Does Catholic Social Teaching Matter in the Classroom?

18 February 2007 at 10:11 pm Leave a comment

| Cliff Grammich |

Starting with Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum and continuing notably in the writings of Pius XI and John Paul II (and, to be sure, others as well), the Catholic Church has fostered a tradition of social teaching for application to modern business organizations. During John Paul II’s pontificate, the Church also sought to strengthen the identity and clarify the mission of Catholic higher education.

So what impact does the Church’s social teaching have in the undergraduate business classrooms of Catholic institutions? Roland and Linda Kidwell suggest it is muted; indeed, they “conclude that if Catholic institutions wish to provide an ethics-based business education, familiarity with and use of [Catholic social teaching] appear to be unnecessary at AACSB-accredited schools.”

This is not to say that Catholic social teaching has had no influence whatsoever. Kidwell and Kidwell do find that Catholic faculty and faculty who teach at Catholic business schools are, not surprisingly, more likely to be familiar with the Church’s social teaching than those who do not. They also find faculty who are familiar with the Church’s social teaching and those who think it relevant are more likely to incorporate it in their courses, especially at Catholic schools. But they also find that, among faculty members familiar with Catholic social teaching, Catholics are no more likely than non-Catholics to include it in coursework, and that, “even at Catholic schools, more faculty than not were unfamiliar with” Catholic social teaching.

In sum, Kidwell and Kidwell write, if Catholic social teaching “is viewed as key to providing a Catholic-based business education, the[n] Catholic institutions need to do more to familiarize their faculty members” with it. They also echo Gaspar’s assertion that “the teachings of the church must be conveyed in up-to-date ways” and that “the hierarchy should avail itself of the best modern understanding of how business and commerce work.”

Entry filed under: Former Guest Bloggers, Recommended Reading, Teaching.

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