Pro-life curriculum?

WASHINGTON - The pro-life issue "is one of most important issues our culture faces" and "we thought the time had come for someone to take it as serious as math or science or English," said one of the developers of a new curriculum with that aim.

Camille Pauley is co-founder and president of Healing the Culture, a Seattle-area organization that has developed an ethics and philosophy pro-life curriculum called "Principles and Choices."

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle gave the imprimatur ("let it be printed") for the curriculum, which will be sent to 15 schools across the country in November.

"We have not filled the need for a sophisticated and intelligent philosophical dialogue of why we are pro-life," Pauley told Catholic News Service in an interview in Washington.

Pauley and Jesuit Father Robert J. Spitzer, former president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., worked for five years to produce what is now a four-part curriculum for private schools focusing on philosophy, theology and ethics as a foundation for pro-life views.

Developed from Father Spitzer's book "Ten Universal Principles," the curriculum covers 15 major themes, including happiness, success, human suffering, beginning-of-life issues and human rights.

"They can use these principles way beyond the pro-life issues," said Pauley. "These apply to any social justice issues such as poverty, euthanasia, immigration or capital punishment."

"When students understand what pro-life really means, and that it is the only scientifically founded and rationally based position and that pro-choice is actually very irrational and very unscientific, they aren't ashamed to be pro-life anymore," said Pauley.

Along with workbooks for the students, there is a teacher handbook, with references to Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, DVDs, PowerPoint presentations, minute-by-minute lectures, online worksheets, question-and-answer forums, and a play script with audio.

Created as a supplement to existing classes, it can be taught in the recommended four-week period every year for four years, or condensed into one week, or all four books can be combined to be taught in one semester.

Pauley said she designed the curriculum to be extremely flexible for teachers' and parents' wants and needs. Each of the four parts of the curriculum can be purchased individually, or parts can mixed and matched to fit differing educational needs.

The curriculum was tested in two schools: Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Wash., and McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile, Ala.

Lyn Kittridge, religious studies teacher at Eastside, has taught the curriculum and said it has been used in several classes including religion and Advanced Placement bioethics.

"This curriculum is providing teachers with a way to teach about these important issues using universal principles that brings the discussion above the emotional level," she told CNS in an interview conducted via email.

Kittridge also said the curriculum adheres to a curriculum framework for developing catechetical materials for high school students that the U.S. Catholic bishops approved in 2007.

"This curriculum gives (students) a way to understand these issues in terms of universal principles and not just emotional, political propaganda, and explain these issues at a level above the emotional, political, fear-mongering that dominates the media's discussion," she said.

According to Bob Laird, director of programs for the Cardinal Newman Society, the curriculum "takes all of the pro-life issues and puts them in the proper context that will help improve the Catholic identity of any school."

Based in Manassas, Va., the society has as its mission "to help renew and strengthen Catholic identity" in Catholic education.

Former family life director for the Diocese of Arlington, Va., Laird said in his visits to 175 Catholic schools, he hadn't found a good curriculum dealing with pro-life issues.

"It's important for us to weave the Catholic identity into the entire fabric of the schools," he added.

Pauley said plans call for a version of the curriculum to be released for middle-schoolers early next year.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970