Toward infinite horizons of wonder: Bernard Lonergan's philosophy of education and the role of critical thinking in teaching religion in Catholic high schools

Dennis C Gunn, Fordham University

Abstract

This study examines how Bernard Lonergan's philosophy of education can provide a fuller understanding of the role of critical thinking in teaching religion in Catholic high schools. It offers a philosophical rationale for the incorporation of critical thinking into the Catholic high school religion classroom and it suggests a pedagogical model for that incorporation, using Lonergan's educational model of theological studies found in Method in Theology. The study employs a philosophical methodology to demonstrate the need for developing adolescents' critical thinking capacities in the context of teaching religion in order to help them grow as authentic knowing and valuing subjects. It not only highlights the importance of promoting adolescents' religious literacy in the texts, creeds, practices, and symbols of the Catholic sacred tradition; but also, it emphasizes the need to cultivate students' religious articulacy, which allows them to give more critically nuanced, articulate form to their own religious questions, understandings, values, and beliefs. The study argues that cultivating such articulacy is best done through dialectical and dialogic discourse in the religion classroom, inviting students to become active participants in the ongoing conversation of the Catholic intellectual tradition. The study shows how Lonergan's eightfold division of the functional specialties of theology into two dynamic movements, downward as the "mediated" phase of theology and upward as the "mediating" phase of theology, can be used to create such dialectical conversations in the religion classroom in order to foster students' authentic knowing and valuing. Finally, the study offers an analysis and a critique of the USCCB's current Curriculum Framework for teaching religion in Catholic high schools, using the essential elements of a curriculum that would promote religious literacy and articulacy, based on the study's findings. It recommends a redesign of the Curriculum Frameworkthat would invite more authentic discourse into the religion classroom in order to help students grow as authentic knowing and valuing subjects. Overall, the study demonstrates the need for a revitalized understanding of the role of critical thinking in teaching religion in Catholic high schools and it offers practical suggestions for implementing that vision.^

Subject Area

Education, Religious

Recommended Citation

Gunn, Dennis C, "Toward infinite horizons of wonder: Bernard Lonergan's philosophy of education and the role of critical thinking in teaching religion in Catholic high schools" (2014). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3645917.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3645917

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