Michael Forrester, Alice Bourgoin and Christopher Wotherspoon, teachers of theology and philosophy at the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in west London, accompanied 40 sixth formers to Heythrop College to attend a day conference, writes Patrick Fleischer.
Topics discussed at the day conference included questions such as why should I be moral and what is a person? They also included theodicy and the political philosophy of “tolerance”.
Heythrop College puts on very good philosophy conferences and the Vaughan pupils enjoyed a walk to the college through Holland Park.
“I really need to get started on my revision,” said one pupil. “I am beginning to realise that all that fun I had in autumn is now coming back to haunt me.”
Michael Lacewing, of Heythrop College, was clearly the favourite speaker as he reminded pupils that tolerance is a paradoxical issue.
He asked whether one should tolerate the intolerant. If not, what is the point of tolerance? If you do tolerate them, at what cost to your own deeply held principles? He also asked if such a policy might undermine liberal democracy.
“As a Catholic,” said one pupil, “I feel secular society is becoming less and less tolerant of our faith. Yet we are becoming more and more tolerant of everyone else. It seems rather odd. But I guess I need to think about this a bit more.”
Her philosophy teachers also encouraged her to read more, something all teachers agree is becoming a habit less and less practised by the new crop of A-level pupils.
“We need to be less tolerant of slackers in our Catholic schools,” said one teacher. “They take for granted their education and too many parents allow them to squander their time on frivolous things like allowing them to have televisions in their rooms and computers unmonitored.
“They are fallen creatures who need a good shepherd to protect them. That should come from home. We can only support their work, yet they expect us to squeeze good marks out of them when they are habituated to distraction.”