Post-Critical Believers, Spiritual Formation, and Stages of Growth

It is my sense, from seeing ECSIP (Enhancing Catholic School Identity Project) data from schools in Queensland, as well as the data of individual schools in the Cairns Diocese, that students leaving school at the end of Year 12 are, by and large, not post-critical believers. I have not seen an individual school in which students do leave, generally, as post-critical believers. Every secondary school which sends out students into the world who are generally not post-critical believers is not failing students in their growth as a human being, as they are sowing the seeds for what I think is probably more natural later in their growth as a whole person.

Of course, schools who measure their data at multiple stages as their work towards the ideals of ECSIP may see growth in the number of students in Year 11 and 12 who are post-critical believers. If this is the case, it probably also means the school has provided the opportunities for other students to learn the skills necessary to become post-critical believers, but are not yet at a stage of personal or spiritual growth in which they can employ those skills.

As I was sitting in the APRE conference earlier this week learning about ECSIP, and as each APRE in the room took the PCB survey (and many were happy to share and talk about their results), I wondered how each of them might have been classified on the scale at 18. I know I certainly would not have been in the post-critical belief category. And yet, I was a well-educated, independent, and mature 18 year old when I left school. I had had many opportunities to learn about religion and given skills to think critically (though my school would definitely have been classified as a Monologue School – though not Catholic).

It is worthwhile, then, acknowledging that a level of development which may be beyond some (many?) students as they are leaving school may be required for developing into a post-critical believer. And, of course, that students of all positions on the scale have a valuable voice to bring to the rich conversation that reveals the Catholic identity of Dialogue Schools.

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