Catholic Social Teaching: The Family is the First School, Parents the First Teachers
Parents are the first teachers of their children and the family is the first school
An Icon of Jesus surrounded by children
This includes cultural, ethical, social, spiritual, and religious values. One of the things the family has as its mission is to educate. By fulfilling its mission to educate, the family plays an irreplaceable role and advances the common good of a society. (See, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, Paragraph No. 238)
It is within the family where children are raised and formed as human beings. The parental role in this human formation is governed by love, a love which places itself "at the service of children to draw forth from them ("e-ducere") the best that is in them" and which "finds its fullest expression precisely in the task of educating." (Compendium, No. 239) That is why the family may be called the "first school."
Christian parents have a double duty, and the family is therefore both a first school and a first seminary. They must not limit the education of their children in natural virtues, in an authentic humanism. For the Christian, the family is also a "garden" or a "first seminary" "in which the seeds of vocation, which God sows generously, are able to blossom and grow to full maturity," as John Paul II stated in his Message in the XXXI World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
The parental duty to educate children comes tied to a right. Parents are the "original and primary" educators of their children, and their duties as well as their rights are "irreplaceable and inalienable." (Compendium, No. 239) The duty is non-delegable.
The parent is ultimately responsible for his or her child. Though the parent may obtain the help of other persons or institutions, these always remain in loco parentis, in the parents' place. Importantly, this is a task shared by both parents, and so "the role of the father and that of the mother are equally necessary." (Compendium,No. 242)
The State must recognize the preeminent role of the parents, particularly in the matter of religious and moral education of their young. Modernly, the State and its educational bureaucracy is invasive. It tends to be distrustful of parents, and often sets itself in opposition to the values of the parents.
Particularly vicious is the relativistic and secular nature of modern education, a nature that is inspired by false educational philosophies and erroneous notions of separation of Church and State and interpretations of the Constitution's establishment clause.
Obviously, the parental charge to educate their children requires the help of civil and ecclesial authorities and scholastic institutions. But these are "agents of education," which means that they remain answerable to the parents as principals.
"Parents have the right to choose the formative tools that respond to their convictions and to seek those means that will help them best to fulfill their duty as educators, in the spiritual and religious sphere also." (Compendium, No. 240)
In practice, parents are often stymied in their educational decisions. The system that is currently in place is heavily weighted in favor of the public school, and parents are for financial reasons frequently unable to exercise real choice. The power to tax and the power to allocate tax revenue is entirely devoted to sustaining a public school system to the disadvantage of private, faith-based schools. This state of affairs is unacceptable:
"Parents should not have to sustain, directly or indirectly, extra charges which would deny or unjustly limit the exercise of this freedom." The refusal to provide public economic support to non-public schools that need assistance and that render a service to civil society is to be considered an injustice.
"Whenever the State lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice. . . . The State cannot without injustice merely tolerate so-called private schools. Such schools render a public service and therefore have a right to its financial assistance." (Compendium, No. 241)
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church insists that the family's educational rights include the notion of "integral education." This includes the mandate that all education be directed to the proper formation of the human person "in view of his final end." It requires recognition of the virtues "of justice and charity." (Compendium, No. 242)
This means that a God-less education is unacceptable. Man's ...
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