I have long admired the mythopoetic tradition in curriculum studies. That admiration followed from my experience as a high-school teacher of English in a wealthy suburb of New York City at the end of the 1960s. A “dream” job—I taught four classes of 15–20 students during a nine-period day—in a “dream” suburb (where I could afford to reside only by taking a room in a retired teacher’s house), many of these often Ivy-League-bound students had everything but meaningful lives. This middle-class, Midwestern young teacher was flabbergasted. In one sense, my academic life has been devoted to understanding that searing experience. Matters of meaning seemed paramount in the curriculum field to which Paul Klohr introduced me at Ohio State. Klohr assigned me the work of curriculum theorists such as James B. Macdonald. Like Timothy Leonard (who also studied with Klohr at Ohio State) and Peter Willis, Macdonald (1995) understood that school reform was part of a broader cultural and political crisis in which meaning is but one casualty. In the mythopoetic tradition in curriculum studies, scholars labor to understand this crisis and the conditions for the reconstruction of me- ing in our time, in our schools.
Presenting a robust and philosophically based account of education from the Catholic point of view, Sean Whittle engages with important debates and questions concerning the nature and purpose of Catholic education and schooling. The book opens with a review of the criticisms that have emerged about the prevalence of Catholic schools within the state system and, indeed, about the very notion of there being such a thing as ‘Catholic education’. The author then goes on to survey official Church teaching on education and the work of key Catholic thinkers, Newman and Maritain, before moving on to discuss the writings of Karl Rahner, a leading twentieth century theologian. A Theory of Catholic Education argues that Rahner’s approach, with his focus on the place of mystery in human experience, provides a way forward. Ultimately, Whittle demonstrates how Catholic theology can offer a unique and much needed theory of education.