This quote, and this encyclical, has been used as an argument against unschooling. ( What is unschooling? A form of homeschooling…See some thoughts below.).
What is interesting is that Suzie Andres, in her book on Catholic unschooling, uses this and similar quotes from the encyclical, to promote her understanding of why unschooling can be a choice for Catholic homeschoolers.
Andres writes ~ page 39 “A closer reading of the Pope’s words will…show us that unschooling is not forbidden for Catholics. Note that the objectionable methods of education attribute to the child ‘ an exclusive primacy of initiative..’. We can respond that because the child is always the primary agent in his learning, it is fitting that he is often the initiator of his learning as well. This is precisely what unschooling allows. Unschooling, however, does not require that the child be the only or exclusive initiator. Moreover, the Pope is especially concerned with preventing parents and educators from witholding religious instruction on the false belief that the child must initiate every area of his formation and education. In our defense of unschooling we have emphasized the need for parents to refrain from over-teaching, and the importance of their actively respecting the child’s ability to learn without too much interference. But this is not equivalent to saying that unschooling parents cannot initiate areas of study. Consequently, unschooling as we have defined it is not one of the modern systems of education the Pope here condemns.
Furthermore, reading on in this encyclical, we find in the next paragraph a description which more accurately applies to unschooling, and which the Pope then approves. Pope Pius XI states:’If any of these terms are used, less properly, to denote the necessity of a gradually more active co-operation on the part of the pupil in his own education, if the intention is to banish from education despotism and violence, which, by the way, just punishment is not, this would be correct but in no way new. It would only mean what has been taught and reduced to practice by the Church in traditional Christian education, in imitation of the method employed by God Himself towards His creatures, of whom he demands active co-operation according to the nature of each;
..Here we find that the Church not only allows for unschooling, but even places it in line with her tradition.” page 40
Andres’ take on this makes sense to me. 🙂 A Catholic can choose to unschool, without fear of compromising their Faith. Just as a family can live and share the Faith, so can a family share each individual’s educational life; their thoughts, their interests, their activities.