Why Use A Catholic Textbook?

Catholic history? Why not Catholic mathematics? Like mathematics, isn't history about facts that we can verify, apart from religion? Why then talk about "Catholic" history?

While true, that history, like mathematics, can be verified apart from religion, the Catholic Church has been involved in history in a way she can never be involved in mathematics. With or without the Church, mathematics would be the same. Without the Church, history would be the same.

We can call a history "Catholic" when it proceeds from an insight, given by the Faith but verified by historical science -- that history has been transformed by Christ and his Church. To deny this, or to diminish it, is to distort history. And many secular textbooks do just that -- they distort history by misrepresenting the Church's role in history.

But isn't Catholic history just Catholic bias?

Yes and no. If by "bias" you mean "point of view," then Catholic history is history told from a Catholic "bias." But this is not a weakness. It is a strength.

Secular history has a secular, often anti-supernatural, bent. It will, for instance, deny the historicity of miracles, not necessarily because historical instances of miracles lack documentary evidence, but because it assumes miracles cannot happen. Secular history views history from a single, dimension -- materialism.

A Catholic historian sees history in all its fullness. He does not reject a supernatural dimension to life. He is free to entertain the possibility of miraculous events in history. He is not so narrow as to reject them out of hand.  Catholic history is truly "catholic" -- it is universal, embracing the fullness of reality and all its possibilities.

The Catholic educational tradition has been explicit -- faith and reason are not opponents, but friends. They do not contradict one another but complete one another. The Catholic mind does not shy away from the discoveries of human reason, nor should human reason see the Faith as a restriction on its proper functioning and freedom. Both are involved in the search for truth. 

Further, the Catholic faith says that man is more than a mere animal, that he acts for the sake of ideas and ideals, not simply desire. History is driven by what human beings think is the highest good -- and this ultimately has to do with what they think about God. In this way, history is bound up with theological ideas.
A good history book should not leave out religion, for that would be to distort what man is and how and why he acts and has acted on the world's stage. We are convinced that students need to learn the whole of history - and religion is a central aspect of that history.

Finally, Fr. Norbert Wood, O. Praem, an educator is southern California, gives this excellent reason to use a Catholic textbook: 

In terms of supplementing content, it makes much more sense to supplement a Catholic textbook to meet specific standards rather than the reverse. No matter what the subject matter. 

If we, as Catholic educators, use a secular textbook for social studies, for example, but must repeatedly tell our students that this book left something out or that it was not accurate in certain fundamental premises, then we send students a mixed message. Why should a student trust a book that has to be corrected?  Why should a Catholic student trust a book that denies the possibility of the supernatural? And yet ironically here is a classic application of the modern educational concept "hidden curriculum."  No matter how much we try to correct a flawed text to bring it into harmony with the faith, the very fact that we have chosen the flawed textbook as the primary text in the first place sends the students the hidden (and erroneous) message that the secular text is superior to the Catholic alternative. And despite our best efforts to the contrary, the faith is undermined.

Instead, if we use a Catholic textbook for social studies; one that tells the story of history from a perspective that is open to discover and present whatever is true—the good and the bad alike—students benefit.  Then, if we supplement a textbook that is fully accurate, we enhance rather than destroy a child’s trust - and our presentation has integrity in both senses of that word. I think Jesus put it much more succinctly: "Seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be added unto you."

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