14. The educational dialogue and new technologies

Television, Internet and video games are within the reach of all of our guys but how much we educators grasp their educational aspect, for better or for worse? The Church intervened in various ways on this issue, and we must know what she said to be able to weave a pedagogical dialogue with our youth, passionate users of new media. Freedom, critical distance and discernment of what is good and true are the paths to be taken, not to become “addicted”. Without distress, because St L. Murialdo at his time believed in the powerful medium of print, Blessed Alberione founded a congregation to spread the “good press.” Everyone can further explore the theme thanks to the bibliography given below.

Eleonora Ciliberti

If you want to deepen

14. The educational dialogue and new technologies (Eleonora Ciliberti)


Foreword

Given the very complex society in which we live, these two realities are very united between them. Here are a few aspects of their connection.
With the coming of mass media a real revolution in education has happened. They are out-and-out informal, occult and prominent educators, and they became extremely powerful especially through the medium of television that has revolutionized perception and conceptualization and has a deep influence from and especially in childhood, leaving a mark in the collective mentality.

The first formation of one’s unconscious is dominated, as was said at the beginning, by television. In fact, acting on it, the television penetrates with its nourishment and its poisons throughout the personality of children, adolescents and (mostly) youth, resulting in conditionings of various kinds.

The second is dominated by Internet. The ever and easier accessibility to the network and its free contents for a underage public/users, progressively more and more young, raises the question of their protection in the face of dangers and risks that anonymity and quantity of contents in the network can pose to them (e.g. paedophilia, pornography cyber bullying , etc.) . Content filtering tools, properly set (e.g. firewall), are however long since available in the various linked computer systems as a possible remedy to the problem.

The third is dominated by video games. Although, usually, they are blamed by the mass media, there is a type of video game called educational computer game because it is intentionally about educational themes. Games of this type are sometimes used for educational purposes and for modern methods of teaching. In a recent survey some teachers and some students had proved both for and against this type of game, although especially the latter are convinced that the gaming entertainment can feed the aggressive and violent temperament.

Getting back to our subject, with the media we are faced with a very open problem of education, since it an increasingly central place has been assigned to image or sound, as compared to verbal language and its more complex and sophisticated, more multifaceted and plural links. Therefore, they appear, for better or for worse, as the first educators of children and young people and so can raise issues that need to be addressed both by educators and producers of their programs, but also by society as a whole (and in its behalf , by intellectuals and politicians).

At this point the Church is of great help, because, referring to numbers 2496 and 2512 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, they tell us that the people who work in the media should always be aware of the fact that their products have an educative action. Young people need to constantly examine themselves to see if they are able to use the media in a free way with and critical distance, or if they developed a certain dependence on them. Every man is responsible for his own soul, and the one who, through the media, becomes a consumer of representations of violence, hate and pornography becomes spiritually insensitive and is exposed to damage.

St. Leonard Murialdo and Blessed James Alberione

It is appropriate to make a comparison between these two pioneers of faith, as both handled the concept of «good press»:

1) St. Leonard Murialdo was very favourable to the tools of communication, urging to keep pace with the times and being committed to train and educate people to a correct and responsible use of media. On 19 April 1883 he was appointed president of the Good Press Association. In the month of January 1884 he created the monthly The Good Press, contact sheet of the “League of the Good Press.” And so, thanks to this means of social communication, he was heard on very important issues such as the dignity of working conditions, the labour exploitation of women, and freedom of religious education.

2) Blessed James Alberione, who founded the Society of St. Paul on August 20, 1914, recalled his first religious profession, in private, in 1917 as follows: “…We often speak about the need to promote the Good Press; now many are working for the press, they will devote a good part of their time and their energies, some for honour, some for profit and some because they like it. We want to work neither for pleasure, nor love, nor for gain, nor do we want the press for itself, but we seek God through the good press…”

Conclusion

We conclude this very large and demanding discussion with some documents from the Magisterium of the Church, properly selected:
1) The Council’s Decree on the Instruments of Social Communication “Inter Mirifica” explains that “those who make use of the media of communications, especially the young, should take steps to accustom themselves to moderation and self-control in their regard. They should, moreover, endeavor to deepen their understanding of what they see, hear or read. They should discuss these matters with their teachers and experts, and learn to pass sound judgments on them” (cf. No. 10);
2) The Pontifical Council for Social Communications, in the document “Ethics in Communications” clarifies that “The media are important tools of education in many contexts, from school to workplace, and at many stages in life. Preschoolers being introduced to the rudiments of reading and mathematics, young people seeking vocational training or degrees…” (cf. No. 10);
3) Blessed John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter to those responsible for communications “The Rapid Development”, pointed out that “finally, there cannot be forgotten the great possibilities of mass media in promoting dialogue, becoming vehicles for reciprocal knowledge, of solidarity and of peace. They become a powerful resource for good if used to foster understanding between peoples; a destructive ‘weapon’ if used to foster injustice and conflicts. My venerable predecessor, Blessed John XXIII, already prophetically warned humanity of such potential risks in the Encyclical Pacem in Terris, had already warned mankind from such potential risks” (cf. No, 11);
4) Finally, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in the encyclical “Caritas in Veritate”, noted that “the media can make an important contribution towards the growth in communion of the human family and the ethos of society when they are used to promote universal participation in the common search for what is just” (cf. No. 73).

Eleonora Ciliberti

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