English: Paul Polman (WEF 2010)

Mr Polman - Image via Wikipedia

AMDG              It is said that the annual meeting at Davos (starting today) of the World Economic Forum is where the most important networking takes place of a transnational elite, politicians and business leaders. There is a lot of anger around at the moment towards this elite, the decisions and greed of the few seem to have created suffering for the many.  As the Oscars has its counterpart ‘the Raspberries’ – Davos has ‘Public Eye’ where you can choose to vote for the most damaging company.  So if you want to let off some steam and vote for the worst company click here.



DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 27JAN07 - Impression of the...

I hope so.....

6 ‘luminaries’ have been chosen to co-chair the meeting. After a very brief investigation it seems at least three of them have passed through Catholic Educational Institutions. Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever was even in a seminary at one point.  Vikram Pandit (Citi) left India as a 16 year old and studied for his first formative degree at Gannon University a private Catholic University in the US.  Then there is the Mexican Alejandro Ramirez CEO of Cineopolis. With the other three – Peter Voser (Shell), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook) and Yasuchika Hesegawa (Takeda Pharmeucitical) it was not clear where their schooling was.     So it made me wonder how many of the 2000+ delegates have also spent part of their Education in Catholic Institutions? Probably a surprising amount.

Many Catholic (and other faith) schools justify themselves by forming students to serve the common good and the wider community and generally are very successful at it (to the annoyance of secularists). Even if the students are not Catholics – the hope is that some of that ethos will rub off. These are excerpts from the British Jesuit School Leavers Profile  (the vision and hopes we have for our leavers) – That they are:

    • Seen to have a generosity of spirit and a readiness to place their talents at the disposal of others, especially the most needy;
    • Well prepared to take their place in wider society unmotivated by prestige or selfish ambition and aware of how fully they can contribute to the common good;

Catholic Social Teaching is sometimes referred to as the best kept secret of the Church. I know from first hand experience that in Jesuits schools we try and weave these values into lessons across the syllabus.  The principles of using our gifts and talents for the service of the poor is constantly reinforced. A big question for Jesuits is often – how can we justify prestigious schools which seem to be for the elite when we profess to be commited and motivated by social justice?  Maybe we need to think of a Davos Test.  Keep in close contact with our alumni – and remind them of the values of their school days. Perhaps Catholic Schools should make an audit – or a questionnaire – to try and measure the impact their alumni are having on the world.  Are our alumni really committed to improving the state of the world as they profess?