Rescuing lay teachers in Catholic Schools from anonymity for the period 1870-1970

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The general field of the history of Catholic teachers' lives is much under-researched internationally. Furthermore, what little accounts there are tend towards being heroic and centre on the lives of those teachers who were priests, brothers and nuns, and who were collectively known as 'the teaching religious'. This emphasis in many of the histories of Catholic education is hardly surprising given that for over one hundred years up to the mid-1960s they dominated the Catholic teaching force in the English-speaking world, particularly in the United States, England and Wales, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. The staffing of Catholic schools with members of religious orders ensured that Catholic education could be provided for the masses since the labour provided was cheap. It also ensured young Catholics were shaped in a manner which served the Church's interests. Providing a basic elementary education in the 3Rs for the great mass of Catholic children was also motivated by a desire to break down the link between being Catholic and being poor. While most of the work in Catholic schools was conducted by teaching religious, in their midst were lay teachers. These constitute a much under-researched group in Catholic education internationally. This paper is offered as one attempt to provoke some thought on this neglected group in the historiography of the Catholic teacher and, hopefully, stimulate research, in an attempt to fill the lacuna which exists.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-93
JournalEducation Research and Perspectives
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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