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57. The Murialdine educational relationship – A generative approach

The problem the Murialdo Family faces nowadays is really the same as always, from Comenius to Kant, from Murialdo to Don Milani: when researching the education of the person and of the people, which intellectual attitude must guide us in the face of radical issues posed today by education and training, projected to the future? Here are some typical tracks to implement an education that is of the spirit and of the mind, of the whole person through educators able to accompany and support the process in which young people want to lead in responding to the fundamental questions of life and fulfil the deepest desires. Murialdo can also have a saying, when he speaks of educating the centre of the boy, i.e. his heart.

Nadia Dario


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         (Nadia Dario)

Despite years of debate and pedagogical and school approaches, in which the major pitfalls of contemporary education emerge (Maritain, 1965), the question of the younger generation is always related to the meaning, value and need for a profoundly modifying educational relationship embodying in a new way our need for hope. What then should be the crucial factors of the educational relationship that seems needed to be recalled?

The first factor is that the young man asks the adult to capture his mind and not so much the intelligence i.e. his developing personality. It is then with the mind of the spirit that the art of the relationship must be combined and intimately correlated (Margiotta, 2015). Obviously, this reverses the situation because all learning is not in the one who teaches but in the learner and therefore the need to make sure that the subject perceives and learns to appreciate his educational potential that is being developed as mind, union of reasoning and sensibility. The intellectual aspect loses its significance for its tendency to separate and parcelled in many sub-aspects of personality while comprehensive training assumes value. Neuroscience shows us as individuals mainly with feeling. These are the emotions (fear, anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, surprise, etc.) transformed into feelings to build the proto-self of the individual (Damasio, 1997, 2001, 2013). The individual then builds his consciousness from the heart. It is evident nowadays and that’s why Murialdo with a Pedagogy of Love has deeply understood the deeper meaning of life. He writes: “The proposed system is based on the principle of Dupanloup: the educator is treating […] what is the most precious in children, the heart. Not so much the outside, the asset, the job, the school, but the inside, the heart. Religion and education of feelings “(Writings, IV, p.326).

Spirituality then is not for him something separated from the individual but something that completes him because it is an integral part of him. It is the “forma cordis” that supports the will and animates the feeling (Dotta, 2003). In those “three S: health, science, holiness” are summarized these aspects of concern for the wholeness of the individual combined with the level of education such as “shaping the action” that is, as interest not only to the abstract representation but also the know-how that the student develops, the performance of the individual. In doing so, the teaching plan does not separate from the educational and training plan, the human development from evangelization. Dotta writes (2003):“these are not two parallel lanes, but trails that weave continuously; not two steps to climb in succession, but two stones both basic on which to build the man in his totality. Murialdo, who feels loved by God in the existing circumstances, in the same concrete situations, loves and serves his boys. The human development alone is not automatically evangelization, but the latter cannot be separated from the first, at least in the Murialdine methodology, which among other things, does not claim to be the only viable and valid one. Moreover, a Christian father and mother do not make these distinctions: they transmit all themselves, moral and religious principles, human and spiritual virtues, civic education and good Christian habits “(p.9).

The second aspect is the ability to create, that is, to develop his educational potential as a person. For the Murialdine educator, this is an approach to a young person, a student, leaving the responsibility of making mistakes but also asking him not to cheat himself; listening to him and giving him a sense of help and support to his growth, without generating illusions, without falling into simplistic diagnostic psychologism. It should make him discover a process of knowledge that is also a process of inner discipline. The educator enables him to be generative that does not mean to leave him free to express himself, but to make him understand that generativity is a need developed by the continuous training of autonomy, of initiative and criticism, of error and assessment, of listening and innovation. That’s why the guys, especially the most vulnerable, are inserted by Murialdo as foremen, lab chiefs and coadjutors in the activities.

Similarly, however, adults who can reinvent themselves are needed, learning from the young one, to be with young people. The approach is to be a friend and not a superior; a brother and father who loves his children as adoptive sons because given to him by Providence.

The third factor is the need to accompany them to dream, to imagine, to project into the future; is the ability that allows them to innovate, to reinvent themselves and to relocate continuously as people. Places must be created where the boy can imagine “what might happen if “. Giving young people this possibility, with spaces for actual meetings, is the real revolution, the generativity that belongs to the Family of Murialdo. In a protected environment such as the school and oratory, imagine means “move into the future without getting hurt.” This is connected, even if only partially, with the preventive method mentioned by Don Bosco and that Murialdo made his own. To discover and to think about the impact of his actions is the most important thing we can offer to the youngster in his development.

Once again neuroscience (Schacter, DL, and Addis, DR, 2007; Corballis, MC, 2012; Mulligan, K., 2013, Graveline, YM & Wamsley, EJ, 2015) comes to our aid by showing us how the teaching of Murialdo is still current. The recent discovery of the areas of default tells us how they are related to our ability to travel with the mind (think) and there is an overlap with those of the same empathy and episodic memory. To stimulate the imagination thus helps to think about the other, without forgetting his own experience.

The fourth factor is the need to meet those educators and trainers that can be promoting the exploitation that is, to “see the acorn that will give rise to the oak” and therefore likely to pay attention and recognition to the young. Erikson (1950; 1982), as Murialdo, extends the concept of generativity, from parenting meaning to have with the young “the authority of the father and the tenderness of the mother”, to the Care, a form of commitment in constant expansion which is expressed in taking care of people, products and ideas that we are committed to cure. He writes: “All the forces that from the early developments in the ascending order go from childhood to youth […] manifest themselves now and after a closer examination as essential elements for the realization of the task of generations: to know how to increase the strength of the new generation “(Erikson, 1987; p. 85).

Murialdo speaks about young people entrusted to the care of his educators and then he fights against any stagnation that is, against the withdrawal in themselves devoid of any usefulness to others and to society, boredom, cultural decline, narcissism, lack of psychological growth, infertility, non creativity (Amietta, PL, Fabbri, D., Munari, A., Trupia, P., 2011). The generativity of the Murialdine educator is to “create things bequeathing new forms of meaning and value to make the future and our world better, through an active inter generational concern and care “(Erickson, 1950; 1982). This means “reconsider how it interacts with the life of each of us and with the lives of those who belong to the new generation” (Prigogine, 1979). Thus, the categories of “friend, brother, father” express the most authentic experience of closeness and are the most desired by the young. In particular, the concept of generativity here is understood to have lasting responsibility for which the teacher accepts and thinks of the young today but also in the future, taking charge of his life. In short, the teacher is the guardian angel of his boys.

Nadia Dario


Bibliography references

Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.

Erikson, E. H. (1982). The life cycle completed. New York: Norton.

Damasio, A. (2000). Emozione e coscienza. Milano: Adelphi

Damasio, A. (2003). Alla ricerca di Spinoza. Emozione, sentimenti e cervello. Milano: Adelphi

Damasio, A. (2012). Il sé che viene alla mente. La costruzione del cervello cosciente. Milano: Adelphi

Dotta, G. (2003). La Pedagogia del Murialdo. Sintesi dei lavori del Seminario di studio delle Famiglia del Murialdo, Roma, 22-23 aprile 2003

Graveline, Y. M. & Wamsley, E. J. (2015). Dreaming and Walking Cognition. Traslational Issue in Psychological Science, 1 (1), 97-105

Maritain, J. (1943). Education at the Crossroads. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Margiotta, U. (2010). La reserche en formation. Welfare, competences, apprentissage adult, Paris: IERFA.

Margiotta, U. (2015). Teoria della Formazione. Roma: Carocci Editore.

Mulligan, K. (2013). Immaginazione, default thinking e incorporamento in Tagliafico, D. (a cura di) Rivista di Estetica, Torino: Rosemberg & Sellier.

Prigogine, Y. (1979). La Nouvelle alliance. Métamorphose de la science, Paris: Gallimard

Schacter, D. L., and Addis, D. R. (2007). The cognitive neuroscience of constructive memory: remembering the past and imagining the future. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. B. Biol. Sci. 362, 773–786.

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