In their book, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner propose a new system of education that is driven and directed by the students. They engage students in creating a fictional but real “Quo Vadimus High School.” As the students go about creating their school, several questions come to mind.
I wondered what the questions might be if we engaged the catechumens in creating the catechumentate. Here are my imaginings are based on the questions Postman and Weingartner list on pages 146-147 of their book.
- What is the purpose of this catechuchumate we are creating? What should it do? What kinds of Christians should it produce? What should the catechumens be able to do after they are baptized that they could not do before?
- What are the catechumens like? What do they know? What are their concerns? What is the world like from their point of view? What do they want to do in it—about it? What are the most important affectors of the catechumens’ attitudes, perceptions, assumptions, beliefs, values, choices? What do they need to get rid of? Need to get better at? What do they need to add?
- What “concepts” (attitudes, values, perspectives) must the catechumens master in order to be capable of the kinds of behavior that comprise the best forms of “coping” with the world in which they live? What “doctrines” (if any) would be most useful in helping students to master these “concepts”?
- What procedures and strategies would be most appropriate for helping the catechumens to master the concepts in number 3? What kind of an environment, setting, or atmosphere would be most conducive to internalizing these concepts rather than merely ventriloquizing them? What procedures should not be used? What atmosphere should not be permitted to develop? What might the physical setting of the meeting space best be like? What kind of parish leadership should the catechumenate have? What should catechumens’ role and responsibility be in the overall operation of the catechumenate? What criteria might be used in selecting the parish leadership team for the catechumenate?
- What kinds of procedures can the catechumens and team develop and use to keep track of the degree to which the catechumenate is fulfilling its purpose? What kinds of procedures can the catechumens and team use to make changes that appear necessary in response to “feedback”? What kinds of procedures should not be developed?
Remember, these are questions I imagine the catechumens might ask. Real catechumens in a real parish might ask different questions. In fact, we would expect them to. Because the point of the catechumenate is not to teach them what we know. The point is to explore the mystery of faith together. Everyone’s journey is different and raises different questions.