and those of the current system of religious education.
The Bishops Teaching Children method begins with the assertion that the local church, and all its adult members in union with it, under its Sacred Pastor, are really, actually, the teachers of the Catholic children of the diocese. Which is to say, the local church, and all its adult members in union with it, under its Sacred Pastor, has the inherent right and duty to learn what each and every Catholic child in the diocese has learned about his faith, and to monitor his progress in that knowledge.
When a local church implements the Bishops Teaching Children method, then, consistent with justice and ordinary morality, and to the maximum extent possible, the religious knowledge of every single Catholic child in the diocese becomes a matter of public record.
A teacher can not be the teacher of a particular student, if - for whatever reason - he can not know what that student has already learned.
Yet, under the current system, neither the local ordinary nor the local church, either as a whole or in each of its members, can know what each child has learned about his faith, because having that knowledge would violate the student's 'right' to 'privacy.'
Thus, the current system of religious education denies, in practice if not theologically, the sacramental character of the whole local church, and all its members, under the apostolic authority of the bishop as the chief teacher, to be 'teacher' of 'all.'
At present, no local ordinary in the United States, let alone the local church in each of its members and as a whole, is even theoretically able to take responsibility for the outcomes of religious education in the diocese. It seems strange even to say it, but the purpose of religious education is not to conduct classes, purchase textbooks, and pay Directors of Religious Education. Its purpose is to teach each child in the diocese knowledge of his faith. Yet what each child in the diocese actually has learned about his faith - the crucial thing, the entire reason religious education is conducted in the first place - is not known, except by a few, regarding a few.
Absolutely no one in the diocese is, or even theoretically can be, responsible for the schooling of 'all' - lest 'privacy' be violated. Lest 'privacy' be violated, no one can be teacher of 'all.'
In vivid contrast to the present system, in which virtually no one has any 'business' inquiring into the religious knowledge of any particular child, lest the child's 'privacy' be violated, the Bishops Teaching Children method makes both the local ordinary as chief teacher, and all baptized adults of the diocese, moral agents in the religious education of the children of the diocese.
From a technical point of view, the Bishops Teaching Children method will work much better than the current system of religious education, because, as is well known by economists, increasing the 'transparency' of a complex social or economic system greatly improves outcomes, and the Bishops Teaching Children method massively increases transparency within a diocese's religious education.
Yet the fundamental reason for this radical transparency is that it directly expresses the local ordinary's apostolic authority to be chief teacher, and the whole local church's sacramental character under him, as 'teacher' of 'all.'
Children need to be protected from many things, but one of the things they need to be protected from is ignorance. Another thing they need to be protected from is the possibility that an adult may try to hide behind the need for children to be protected, to avoid being held accountable for his own performance.
'Privacy' is only a weak, secular substitute for the deeper underlying revealed reality, the inherent dignity of the human person. 'Privacy' is laudable when it protects that dignity. However, the Sacred Pastors should remember that abortion, the most extreme dismissal of the inherent dignity of the human person, is legal in the United States by a claim to 'privacy.'
'Privacy' makes it impossible for the local ordinary, and the whole local church under him, to be personally accountable as teacher of 'all.' 'Privacy' is a poor practical way to run a complex socio-cultural system, such as a system of religious education. Finally, 'privacy' appears to be only a weak secular substitute for a deeper underlying revealed reality.
Thus, 'privacy' appears to be a fundamentally misguided basis for the religious education of a local church's children.
To say it again, beyond the devastating practical consequences, beyond even the moral consequences, of the present 'private' conception of religious education, there is a sacramental consequence, even more serious. Under the current conception, in direct practical, if not theological, contradiction to sacramental reality, no one can be 'teacher' to 'all' - for, in order to teach, such a 'teacher' must know what 'all' have learned, and that would be against everyone's 'fundamental' right to 'privacy.'
At present, it simply doesn't occur to people, even bishops, that there really is a 'teacher,' the local church, under its chief teacher, the local ordinary, and that who is taught by that teacher is 'all.' For nearly everyone, that thought, if it even exists in consciousness, is just words, with no practical content.
In reality what everyone thinks is that religious education in a diocese is a fundamentally 'private' activity, with everything that notion implies.
Thus, whatever the ultimate practical merits of the Bishops Teaching Children method, it makes, for the present era, an extraordinary sacramental assertion, that must now forever be taken into account. The local church, and all its members, under its Sacred Pastor as chief teacher, exists. A diocese is not an agglomeration of people, children, families, or even parishes who 'privately' teach and are 'privately' accountable. Further, the truths of the faith are not even theoretically available for 'private' appropriation, but are 'handed on' in and through the very body of the local church in union with the whole Catholic Church. There is an 'all' to teach, that 'all' has a teacher, and the local church, and all its members, under the local ordinary as chief teacher, is that one authentic teacher.
One important corollary to this is that an educational institution, organization, or association, however venerable or respected, is only a tool to deliver a service. Thus, the 'creative destruction' encouraged by a competitive free market is morally acceptable within religious education, to the extent consistent with justice due human persons.
The Bishops Teaching Children method makes the assertion that, to the extent possible, religious education in a diocese must found not only its theories but also its practical operation in the sacramental mystery of the local church - and not in 'privacy,' good order, educational doctrine, or any other thing, except as subsidiary to it.
The sacramental unity and inherent teaching competence in Christ of all the faithful in the local church in union with the local ordinary and the whole Catholic Church must have the fullest possible practical expression in the religious education of all the children of the local church.
The Bishops Teaching Children method asserts that, whatever system of religious education a local ordinary employs, that system must express his apostolic authority as chief teacher of 'all,' as well as the sacramental character of the whole local church, and all its members, under him, as also teacher of 'all.'
Although children are co-responsible for their religious education, the Bishops Teaching Children method exists to hold adult, not childish, feet to the fire.
Regarding competitive markets, it is important to be specific about what one 'wants' - otherwise, one gets nothing in particular. Equally, when you unleash a free market, be careful what you want - you might get it.
By showing a Sacred Pastors how he can precisely define what he 'wants,' the Bishops Teaching Children method allows a bishop to use free-market competition to achieve his goals. The practical result of that market will then be a better and better teaching of exactly what he wishes to teach.
However, the Bishops Teaching Children method achieves this result by completely removing the term 'religious education' from any romantic or sanctified context.
According to the Bishops Teaching Children approach, religious education has no connection whatever either to 'catechesis' or to 'moral development,' except by the sacramental activity of the Lord himself through the Holy Spirit.
The phrase that the Bishops Teaching Children method uses to describe itself is 'humble as dirt.' 'Humble as dirt' is also the phrase the Bishops Teaching Children method uses to describe religious education.
No amount of religious education, however perfect, can make the Church. The Eucharist makes the Church [CCC 1396].
Moreover, by and large, morality is not the name of a 'subject' that can be taught in 'religion' class. As the classical moral theorists knew, moral development is largely caught, not taught, mostly shaped mediatively in and through daily social interactions of all kinds, and very little (though a little) by direct instruction.
So, 'religious education' is not education in spirituality (a task that only the Lord can assume, in and through the sacraments), and it is not education in 'morality.' Neither spiritual development nor moral development is the name of a 'subject' that can be taught in a 'religion' class.
The only job religious education can really do is give children intellectual knowledge of their faith.
On the other hand, once a bishop accepts the essential humility of religious education, then religious education can have a definite job, which the bishop can then ensure is done well.
Is It the Steam Engine of Our Day?
A bishop and his diocese can not use the Bishops Teaching Children method, until they value its elements, and value being able to use them.
Although Hero of Alexandria made and described a working steam turbine in the first century A.D., seventeen centuries before James Watt and the Industrial Revolution, it was regarded as a curiosity and not used for any practical purpose.
We have to notice that we need the Bishops Teaching Children method, before we can implement and use its elements.
We think that we don't 'need' the Bishops Teaching Children method, because what it could accomplish (the local ordinary personally directing and being responsible for religious education in his diocese) is considered impossible to begin with.
We don't think we need it, because an apparatus for religious education, one directly supported by American Catholic bishops, already exists.
Also, American bishops are by now very used to arguments that they would be fools to challenge the expertise of experts, and very probably, many bishops make the same arguments to themselves. Yet the Bishops Teaching Children method ignores, circumvents, and also perennially evaluates the entire present system, including the expertise of the current religious education experts.
In each diocese that implemented the elements of the Bishops Teaching Children method, the religious knowledge of each and every Catholic child in the diocese would be a matter of public record - forever. That fact alone would make it anathema to many Americans, including many local ordinaries.
The Bishops Teaching Children method is very much 'unneeded' by any who would prefer that a bishop not have much direct say in what American Catholic children are taught about their faith.
Probably even more important, anyone more or less happy with the religious education that exists, even if he is not particularly 'committed' to it in some ideological or theological sense, will presumably be unhappy with anything that would massively alter that schooling, such as the Bishops Teaching Children method.
Most likely, millions of American Catholic families do not 'need,' and do not even want, the Bishops Teaching Children method. They are relatively happy with the haphazard and undemanding religious education their children obtain now, they would be relatively likely to call strenuous academic learnings irrelevant to 'true' religious education, and they would be relatively likely to complain about any effort to increase either the time spent in 'religion class' or the academic content of that class.
The Bishops Teaching Children method, the how of it, will work, and would make Catholic religious education in the United States so much more effective and fair than it is now, that it would amount to a revolutionary increase in the effectiveness and fairness of that schooling.
Is the Bishops Teaching Children method the steam engine of our day? Yes, of course.
But is it the steam engine of James Watt's day, or of Hero of Alexandria's day?
Questions, Science, Competition
Our Problem, and A General Overview of the Three Elements
The story of a pedestrian crosswalk button and the tragedy of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss illustrate the two parts of Our Problem.
Part one: we prefer to think of ourselves as sailing through daily life thoughtfully, acting out of the loftiest motives - but in fact, virtually the exact opposite is true, and good religious education must take advantage of how we really are, rather than build on our pretensions.
Part two: Just as American educational ‘progressivists’ have in general, Catholic religious education 'experts' have failed us in the worst way, and have designed a kind of Thoughtworld in which any serious challenge to their ideas is, perhaps quite literally, inconceivable.
However, the key difficulty is not a particular educational ideology or a particular religious education bureaucracy, but our severely limited, and also fallen, human nature.
As noted in Chapter 3, many ordinary American Catholics seem to be relatively satisfied with current religious education. Also, if we believe what we read in local diocesan papers, Catholic schools are better than ever. Religious education bureaucrats are top-notch and hard-working, and bishops exercise their responsibility as chief teacher through their 'wonderful' support of those bureaucrats and that bureaucracy.
Most of the people in charge of American Catholic religious education (including bishops) seem to think that they are doing a good job, and they might be deeply offended by suggestions that the actual outcomes of religious education are not being well-monitored and, in any case, that religious education can even theoretically have only a minor actual connection to 'values education' and 'building the church.' Indeed, to those directly involved in Catholic religious education, such a suggestion might be so flabbergasting and offensive as to be literally unthinkable, simply beyond the pale of civilized discourse.
Even less thinkable might be the suggestion that the working principles of current religious education are at least practically, and perhaps even theologically, antagonistic to the sacramental reality of the local church and the apostolic authority of the local ordinary.
This is how people are. This is how life actually works. It is difficult to do even a little more than the customary thing. It is not automatic that we choose or even recognize a better idea, even when we have it handed to us on a silver platter.
'Experts' do not fail us because they are experts, but because they are men.
The Bishops Teaching Children method - Questions, Science, Competition - will work, for no exalted, lofty, or even very good reason, but it will work, for those few bishops and dioceses able to do a little more than the customary thing.
Bishops' Questions, answered by all students yearly, determine the extent of the children's current knowledge of the faith, Science evaluates what methods best helped students answer the Questions, and who used those methods, and Competition monetarily rewards the better methods, and monetarily punishes the inferior ones.
Then you re-set the bar to get an upward spiral. Now, whatever standard the established-'better' methods can reliably achieve becomes the minimum standard. Fall below that, and you start losing your shirt. Do even better than 'better,' and big goodies flow your way - until a competitor finds a way to improve even further.
One of the ways the Bishops Teaching Children method is very different from current American efforts at school 'reform' is its thoroughgoing emphasis on rewarding and punishing adults, rather than children.
The Bishops Teaching Children method says that if children a) show up, and b) do what you tell them, then they have completely fulfilled their responsibilities as students.
Defining 'standards' that can not reliably be achieved, given proper student effort, is a recipe for disaster. The Bishops Teaching Children method defines the minimum standard as what can reliably be achieved by the best current methods, and encourages higher standards to emerge as business competitors figure out how to achieve them. Thus the Bishops Teaching Children method creates a climate in which standards can indeed be raised over time, and yet remain continuously achievable with proper student effort.
The only way that circular or otherwise ineffective educational theories will lose, will be if they really lose - if people lose money or their jobs when they carry them out. Even a religious education professor or publisher knows how to count the money in his pocket.
In the Bishops Teaching Children method, bishops' Questions in effect define a judiciously chosen sequence of specific content. Abstract or generalized 'competition' will not improve schooling, but requiring methods to compete to teach the same good curriculum will.
Indeed, it is morally objectionable to have schools rather than methods compete, because a competition of schools creates a very inefficient and uncompetitive market. The practical result can only be weak, diffuse improvement, unevenly allocated.
Let families go to the school that is most convenient, and let the methods compete in a real market. That way, all families in all neighborhoods can reap the benefit of methods that a) have proved themselves against all comers and b) are continually pressured by a true competitive market to improve even further.
In the Bishops Teaching Children method, Competition between methods is locked tight to Scientific evaluation of those methods, which is locked tight to the methods' universal and sole focus on bishops' Questions. The radical interdependence of Questions, Science, and Competition is another very important concept that current reform efforts miss.
To the Bishops Teaching Children method, a 'good teacher' has only one definition: someone who delivers the curriculum set by the local ordinary using the objectively established best methods. When a diocese implements the Bishops Teaching Children method, a 'good teacher' abandons old practices in favor of new ones, as soon as (but not before) objective evidence warrants it.
The Bishops Teaching Children method has absolutely no opinion about educational methods. It does not know which method will turn out to be superior to rivals, joins no debate regarding 'progressive' or 'traditional' or any other pedagogy, and is totally incurious about why a particular method happens to work better than its competitors. All it cares about is funneling more money to the methods which - for whatever reason - help the children best learn exactly what the local ordinary wishes them to learn.
The Bishops Teaching Children method's complete lack of curiosity about educational methods of course also means that, when a local ordinary uses its methods and structure, he does not need to know a single thing about educational methods, either. He does not even have to be the least bit curious about them. He can be just as blankly incurious about educational theories and methods as the Bishops Teaching Children method itself.
The local ordinary never once need have an opinion on, or even wonder about, pedagogies, instructional materials, theories of cognition and learning, etc. All he needs to know is what he is sacramentally competent to know and to 'hand on' - the faith of the whole Catholic Church. All he needs to do is present the children with bishops' Questions and make sure the money reliably flows toward methods that do the best job of preparing the children to answer them.
The Bishops Teaching Children method really, actually allows the local ordinary to directly and personally exercise his sacramental and moral responsibility as chief teacher of the diocese - and it doesn't at all require that he turn himself into an educational 'expert.'
If he uses the Bishops Teaching Children method, educational 'expertise' is only necessary for people who want to figure out how to deliver to the children of his diocese the ability to answer his Questions.
In order to encourage stiff Competition based entirely on the better and better teaching of what the local ordinary wants taught, carefully selected Scientific samples of up to five percent per year of religious education in the diocese will use experimental methods proposed by business competitors.
This is a way to engineer in a bit of wild entrepreneurship, while maintaining responsibility to all students. In this way the worst abuses of 'expertise' can thereby be ameliorated, at least in part.
The Bishops Teaching Children method locks the entire religious education system in a diocese, especially including all methods, into 'wanting' to answer the bishops' yearly Questions, and locks the local ordinary into 'wanting' something specific enough - improved ability to answer his Questions - to make improvement through vigorous Competition among methods achievable.
The Bishops Teaching Children method is explicitly anti-progressivist regarding bishops' Questions. That is, for the Bishops Teaching Children method to exist, all bishops' Questions must have their basis in specific content, and in particular, in the specific content of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Bishops' Questions that are not consciously grounded in specific content will not elicit deeper thinking, but only encourage vagueness. Indeed, one of the fundamental and crucial differences between expert and novice thinking is that experts have command of a broad range of facts relevant to the particular case.
Two examples of Questions are given:
One of the sacraments is
By the sacrament of Holy Orders a man ordained a bishop becomes a minister who
As the sample Questions show, an amazing feature of the Bishops Teaching Children method is that every single incorrect answer a bishop writes will have the characteristic of being accidental or even material heresy. Thus, every single Question bishops write is an opportunity for the local ordinary not only to directly probe the understanding of all the children in the diocese, but also to directly defend, protect, and guide it.
This above all distinguishes the Bishops Teaching Children method from, for example, memorizing the Baltimore Catechism. The focus is entirely on answering bishops' Questions. Therefore, students must not only know what the answer is; they must also know what the answer is not. They must recognize that the distractors (incorrect answers) are distractors - incorrect, perhaps even materially heretical, responses. Questions automatically encourage teaching methods and materials that develop students' ability to see relationships and make distinctions, even when, as in the first sample Question, all a student must do is tell the difference between a sacrament and a sacramental.
Also, when they write Questions, bishops can certainly explicitly use them to defend and protect against heresies or misunderstandings common to the culture or the diocese. If an ordinary is aware that, because of cultural or other circumstances, a particular distractor might appear especially 'plausible,' he can certainly use it in a Question, and watch as Science and Competition help him reduce its intellectual plausibility with the children of his diocese over time.
Moreover, since Competition will be based directly on bishops' Questions, a local ordinary not only can keep careful track of the orthodoxy of student learning, he can virtually be guaranteed that continual efforts to improve the orthodoxy of student learning will be made by business competitors.
Given enough information, careful Science will even be able to let a bishop know if orthodoxy is being subverted in some way, and who is subverting it. It is likely that his willing partners in this ferreting-out will be educational publishers, who stand to lose financially if their programs are successfully subverted.
By using the elements of the Bishops Teaching Children method, a bishop is in direct control of and has direct responsibility for both the content and the orthodoxy of what Roman Catholic children in his diocese actually learn. In effect, a bishop, by asking Questions, monitoring with Science, and rewarding or punishing the methods of schooling through Competition, eliminates the middleman, and causes the creation of effective curriculums and texts for religious education. The Competitive process itself, and not any one person or expert, in effect creates the curriculums, texts, and methods the bishop thinks are best.
Almost as a mere side effect, the entire American Catholic religious education bureaucracy, both religious educators and theologians, is completely circumvented.
The Bishops Teaching Children method focuses all instruction in the diocese on answering bishops' Questions, based on the specific content of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 'Technical' arguments that specific content is not fundamental to intellectual understanding, or that elegant and probing multiple-choice tests can not be devised to measure that understanding, are progressivist, not scientific, exercises, and, even if true, do not justify a bureaucracy's continued existence.
'Religious' arguments that intellectual understanding is not the sole purpose of religious education are not 'religious' but progressivist, and therefore also scientifically naive and in practice harmful to learning. Again, even if the claim were true, it would not justify a bureaucracy's continued existence.
A claim that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is not a sound basis for bishops' Questions is refuted by the Catechism itself, as is a claim that a religious education expert or a theologian is better qualified than the local ordinary to 'hand on' the faith of the apostles.
Further, as will be explained further in the next chapter, the writing of 'good' Questions requires very little technical expertise in question-construction.
Thus, the local ordinary alone is sacramentally competent to direct the Bishops Teaching Children method, he possesses the practical competence necessary to direct it, and the Bishops Teaching Children method appears to be a technically and sacramentally sound method of exercising his apostolic authority and moral responsibility as chief teacher. Further, it appears that a bishop does not require either technical or theological assistance from the present religious education bureaucracy in order to use the methods and structure of the Bishops Teaching Children method.
Members of the current religious education bureaucracy would at best simply become individual competitors in a now level playing field. If they succeeded in such a climate, it would be solely because they happened to be the entrepreneurs best at doing exactly what the local ordinary desired.
Further, by using the elements of the Bishops Teaching Children method, a bishop and his diocese would cause the death of all vague, unsubstantiated religious education 'expertise,' and encourage genuine, measurable expertise to emerge regarding religious education in the diocese. Moreover, such expertise would emerge within a Competitive framework in which improvements always serve as the new minimum standard for further Competition.
The Bishops Teaching Children method gives everyone solidly coarse, trivial, unromantic, daily reasons to teach all the children of the diocese as much as possible about exactly what their bishop wishes them to learn.
Questions, Science, Competition
In keeping with the proper humility of religious education, Questions written by bishops are exclusively concerned with intellectual knowledge of the faith. Religious education must not pretend that it has competence either to judge or to directly develop any spiritual and moral qualities, but only intellectual ones.
Religious education's job is a humble one, but it is a humble job that it can do. Religious education can develop in students an intellectual understanding of the faith.
Furthermore, bishops' Questions can probe the nature and extent of that intellectual knowledge, especially if the Questions are put to students within a standardized multiple-choice format.
The term 'standardized' refers to a test in which the score is not dependent on who is doing the grading.
Multiple-choice tests, which can be machine-scored, are considerably cheaper to grade. In addition, for probing intellectual knowledge, good, standardized multiple-choice tests are considerably more reliable and more fair than most testing alternatives, and are at least as reliable and as fair as the most expensive testing methods.
The form of multiple-choice tests has nothing to do with whether they are relevant, probing, and deep.
All substantive objections to standardized multiple-choice tests have been answered by repeated and numerous scientific investigations.
Anti-testing advocates charge that multiple-choice tests
None of these charges holds up to scientific scrutiny.
The Broad Picture
1. On or about the feast of Pentecost each year, all Catholic children in the diocese - each and every one, in Catholic school or not - must take a multiple-choice standardized test, consisting of Questions written by a bishop of the Catholic Church, probing the extent of the student's intellectual knowledge of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
2. The test should be in four parts, corresponding to the four parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
3. On the test, all students, including the very youngest, must answer a series of progressively harder questions until they either 'test to failure' or establish that they have a defined adult minimum mastery of the matter of each of the four parts of the Catechism.
4. The test should be extensive enough that the amount of knowledge each child possesses of each part of the Catechism can be determined with good precision.
5. Every single Question must be written either by the local ordinary himself, or by another bishop of the Catholic Church, and it must be known by all that only bishops wrote the Questions. It must be absolutely clear to all that each and every Question resulted from the direct exercise of the episcopal office.
6. At least at present the Catechism of the Catholic Church must serve as the direct basis of all Questions, and no impulse to frame Questions to teach 'beyond' the Catechism should be indulged.
The rudiments of writing Questions
Criterion-referenced exams pre-define a minimum standard. This is the appropriate choice for the Bishops Teaching Children method.
That is, the writing of Questions must focus on ascertaining whether 'all' have demonstrably reached a reasonable minimum adult knowledge of the Catechism in all four of its parts.
The Bishops Teaching Children method is incurious about methods and curriculums, and only cares about the goal, adult minimal competence in the Catechism.
This is the proper sacramental foundation. No local ordinary need be an expert in curriculums or methods to use the Bishops Teaching Children method. He need not decide what is the 'appropriate' age to introduce certain subject matter. He need not even be curious about such things. However, by sacramental ordination and apostolic authority he is competent to 'hand on' what should be known and to monitor whether it is known, and that is exactly what he does in his yearly Questions.
A Bishop Must Determine Adult Minimal Competence, But Never a Curriculum
In the yearly Questions, therefore, all students, including the very youngest, must answer a series of progressively harder questions until they either 'test to failure' or establish that they have a defined minimum mastery of the matter of each of the four parts of the Catechism. This also presents Competitors with the most incisive climate for thorough Competition.
At best, a bishop who presumes to set a grade-by-grade curriculum is deferring to his own educational theory, or to that of his advisors, as if he or his advisors were some kind of privileged Competitor with special knowledge others lack. None of this has anything to do with 'handing on' the faith of the whole Catholic Church.
On the other hand, a bishop is qualified to 'hand on' that faith, and as chief teacher is authorized to monitor 'all' the children's intellectual knowledge of it. The whole purpose of their religious education to establish that they have attained minimally-competent adult knowledge in all four parts of the Catechism, and thus bishops' Questions should monitor that directly.
However, before becoming part of ongoing Competition, curriculums and methods should be checked for prima facie consistency with the Catechism.
A bishop must remain within his sacramental competence, even if the short term practicalities seem to argue against that.
Where to Begin
A bishop's focus should be on Questions that establish 'minimally competent' adult intellectual knowledge of the Catechism.
His Questions should focus on each of the Catechism's four parts: the profession of faith, the sacraments of faith, the life of faith, and prayer in the life of faith.
A bishop can begin to organize his Question writing, if he wishes, with reference to the 'In Brief' summaries at the end of each thematic unit of the Catechism.
Only the Bishop Can Determine the Definition of Minimal Competence
The Bishops Teaching Children method is at pains to emphasize this again and again: bishops alone are sacramentally competent to decide what 'adult minimal competence' in the Catechism is. When a bishop uses the Bishops Teaching Children method, he defines what 'adult minimal competence' in the Catechism is not only by what Questions he writes, but also by what percentage of persons that he would consider to be ‘minimally competent’ would answer each Question correctly.
Both steps are thus a direct exercise of the local ordinary’s apostolic authority and sacramental competence, and are not within the competence of any other human being except another bishop. Furthermore, the local ordinary, as the ordinary of the local church, typically exercises his apostolic authority and sacramental competence in this regard without encumbrance even from other bishops, though of course he may consult with them as he deems appropriate..
When Using the Bishops Teaching Children method, a Bishop Should Not Teach ‘Beyond’ the Catechism
Bishops' Questions can not engage in speculative exercises, however 'logical,' since these are not what bishops are charged to 'hand on.' The Bishops Teaching Children method should not be used for any other purpose than to 'hand on' the faith of the whole Catholic Church, not even to teach theology. The intrusion into the freedom of the faithful is otherwise too great.
Bishops' Questions should deal with all four parts of the Catechism to the exclusion of none, they should, taken as a whole and within each part, characterize a standard of knowledge which represents an adult level of minimal competence, the 'In Brief' summaries are obvious starting and reference points to this end, but notwithstanding the above, bishops should take due care to avoid Questions that depend on intellectual knowledge that is not part of the profession of the whole Catholic Church.
Bishops Do Not Need Advanced Technical Training Before They Can Write Questions
Faithfully 'handing on' what the Catechism teaches in all four of its parts, and opposing heresies with all their might, provide bishops with a more than adequately sophisticated task.
Trial and error will produce 'good' Questions.
Sampling, Rather Than Encompassing, Student Knowledge
Examinations such as bishops' Questions do not actually measure the overall knowledge that a particular student has. Instead, they sample that knowledge.
Thus, yearly Questions do not ask students to tell the local ordinary everything they know about the faith. The point is to ask a relatively small number of Questions that provide a reasonably accurate estimate of each student's overall knowledge. Ask too many Questions, and you will tire the students unduly. Ask too few, and the precision of your estimate of their knowledge degrades.
A ‘Bad’ Question is Simply One That Does Not Distinguish One Student From Another
That being so, every single Question has to mean something. They all have to count. Each and every Question has to help you estimate whether a student has mastery, or does not. Thus, a 'bad' Question is simply one that nearly all students answer in the same way.
It doesn't matter if everyone gets the Question wrong or right. The point is, if everyone is answering it the same way, the Question does not help you distinguish students who know the material from those who don't. The Question does not improve your ability to estimate whether a student has mastery. Therefore, it is a 'bad' Question.
The Recommended Form for Bishops’ Questions
God thinks that you are worthy of <------- STEM
a. all the ice cream you can eat <------ Response
b. good grades without even studying <------ Response
c. happiness with him in heaven <------ Response
Each Question is typed separately on a single sheet of paper, with the correct Response appearing in boldface, or underlined, or otherwise clearly marked. Below the Question, the section or sections in the Catechism that the Question references should be indicated. Any other specifically relevant comments (for example: "Response a. is the Arian heresy.") should also be briefly noted. Finally, the name of the bishop who wrote the Question should be given.
Each written Question (obviously, the Question alone, without any indication of the correct answer and without the supporting documentation) is then given to a Scientifically-relevant small sample of children, whose responses to it tell the bishop whether it is a 'good' or 'bad' Question (as was outlined above). All the pages with 'good' Questions are then assembled into a master set, from which each yearly set of Questions is prepared.
Little Children and Testing to Adult Minimal Competence
How can we expect little children to answer Questions that are referenced to the intellectual knowledge displayed by a minimally-competent adult?
In brief, the answer is trial and error. A bishop just has to keep writing Questions until he writes enough that clearly distinguish the knowledge of one first-grader - and one twelfth-grader- from another.
Bishops, Writing Questions
Any bishop has the sacramental competence to write a Question. One bishop, desirous of using the Bishops Teaching Children method, could - probably must - enlist the support of many of his brother bishops around the world in order to develop enough Questions to implement and use it.
Indeed, there is no reason that the Holy Father himself could not write a Question or two.
One could well ask if any current system of Catholic religious education anywhere, would so clearly represent the sacramental character and apostolic authority of the local ordinary in union with the universal episcopate, or the sacramental character of the local church in union with the whole Catholic Church, as this yearly Pentecostal giving of Questions to 'all' the children of the local church.
Questions, Science, Competition
It is imperative that the Scientist and his staff have absolutely no other connection with any person or organization who might profit from the evaluations.
Therefore it is suggested that any Scientist or Science staff member hired by the local church and the local ordinary be able to establish that he has had no business connection with persons or organizations Competing for religious education funds for the previous five years.
It is further suggested that diocesan Science employees who leave are 'contaminated' for five years after their employment ends and can not be hired by Competitors, or otherwise the Competitors are banned from Competition for five years.
The chief Scientist functions first of all as a psychometrician, a specialist in test design and evaluation, then as a specialist in research design, so that Competitors can be evaluated fully and fairly, and then as the scientific editor and principal writer of a yearly publication that is part scientific journal and part Consumer Reports (the independent magazine that evaluates consumer products, published by a non-profit organization which accepts no advertising or other gratuities from manufacturers).
(Although the term 'the' Scientist - one person - will be used here for convenience, in practice a small number of different people may do different parts of the job of 'the' Scientist. For instance, a psychometrician is probably needed only during times when Questions are being written and tests prepared and evaluated.)
Although only a bishop may write Questions, a psychometrician's help is needed to assemble a Scientifically valid set of Questions for each year.
Beyond assisting in assembling the yearly set of Questions, the principal business of the 'in house' Science of the Bishops Teaching Children method is the production of a yearly Report. The Report will consist of four major parts.
1. A summary for lay readers. This section should be similar to the reports on products in the independent consumer magazine, Consumer Reports. It should summarize in an accessible format the success of the various competitions.
First, it should identify all 'unsafe' Competitors. 'Unsafe' Competitors are those who, compared to other Competitors, did a grossly inferior job after one year, or a substantially inferior job after two years, of preparing the children of the local church to answer bishops' Questions. All 'unsafe' Competitors should be identified. None of the local church's money should flow toward them in succeeding years.
Second, where possible, it should answer the question, which Competitors bring children to adult minimal competence in the Catechism?
Third, it should identify any parishes (or dioceses) that subtracted value from religious education by having results substantially inferior to others that were otherwise similar in make-up and in the methods used.
Fourth, it should state the results of any sub-Competitions, in which the local ordinary has rivals Compete to better achieve some important sub-goal of the overall goal of the Bishops Teaching Children method (bringing 'all' to adult minimal competence in the Catechism).
2. A technical summary of the methods used to evaluate the results of Competitions, sub-Competitions, and any informal competitions involving adults, such as those mentioned just above, and the specific quantitative results of each evaluation.
3. Raw data regarding each Competitor at least sufficient to provide knowledgeable readers, and Competitors, with enough information to be able to check the Scientist's work.
4. The 'Competitors' Forum' section. This is the section in which Competitors get to complain that they were not evaluated fairly, or otherwise suggest objective improvements to the methods of evaluation. Naturally, Competitors also get to challenge the objectivity and scientific validity of any other Competitor's complaints.
Each pastor in every parish should also be supplied with a list of the performance of each child and each religious education class in his parish. Similarly, each family should be given information about the religious knowledge of its own children.
Transparency, A Sign of Catholic Optimism
In any event, even apart from the yearly Report and the separate localized reports sent to pastors and families, all raw data must be made permanently and conveniently available to all. All should have convenient and permanent access to all information collected by the Bishops Teaching Children method, and at no or modest cost. This 'transparency' is an essential component of the Bishops Teaching Children method, and is fundamental to its expression of the sacramental character of the local church as 'teacher' of 'all.'
In the Bishops Teaching Children method, Competitors use identifiable methods to advance the intellectual knowledge of large numbers of children regarding exactly the same subject matter, with all the information gathered a matter of public record and readily available to anyone who wants it. This combination of circumstances creates an impressively congenial climate for sound scientific investigation of many important matters related to schooling.
However, the steady, unflagging optimism which the Bishops Teaching Children method shows in its humble 'transparency' toward any and all 'out of house' scientific investigation is not founded on optimism about science, or even on optimism about human nature, but solely on the Lord.
Can the Yearly Reports Even Exist? ‘Privacy’ vs. Transparency
Within 'privacy,' everything is ultimately divided into the non-intrusive, and the intrusive. Non-intrusive is always good, and intrusive is always bad. It would seem then that, according to 'privacy,' the radical transparency of the Bishops Teaching Children method is very, very intrusive, and therefore, very, very bad.
However, it is ironic that someone who wanted to defeat the ideas of the Bishops Teaching Children approach by using an argument from 'privacy' would be unable to do so.
Only one thing would be required: that all the participants in the Bishops Teaching Children method make a 'private' decision to be transparent!
Thus, requiring the signing of a legally sound version of the following would probably be more than sufficient to defeat any argument from 'privacy':
As the parent/legal guardian of the student registering for religious education in this diocese, I hereby acknowledge that regular diocesan examinations are an intrinsic part of this schooling, and agree that any and all scores my child makes on the diocesan examinations, associated with his/her name, age, and parish, are the property of the diocese, and will become a matter of public record, at the sole discretion of the diocese.
Each family would make a 'private' decision to be transparent, and that would be that.
The radical transparency fundamental to the Bishops Teaching Children method need not offend 'privacy.' A Sacred Pastor can, without offending 'privacy,' express his true pastoral mission, by teaching 'all' 'as much as possible' about the faith.
In keeping with the legal structures of our time and place, he simply asks families to 'trade' the 'private' information needed to keep the Bishops Teaching Children method radically transparent, for the 'benefit' of religious education. Once all the participants in the Bishops Teaching Children method make a 'private' decision to be transparent, 'privacy' is fully satisfied!
At the same time, the local ordinary carefully guards the true dignity of 'all,' not only by helping them to learn 'as much as possible,' but also by ensuring that what 'all' learn within an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method is limited to intellectual knowledge of the Catechism.
For in fact, any actions a local church takes to teach, which do not clearly express its sacramental character, do indeed put human dignity at risk. It would be right to use 'privacy's' worst epithet against those actions: they are 'intrusive.' Outside of the context of its sacramental character, a local church has no business inquiring into the intellectual knowledge of even one person.
Therefore, the local ordinary should reserve the subject matter taught and monitored within an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method solely to the intellectual knowledge of the faith the local church professes in union with the whole Catholic Church.
Why We Should Not Fear Transparency
The radical transparency of the Bishops Teaching Children method guarantees - engineers in - an intrinsic unpredictability. There will be unexpected dangers and challenges associated with using the Bishops Teaching Children method. There may also be unexpected large benefits.
No local ordinary who wants to control the process of religious education (rather than its outcome), will find the Bishops Teaching Children method congenial to his purpose.
Similarly, no local ordinary will have much love for the Bishops Teaching Children method, if he would rather not deal with strong and yet unexpected challenges, even attacks, on the basis of the additional power which its 'transparency' will provide everyone - the faithful, bureaucracies, all friends and all enemies of the local church or the whole Catholic Church, and etc.
Whatever the costs, these should primarily be balanced, not against equally unpredictable benefits, both present and future, but against whether the Bishops Teaching Children method is or remains the best practical method of expressing the local church's sacramental character and responsibility, under its local ordinary as chief teacher, to teach 'all' its children intellectual knowledge of the faith it professes in union with the whole Catholic Church.
The basis for the Bishops Teaching Children method's unflagging optimism about the ultimate consequences of its 'transparency' is not founded on the supposed benevolence of a pluralist society, or even on the supposed individual sanctity or consummate wisdom of each baptized member of the local church, but only on the Lord, who himself has given the local church the mission to teach 'all,' and therefore, the duty to know what 'all' have learned about the faith the local church professes in union with the whole Catholic Church.
'In house' Science
Real, Not Ideal, Competition
The Bishops Teaching Children method systematically replaces the word 'best' with the phrase, 'better than current rivals.' Thus, for the Bishops Teaching Children method, there are no 'tried and true' methods and curriculums. Every single method and curriculum is forever 'experimental,' radically provisional.
Nor is any method or curriculum ever measured against a theoretical ideal. Each method and each curriculum survives or falls, lives or dies, on the basis of head-to-head competition against actual, practical, current rivals, and on that basis alone.
Long-Term Efficacy is the Sole Interest
The Bishops Teaching Children method defines the sole goal of religious education to be adult minimal competence in the Catechism. Thus, yearly Competition is only preliminary Competition.
Establishing each Competitor's relative ability to effect adult minimal competence in the Catechism is the sole purpose of the 'in house' Science of the Bishops Teaching Children method, especially since short-term success does not necessarily predict long-term effectiveness.
On the other hand, there are strong reasons to think that short-term failure usually does accurately predict long-term ineffectiveness.
The Science of the Bishops Teaching Children method is concerned not only with efficacy but also about safety. A method or curriculum that is markedly ineffective compared with its Competitors after one year may not be safe.
However, there could conceivably be methods that look ineffective in the short term, which are actually superior in the long term.
In the interests of protecting the children, it is not too much to mandate that any programs that are grossly inferior to their current rivals after one year, should receive no more funding, and that programs which are substantially but more modestly inferior after two years should also be given the ax.
Thus single-year Scientific evaluations are performed not to establish efficacy, but to monitor safety. Yearly evaluations exist solely to weed out any grossly inferior programs as quickly as possible.
Ultimately, long-term efficacy is the only thing the Bishops Teaching Children method cares about. Long-term efficacy is also the Bishops Teaching Children method's ultimate definition of 'safety.' Nonetheless, the Bishops Teaching Children method also cares about short term safety, and monitoring that is the real purpose of the yearly Scientific evaluations.
Why the Science Element is Necessary
A score on an examination is a fact. However, that fact by itself does not tell us what it means, nor what we should do about it. Specifically, should we stop the local church's religious education money from flowing to a Competitor because of that fact? Should we reward a Competitor with additional funding because of it? A score on an examination does not tell us this, nor are common sense approaches to such questions necessarily adequate. Indeed, common sense approaches may lead to grossly inaccurate evaluations in some cases.
Considerations like these provide one more reason why the Bishops Teaching Children method has three elements. Competition is locked tight to Scientific evaluation of students' answers to bishops' Questions. All three elements of the Bishops Teaching Children method are essential to its existence.
Religious education in a diocese is subject to many difficulties Rather than resort to despair, a priori and unevaluated techniques and theories, or the formation of a bureaucracy, a diocese could allow rivals to Compete to alleviate them. These are sub-Competitions.
As long as all of them also remained resolutely part of the Bishops Teaching Children method; that is, as long as they all remained locked exclusively on achieving adult minimal competence in the Catechism for 'all,' as demonstrated by answers to bishops' Questions, and as long as the short term safety measures outlined above were observed, a local church could certainly encourage such sub-Competitions if it wished.
Methods of Organization and Administration Must Also Compete
Religious education, like all education, will have methods of organization and administration. If separable from other religious education costs, the Scientific Report must view these methods of organization and administration as separate 'Competitors', and determine how relevant they are to increasing the children's knowledge of their faith.
If it is Scientifically not possible to 'unbundle' the different specific Competitors that are used, then the Scientist lists them as a single, bundled Competitor, for example, "Sister Jane (paid administrator) plus Textbook X."
The Bishops Teaching Children method does not want the organizational and administrative costs of religious education to be hidden, or simply assumed. As far as possible, organizational and administrative methods also must be subject to inexorable Competition, based not only on cost, but also on whether the children learn more as a result of using those methods.
The Yearly Report
First Part: 'Safe' and 'Unsafe'
In the first part, the Scientist will describe the results of informal competitions (for example, between both parishes and dioceses, as described above). In addition, he will identify any Competitors that are grossly inferior to the others after one year, and any that are substantially if more modestly inferior to rivals after two years of evaluation. These Competitors are the ones to receive no funding in future years.
After that, unless he can compare Competitors on the basis of their long term efficiency at bringing students to adult minimal competence in the Catechism, he should sit tight and do no further evaluation of Competitors, except regarding any sub-Competitions authorized by the local ordinary.
Specifically, the Scientist should not rate Competitors on their short term results, if these Competitors have met the standards for safety described above. All safe Competitors should receive no short term evaluation by the Scientist.
‘Survivors’ Can Only Be Measured Against Other ‘Survivors’
Once a Competitor has established long term efficacy (is a 'survivor'), it can no longer be measured against any Competitor who had not done the same. A Competitor who had established long term efficacy is 'safe' by a standard higher than any standard available over the short term.
Therefore, a 'survivor' can only be deemed 'unsafe' if it is grossly inferior to other 'survivors.'
On the other hand, 'survivors' should form part of the pool of Competitors by which short term safety is measured.
One important aspect of the first part of the yearly Report will be the listing of the per-pupil cost of each 'safe' Competitor. (If a parish uses 'mixed' methods that can not readily be separated, the total per-pupil cost is listed.) The radical fiscal transparency shown in Chapter 7 to be an equally valid aspect of the general radical transparency of the Bishops Teaching Children method will give the Scientist ready access to this information.
Second Part: Technical Methods and Results
In a second and technical part of the yearly Report, the Scientist will explain his methods and give the specific quantitative results of each evaluation. For instance, he will define how he establishes who might be a 'grossly inferior' Competitor compared to current rivals.
Whatever evaluative methods he chooses, the Scientist should make a very large distinction between substantial differences between Competitors, and merely statistically significant differences between them. 'Substantial' differences are statistically significant differences that matter.
Competitors within an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method should not gain or lose business on the basis of measurable but trivial differences.
It is essential that the Scientist keep his evaluative focus on 'substantial' rather than merely statistically significant differences between Competitors.
Third Part: Enough Facts
In the third part of the yearly Report, the Scientist will include raw data regarding each Competitor at least sufficient to provide knowledgeable readers, and Competitors, with enough information to be able to check the Scientist's work.
Fourth Part: Competitors' Forum
The fourth part of the yearly Report is called 'Competitors' Forum,' and it is essential. This is the section in which Competitors get to complain that they were not evaluated fairly, or otherwise suggest objective improvements to the methods of evaluation. Naturally, Competitors also get to challenge the objectivity and scientific validity of any other Competitor's complaints.
The Scientist is the Umpire, and the Umpire is Always Right
The Scientist functions like the umpire in a baseball competition. Each year, he has to choose which existing scientific techniques to use in order to do the evaluations in the yearly Report. He is the umpire. He calls a Competitor Out, or Safe, and, just as in baseball, his decision must be irreversible. If the Scientist calls you Out, you're Out. Everyone knows that arguing with the ump can result in ejection from competition.
The Scientist will consistently apply the evaluative methods he chooses, so that all Competitors will be judged by the same standards. However, even after standards are defined explicitly and applied consistently, the questions remains: are those standards really the best ones?
Competitors' Forum Provides Long-Term Review
In the 'Competitors' Forum,' the Scientist in effect serves as the editor of a scientific journal written by Competitors, in which the pros and cons of various evaluative methods are laid out and debated by those Competitors.
Why Peer-Review of the Competitors’ Forum Won’t Work
Peer review of articles written for the 'Competitors' Forum' is impossible. By explicit definition, the Scientist is the 'umpire' of the Competition, and therefore is by definition not the peer of any Competitor. The Scientist of the local church in a real sense is 'peerless.'
Also, Competitors are not peers. They are direct business rivals, and, however intense any competition among scientists may become, the difference between a scientific 'peer' and a direct business rival remains immense. It is ridiculous, and therefore dangerous, to pretend that these rivals are not 'really' such, and can therefore be 'objective,' and act as 'peers.'
Why the Scientist's Judgments Must Be Irreversible
In baseball, an umpire's decisions on balls and strikes for example, are irreversible, not because anyone expects him to be infallible, but because otherwise teams would argue endlessly about every pitch, while certainly always being by definition in a less 'objective' position than the umpire.
The parallel to the Bishops Teaching Children method is exact. The Scientist is 'right' every time, not because he is infallible, but because Competition would otherwise quickly devolve into an endless series of claims and counter-claims by Competitors, who by definition stand to gain more from a particular outcome than the Scientist.
Since these days, especially when money and children are involved, we are so very prone to resort either to claims of infallibility, or to relativism and hired 'experts,' it perhaps can not be emphasized enough: neither of these often-employed cultural models will do, if an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method is to survive. The Scientist must be the umpire. He must make his non-infallible evaluations, and they must stand, irreversible and unchallenged. Otherwise the Bishops Teaching Children method itself grinds to a halt and evaporates into the chaos of 'modern' life.
Thus, just as parents, prior to participating in the local church's religious education, must sign a release which has the effect of guaranteeing the Bishops Teaching Children method's transparency, all Competitors, prior to Competing, must agree in writing that the evaluations in each year's Report are final, unchallengeable, and irreversible. As a pre-condition of Competing, all Competitors must agree that the Scientist of the local church is the umpire of the Competition.
Not Direct Challenge, But Long-Term Review
However, the methods by which the Scientist arrives at his evaluations, while therefore never subject to direct challenge or to reversal, must always be subject to long term review.
Providing this long term review is the fundamental purpose of the 'Competitors' Forum.' By means of it Competitors force the Scientist, and any other interested reader, to at least read both their objections to his methods, and their proposals for improvements to them.
In spite of their natural tendency to present biased complaints and analyses, Competitors may become aware that arguments which appear 'reasonable' or 'objective' or 'unbiased' have a greater tendency to be adopted in future Reports. They may also become aware that Competitive rivals may well challenge, in the same 'Competitors' Forum,' any arguments submitted which those rivals see as arguing for unfair advantages or as special pleading.
The 'Competitors' Forum' is a rough-and-ready, unpredictable, messy, and uncertain part of the yearly Report, and of the Bishops Teaching Children method. Nonetheless, it is an essential part. It alone provides an explicit forum for ongoing, long-term review of the evaluative methods employed by the Scientist of the local church.
Supervising the Entry of 'Untried' Competitors
Beyond the production of the yearly Report, what remains for the Scientist to do every year is to supervise the allocation of all untried 'experimental' Competitors.
These are the untried Competitive methods and curriculums, tested only for prima facie adherence to the faith, which no more than five percent of parishes try each year. The Scientist must decide how to assign these new Competitors to parishes in the diocese, how many parishes or classes need to be involved to provide results of sufficient technical precision and validity, and so forth.
The Bishop Must Determine the Balance Between Risk and Reward
However, by definition, no one can know how effective an untried Competitor will be. Therefore, the local church should of course build in a proper element of risk to the yearly experimental Competition. First of all, untried Competitors should provide all experimental materials and services free of charge. At the very least, the local church should not pay to have itself experimented on. Moreover, this adds an additional level of financial risk to the Competitor.
If too many unsafe experimental Competitors regularly emerge, a local church may decide that experimental Competitors must be culled for safety after only half a year or even sooner, rather than a year. A Scientist could certainly also drastically limit the number of children involved in any one 'experimental' Competitive method or curriculum, such that only large improvements might reliably be detected, but fewer children were exposed to potentially 'unsafe' Competitors.
If a local church wanted to further discourage crackpots, it could, for example, require all 'experimental' Competitors to post a bond, with the funds to be returned to them if their methods proved to be not grossly inferior to rivals.
In other words, a local church can legitimately decide how to strike a balance between rewarding ambition and punishing foolhardiness.
Nonetheless, a local church, the local ordinary, and the Scientist of the local church may not reject any Competitor a priori, once that Competitor has established a prima facie case to teach nothing contrary to the faith. Such a priori rejections require the local church to 'canonize' some theory about teaching methods, and this never expresses the local church's sacramental character as 'teacher.'
The explicitly 'experimental' part of the Bishops Teaching Children method is the essential Wild Card in its inexorable Competition. It reduces the opportunity for any Competitor, or any group of them, to rest on previous laurels, and allows any (by definition, unexpected) Dr. Semmelweisses a chance to emerge, to Compete, and therefore, to help the children learn.
Questions, Science, Competition
Let the market rule.
The Bishops Teaching Children method does focus that Competitive market. The Bishops Teaching Children method, not the market, specifies what is 'wanted': increased ability of 'all' to answer bishops' Questions. It, not the market, specifies the test and the Science by which Competitors are judged. However, within that context, the principle always applies: Let the market rule.
The Bishops Teaching Children method is not only naturally but also robustly built to do business. That is, its success does not hinge on the invention of some amazing new accounting system or business practice.
Nonetheless, the local ordinary, with the local church, and the business people he asks to help, need to thoroughly understand the business of the Bishops Teaching Children method itself. For an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method to work, both the buyer, and sellers, must each know their own 'business,' and also absolutely must stay out of each other's 'business.'
One of the most distinctive features of the Bishops Teaching Children method from a business perspective is its utter lack of focus on sellers.
To the contrary, the current system of religious education is heavily focused on what sellers should look like and what they should do. The 'professionalization' of religious education, defined as making sure that sellers possess certain kinds of training and certain kinds of credentials, proceeds apace.
One might say that the present system systematically confuses the missions of catechesis and moral development with religious education.
However, this confusion severely misrepresents, if it does not actively deny, the actual situation. The Church's union with her Lord is in and through the sacraments. The Eucharist makes the Church. Further, moral development is largely a mediative task of all adults and all institutions, since by and large, morality is caught, not taught. The body, the intellect, and the will are engaged and formed morally largely in normal social interactions, not especially above all in a 'religion' class.
Thus the current system of religious education inaccurately and romantically glorifies both the task, and those who perform the task.
Further, the Bishops Teaching Children method points out that bishops alone are sacramentally competent and have the apostolic authority to 'hand on' the faith of the universal Catholic Church, and devises a method by which the Sacred Pastors can do just that, directly and accountably.
The Bishops Teaching Children method also points out that bishops have no sacramental competence whatever regarding how religious education ought to be conducted. Any focus on sellers by bishops automatically relies on a priori theories, about the technical details of schooling and a whole host of other practical matters, which have no sacramental basis, and thus manufactures out of thin air competencies a bishop simply does not have.
The creation of a new kind of buyer of religious education is the essence of the Bishops Teaching Children method's Competitive innovation. When a local ordinary with his diocese uses the Bishops Teaching Children method, together they become an extremely focused, well-informed, and self-disciplined buyer. By using the Bishops Teaching Children method, the local ordinary with his diocese becomes a buyer that knows exactly what it wants, exactly how close it is to getting it, and that insists on allowing money to flow only to those Competitors who do a better and better job of helping it get exactly what it wants.
In the United States today, there already is a substantial market in religious education. Substantial sums of money are already flowing based on decisions about religious education. Professorships of religious education are funded or not, "professional catechetical personnel" are hired or not, particular religious education texts are purchased or not. A market in religious education already has been created, and in fact, it is substantial.
So, what the Bishops Teaching Children method actually 'creates' is not a market for religious education, but a new kind of extremely focused, well-informed, and self-disciplined buyer of religious education.
That new buyer is interested in only one thing: making the money flow solely to Competitors who are better than other current Competitors at giving 'all' the children of the diocese the knowledge they need to be able to answer bishops' Questions.
That new buyer, then, is not interested in preserving the employment either of professors of religious education or of "professional catechetical personnel," nor is it interested in preserving the businesses of existing religious education publishers. Indeed, beyond the requirements of ordinary morality, which must apply to relations with every person or business entity, the Bishops Teaching Children method is inherently, constitutionally, not interested in - not even curious about - sellers.
Within an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method, there is in the end only one buyer - the local ordinary as chief teacher of the local church as a whole - and only subsidiarily can there be other buyers, such as parishes or families.
The 'business' of that buyer is to care about bringing 'all' the children of the diocese to adult minimal competence in the Catechism, by allowing money to flow only to the better Competitors. That is his business, he must stick to it and to it alone, and he should stay entirely out of Competitors' business, or the children automatically suffer.
Within an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method, every adult who makes money to provide religious education is, pure and simple, an entrepreneur, a Competitor, with all the rights any Competitor enjoys, but no more than those. There are no 'privileged' Competitors who are evaluated by special standards not applicable to rivals.
If a local church and its local ordinary use the Bishops Teaching Children method, then all the local church's monies devoted to the religious education of children should flow solely to those Competitors who are demonstrably better at bringing children to adult minimal competence in the Catechism.
None of that money should flow to certain pre-existing 'privileged' Competitors, with 'credentials' or not, with 'experience' or not, simply so that they can continue to keep their jobs.
If monies continue to flow to Competitors who, for whatever reason, are substantially inferior to rivals, then the children of the diocese automatically suffer. Allowing this to happen inevitably amounts to protecting the livelihoods of adults, at the expense of children.
All adults within any implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method deserve the protections of justice and ordinary morality: the protections of contracts and agreements.
However, according to the Bishops Teaching Children method, all the children of the local church deserve the fierce, overwhelming protection that mothers give their own children. The Bishops Teaching Children method exists to protect, with a mother's overwhelming ferocity, all the children of the local church from ignorance, by subjecting all responsible adults to the fierce discipline of the market.
When a local church under its ordinary uses the Bishops Teaching Children method, he and it commit themselves to the 'creative destruction' engendered by a competitive free market. Within such a market, businesses will fail. People - very possibly, nice people - will lose their jobs. Other businesses will succeed, and other people will gain jobs. All these, however, are risks and rewards borne by adults.
From the perspective of the chief teacher of the local church, what is the purpose of this ferocious competition? To protect the children ferociously.
Let the market rule.
In the United States, racially and ethnically diverse low-income Catholic children may have massive disadvantages in their quest to attain adult minimal competence in the Catechism. Their parishes may have less money to spend on their religious education, and their general academic preparation may - not by their fault - be inferior to Catholic children from more privileged backgrounds.
The Bishops Teaching Children method is completely and perennially incurious about how to solve such a problem. To repeat what needs to be repeated forever, until it is truly understood, determining how to solve such a problem is - literally - none of the bishop's business, and - literally - is the business of Competitors.
Thus, even though he is the chief teacher of his diocese, the local ordinary has absolutely no theories about how to allocate resources to solve this problem. It is forever beyond both a bishop's practical competence, and especially, it is forever beyond his sacramental competence, to 'know' how such a problem can be ameliorated or solved.
A problem like this one is a model prospect for the kind of sub-Competition briefly discussed in Chapter 6. If a diocese had sufficient funds and wished to, it could try a sub-Competition to help it determine how best to solve or at least ameliorate the problem.
The one thing the local ordinary must not do is to try to 'solve' the problem himself. That is none of his business. His business is not to solve problems, but to define them crisply, evaluate Competitive responses sharply, and resolutely let the money flow to Competitors demonstrably better at solving them.
In a way, the 'business' of the local ordinary, and the whole local church under him, within an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method, is to be very, very smart about what he wants, very, very smart about knowing whether he has what he wants, and very, very dumb - to the point of being completely uninterested - about how to get what he wants.
Let the market rule.
Suppose the following situation. Some years after a diocese first uses the Bishops Teaching Children method, two Competitors are 'survivors.' They have established long term efficacy, but let us further suppose that both 'survivors' are of substantially similar quality. In addition, four other Competitors have established that, short term, they are 'safe;' that is, they are at least as good as the 'survivors,' and not substantially worse than the other short term rivals.
In this case, the ordinary knows about two 'survivors' (Competitors with proven long term efficacy) of essentially similar quality. Let's suppose that both Survivor A and Survivor B bring about 30% of eighth-graders, and about 50% of twelfth-graders, to adult minimal competence in the Catechism.
These are the only two Competitors who have established long-term efficacy. Since this is the one thing the local church really cares about, it definitely wants to spend at least some of its money on the two 'survivors.'
However, as long as at least one of the 'survivors' was left standing, the local church could care less if the other went out of business. Why should it? With either Survivor, it gets about the same outcome.
Does the savvy consumer detect here the possibility of a tiny bit of competition on price arising as a result?
At the same time, the ordinary knows of four Competitors that certainly seem to be fine, compared both to the 'survivors' and to each other, but none of them have established long term efficacy. One or more of these Competitors may eventually emerge as vastly superior to either of the two 'survivors' in terms of long term efficacy, but it's just too early to tell if that will happen.
The following three things can happen to these Competitors.
Actually, one other thing can happen to one, or all, of these Competitors.
If this possibility occurs, the local ordinary never learns if one or more of these Competitors could have become a 'survivor' equal or superior to the current ones. These Competitor 'deaths,' which were 'premature' in terms that matter to the local church, reduce the odds that the schooling of 'all' the children of the diocese will improve, or that competition on price will become more vigorous.
Why in the world should the local ordinary and the local church under him want to reduce the odds that the schooling of 'all' the children of the diocese will improve, or the odds that competition on price will become more vigorous?
In practical terms, the ordinary wants to buy at least some known baseline competence. He wants to keep the known baseline competence 'alive.' After all, as far as he knows, all of the short term 'safe' Competitors may eventually falter, and 'die' a natural death. An ordinary definitely wants to bet some of his diocese's money on the sure thing.
However, the ordinary does not care about the 'survivors' per se. He only cares if at least one of the 'survivors' remains in business, until definitely defeated in a fair fight by some other 'survivor.'
On the other hand, the ordinary does care about preserving the 'lives' of all of the currently 'safe' short term Competitors. That increases the chances that the schooling of 'all' the children of the diocese will improve even further, and that competition on price will become even more vigorous.
So, the ordinary also wants to bet at least enough of his diocese's money to keep all of the short term 'safe' Competitors at least minimally 'alive,' so that he can continue to collect more information about them.
One practical way to work this out is to poll all the parishes about their preferences.
The buying rationality of individual parishes, expressed as they state their preferences for one or the other of the 'safe' Competitors, thus is given primary, but not necessarily ultimate, voice.
This is the right way to honor the Catholic principle of solidarity. The buying preferences of individual parishes are rational. There is no reason to suppose that parishes are not rational on their own terms. Within any implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method, the buying rationality of parishes should always be given primary, but not necessarily ultimate, voice.
Parishes have reasons to prefer one 'safe' Competitor to another. For instance, they may want to stick with the particular 'safe' Competitor they are already using, whose methods are already familiar (and whose books are already bought). As can be seen, a parochial reason to prefer a particular Competitor is far from necessarily arbitrary or irrational; and expressing a parochial preference can even be helpful to the religious instruction of the children in the parish.
Then, after polling the parishes, only
then the ordinary could ask the parishes to make the adjustments needed to 'keep all the balls in play.'
By definition, if any adjustments are needed, they do not fully meet the rational preferences of the individual parishes. Each parish already made its judgment about what best meets its own rational preferences. Instead, the adjustments are required to fully meet the rational preferences of the local ordinary and the local church as a whole under him.
These adjustments are therefore similar to any other uncomfortable public burden, like jury duty. Everyone understands their necessity, but most wish that someone else would do them.
Like jury duty, the burden might best be borne under a lottery. Two other components of the jury duty system are probably also applicable. 1. Explicit and onerous punishment for non-compliance; for example, a two year 'excommunication' from the diocesan system. For two years, the entire parish would be totally on its own, back in the 'bad old days' - no bishops' Questions for any of the parish children, no information about the parish's own performance. 2. A time-limited 'get out of jail free' card given to any parish which had recently had to make such an adjustment, if its number came up again.
Of course, taking a 'jury duty' approach is only a suggestion. The local ordinary is free to concoct any solution he wants. Nonetheless, in this scenario and in all others the local ordinary as chief teacher and the whole local church under him must ensure that his apostolic authority and sacramental competence expresses itself in buying preferences, but always - and first - within a heartfelt and enthusiastic application of the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, in which the buying preferences of individual parishes and families are given the fullest possible play.
Summary Points of the Three Scenarios
After one or two years, the Bishops Teaching Children method becomes a controlled-entry market in which some number of 'untried' Competitors are introduced yearly. The obvious need to encourage competition and innovation by 'buying' some number of untried methods has to be balanced against the equally obvious need to protect the children from untried methods that are inferior to existing Competitors.
The local ordinary and the local church need to understand that there will never be any procedure that perfectly rewards progress, at the same time as it perfectly protects children.
Parishes and families - even while admitting that someone has to try untried Competitors - are always being rational, in their own terms, when they also say that these untried Competitors should be tried on somebody else.
The 'Jury Duty' syndrome again rears its ugly head. A rational overall public good is, again rationally, no one's particular individual good.
So, however a local ordinary and his diocese work this out year to year, 'Pay to Play' may well be part of its implementing procedures.
'Pay to Play'
'Pay to Play' was behind the solution to the 'privacy' dilemma. That is, in order to 'play,' (participate in the diocese's implementation of Bishops Teaching Children), each family has to 'pay,' by signing an agreement that makes all test scores the property of the diocese, and a matter of public record.
'Pay to Play' was also the idea behind the 'Jury Duty' model discussed in Scenario 3, above. A parish 'pays' at least the chance, and sometimes the actuality, of accepting a 'safe' Competitor that was not its own choice, again in order to continue to participate in the diocese's implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method.
'Pay to Play' may also be part or all of the solution to the practical difficulty of requiring a certain number of parishes and families per year to accept untried Competitors.
Thus, if a family decides that it does not want its child using an untried Competitor, that is always fine with the Bishops Teaching Children method. The family does not have to 'play.' Any family always has the option of leaving the diocesan system and instructing its children on its own.
However, there is a cost to that decision. A family that does not 'pay,' can not 'play.' So, that family also realizes (the other shoe now falls) that it is really now on its own, and that every child in its family is now 'contaminated' and can not participate in the diocese's religious education for three years, because the family decided not to shoulder its share of the load that must be shouldered for the common good.
'Key Buyers' and 'Pay to Play'
Of course, 'Pay to Play' automatically applies to all Competitors when a diocese uses the Bishops Teaching Children method, because, as mentioned in Chapter 6, all Competitors must agree in advance that the conclusions of the yearly Report are definitive and inarguable. In order to 'play,' all Competitors must 'pay,' by agreeing to play by the rules, and the rules say: the 'umpire' is always right. If you argue with the diocese’s Scientific umpire, you could be ejected from the game.
'Pay to Play' could at some point also be applied to Competitors in another way. At some point, a diocese or dioceses using the Bishops Teaching Children method will probably have what amounts to a competitive advantage over dioceses that do not. That is, the yearly Reports of all the dioceses that use the Bishops Teaching Children method will be readily available to anyone who wants to know which Competitors actually do a better job of preparing children to answer bishops' Questions.
It does not take a business genius to imagine that those Reports are going to influence how non-participating dioceses spend their religious education dollars. Thus, the impact of the yearly Report on Competitors will probably not be limited to the business those Competitors get from the participating dioceses. Dioceses using the Bishops Teaching Children method will be 'key buyers' who will influence purchasing choices far beyond themselves.
That will give dioceses using the Bishops Teaching Children method additional clout with Competitors. The dioceses might use this clout to make Competitors 'Pay to Play.'
So (for example) the diocese, as a 'key buyer,' negotiates below-market prices for all Competitors' methods, and the savings helps recoup the diocese's costs in running the Bishops Teaching Children method.
However a business-savvy diocese uses this competitive advantage to reduce its costs, the general point persists. At some point, a diocese using the Bishops Teaching Children method will become a 'key buyer' in the eyes of Competitors, and they may indeed at that point be willing to 'Pay to Play' in that diocese's market.
Although funds are of course not unlimited, what the market will bear is dependent not only on money but also on how valuable religious education is to a diocese, and to its parishes and families. For instance, more money can sometimes be found for things greatly valued. Making a diocesan, parish, or family budget involves more than fiscal criteria alone.
When religious education is seen as the visible tip of a complex socio-cultural system, it becomes obvious that the monetary price of religious education is only part of what religious education actually costs. Students, as well as families, parishes, and dioceses, also have to invest time and effort, if children are going to learn about their faith.
Thus, desire and motivation are essential features of markets. Within certain limits (to put this negatively) desire and motivation can be manipulated. To put it positively, within certain limits, desire and motivation can be enhanced.
If a Competitor can increase a student's desire and motivation, the student will study more. More study often (perhaps not always) leads to more knowledge. If that happens, the Competitor looks good. More money flows his way.
Similarly, if a Competitor can increase a family's, a parish's, or a diocese's desire and motivation, they a) may be more willing to pay more money for the Competitor's product, and b) may encourage students to study harder. Either way, the effect is that the Competitor makes more money.
The Bishops Teaching Children method is not magic. Given current socio-cultural levels of desire for religious education at a high level, it is entirely possible that many students, particularly at first, will not be highly motivated, either personally or culturally. Given current levels of competence in religious education, it is entirely possible that even many motivated students will not attain adult minimal competence in the Catechism.
These are both problems. Yet, if Competitors solve them, they get more money. Thus, solving both of those problems - not only the problem of teaching competence but also the problem of student and socio-cultural motivation - is, literally, the business of Competitors.
There is a place for advertising and other marketing tools within an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method. That place is motivating consumers to pay the costs, both monetary and otherwise, of high-quality religious education.
Complete fiscal transparency is an inevitable component of the transparency that is inherent in the Bishops Teaching Children method.
As is usual for transparency within the Bishops Teaching Children method, this detailed fiscal transparency has practical benefits, and also, a sacramental foundation.
The local church under its ordinary, as the one authentic teacher of 'all' needs to monitor not only the performance of its students, but also its own performance, and this is the sacramental basis for the radical fiscal transparency of the Bishops Teaching Children method. A teacher who wastes either time or money is not a good teacher. The money spent on religious education throughout the local church ought to be just as much a matter of detailed public record as the sub-scores of its youngest first-grader.
On the practical level, of course, perennially detailed - and explicitly public - information about where the money flows is the mother's milk of improvements in economic efficiency, and an important defense against fraud, theft, and scandal. Radical fiscal transparency, for instance, makes it very easy to identify and list the per-pupil cost of each 'safe' Competitor appearing in the yearly Report.
Also, complete fiscal transparency will help everyone feel that religious education is in fact a mission of the whole local church working together, and it also will help individuals take individual, 'on-the-spot' initiatives to increase economic efficiencies.
The work of the Holy Spirit may include the Bishops Teaching Children method, or it may not. The Bishops Teaching Children method will never be in any position to define, rail against, or otherwise attempt to control the creativity of human freedom, and God forbid that it ever identify itself with the movement of the Holy Spirit, who "educates us in spiritual freedom."
The Bishops Teaching Children method needs to be offered, not commanded.
The Bishops Teaching Children method is a very, very big change for both a bishop and a diocese. Until both a bishop and his diocese agree that they are, mutually, so crazy in love with the children of the diocese that they can't help themselves any longer, then the Bishops Teaching Children method has no chance of being implemented, anywhere.
Only the total impracticality of crazy love will lead a bishop and his diocese to the Bishops Teaching Children method.
Just examine some of the difficulties a bishop and a diocese will face.
To begin with, the Bishops Teaching Children method circumvents the entire current structure of religious education, by simply ignoring it. The Bishops Teaching Children method's three elements: bishops' Questions, evaluation by Science, and free-market Competition, which are bound into a new structure by the catalyst of radical transparency, are at every point virtually the antithesis of the elements of the current religious education system.
The Bishops Teaching Children method asserts that the current system does not have a strong sacramental foundation, and in practice does not work very well or very accountably, and it lays out the reasons why it, by contrast, does have a strong sacramental foundation, and will work efficiently, equitably, and accountably.
Others may disagree.
For starters, the entire panoply of religious educators may well line up against the Bishops Teaching Children method.
Second, the jobs of the parish "professional catechetical personnel" are immediately and perennially at risk, as soon as the Bishops Teaching Children method begins.
It could easily be the case that some of these could find themselves simply out-Competed, causing their economic, social, and psychological dislocation.
Third, a bishop considering the Bishops Teaching Children method will have special problems of his own.
Every other bishop, and especially, every bureaucrat who works for the United States Catholic Conference (the bureaucratic arm of the National Council of Catholic Bishops) will immediately understand that the Bishops Teaching Children method simply ignores the model for religious education developed and approved by the National Council of Catholic Bishops and its bureaucracy over the last thirty years.
A bishop considering the Bishops Teaching Children method is not going to be considered a team player, by his brother bishops. He can expect very little, if any, support from them, and none from the national bureaucracy. To the contrary, he can anticipate both private, and even some public, opposition on both fronts.
There will also be parents, some of the opinion that the Bishops Teaching Children method sets the church back one hundred years, others outraged that the bishop would force their child to take a test - any test - others, up in arms that their children's privacy would be invaded, and their self-esteem put at risk, to the point that whole world would know how well they did on each yearly set of Questions.
Some parents will understand that the Bishops Teaching Children method allows the bishop to personally protect their child from ignorance - but not all parents will see it that way.
Then, after confronting what will almost certainly be emotional, probably at times vitriolic, opposition from all sorts of people, a bishop and his diocese will still have all the actual work of making the Bishops Teaching Children method a reality.
To find a way to make the Bishops Teaching Children method work in the face of all that, the whole lot of them will probably need to be a little crazy.
That craziness, that love beyond reason, is just not the sort of thing one can demand from people, or that one can legislate. The Bishops Teaching Children method can only be offered.
There is no reason for a bishop and his diocese to use the Bishops Teaching Children method unless they are, both bishop and diocese, mutually convinced that it is the right thing to do for the children, and they are mutually so in love with the children that they are willing to do the right thing for them, even if it is an excruciating amount of work.
In practical terms, it all starts with the bishop.
Especially for the bishops who first pioneer it, the Bishops Teaching Children method is going to be a crazy adventure undertaken by very competent Sacred Pastors too in love with the children of their dioceses, too driven to the edge by the current system of religious education, and too hopelessly tempted by the prospect of a giant improvement, that they just can't stop themselves from offering the Bishops Teaching Children method to their dioceses and doing whatever it takes to see it through to success.
A bishop who wanted to offer the Bishops Teaching Children method to his diocese might make a deal with his people. He might propose the 'Rule of Three': he will start writing Questions, if one-third of the parishes in the diocese agree to try the Bishops Teaching Children method for a three year trial period - no backing out, carping, or sabotaging allowed. After all, they could have said no. Any parish community that participates has to participate on a strictly 'one for all, all for one' basis for the whole three years.
The bishop can be as enthusiastic as he can be, but he also has to explain all the known potentially unattractive points, too.
Are the people of his diocese crazy enough - about the children, about the idea, about him - to actually let him personally direct and be responsible for the religious education of the children?
All a bishop can do, is ask.
A pioneer bishop had better allow himself his own 'Rule of Three': three solid years of spade work, before his first set of yearly Questions appears and the parishes who said that they'd try the Bishops Teaching Children method begin their own three-year trial period.
One last suggestion. Testing Day might fittingly occur on the feast of Pentecost (or another Sunday near the end of the traditional school year), and it might be made a Parish Day, a holiday for the whole parish. The day on which all the children come to their parish and answer the bishop's yearly set of Questions, should be a very big deal, indeed.
It should be a day when the whole parish attends Mass. At all Masses, the children should be prayed for, and the Holy Spirit invoked. It should be a day when the whole parish comes together for festivities, fun, and food. The adults - pastors, parents, widowed, and single - could gather in one place, and socialize, while the children are sequestered in a quiet, serious place to answer their bishop's Questions.
When the children (of all ages) return, there should be an abundance of treats and fun for them. For every child, the association of hard work, blanket and enthusiastic acknowledgement of his efforts by adults, and treats and fun for him, should be indelible on that day, every year. Children should strongly associate each Testing Day with their faith, with doing 'grown-up' tasks as well as they can, and with treats and fun. They worked hard, they did their best, and they earned it.
Shortly after that day, the day during which all the children of the diocese earn the treats and fun that is richly due every single one, will come the day when the yearly Report comes out, revealing (as everyone knows) which of the adults involved in religious education have earned their treats, and their fun.
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