Rockhurst is a Jesuit school. As such, it has an obligation to educate its students in matters of faith and morality. The mission statement of our school expresses a desire to “form the whole person,” and goes on to list “religious” among the values it hopes to instill in its graduates. However, the current system of religious education could use restructuring in the interests of better engaging students.
The current theological education structure at Rockhurst is flawed. Personally, I see theology class as a GPA boost, a class to sit on the backburner amidst the challenging coursework of my other courses (and I have a very strong suspicion that my classmates would agree with me). I don’t mean this as a criticism of my teachers (who have often been incredible) or as an attack on the pastoral goals of Rockhurst. My argument is that a restructuring of the theology curriculum across the board could create a learning environment that garners more student interest in faith.
The current “one course option per grade” system is antiquated. If I can choose the english class that is right for me, or the electives that interest me the most, why can’t I choose a theology class that would be compatible with my interests?
There should be course options that deal with more advanced morality and philosophy, courses that offer more depth into non-Christian religions, courses that deal with Jesuit ideology specifically and courses that focus on faith in modern society. And yes, some of these courses already exist, but with the ability to decide which class to take and when, students would be more engaged in the process of faith formation.
There are indeed certain things that are fundamental to our understanding of faith that must be taught. For this reason, I propose a mandatory two-semester freshman course that educates students on crucial church doctrine, the messages of the Bible and other essential aspects of faith. But past this course, I believe students should be allowed to branch out.
Certainly there are advantages to the current system. Since students take theology by grade level, they are often with classmates who are at similar stages in life and in faith. This can also be a hindrance, though. The diversity of mixed-class theology discussions would lend greater perspective to students of all grade levels.
In addition to perspective, students would gain a sense of ownership. As high schoolers, we like independence. The ability to choose our theology classes would give us a stake in our faith formation, and a more personalized approach to theology at Rockhurst would contribute greatly to the school’s goal for formation of the whole person.