58. What education? For which educational action?
The question marks that the author puts can be summarized around the fundamental question of how much and how our pedagogical action, so rich in the religious and charismatic tradition, is able to dialogue with the contemporary world, giving due importance to the new frontiers and to the new resources that we face today. The issue is critical if we are to remain simple but ineffective repeaters of a glorious past or if we interpret and value the new that is offered to us and challenges us. The discussion continues, it is important to have started.
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58. WHAT EDUCATION? FOR WHICH EDUCATIONAL ACTION?
“Look, this term does not sound well with us.”
We were sitting in his study, in a beautiful sunny morning, and there were clear ideas on what to do in view of the commitments that were waiting for us.
The question was set to me at point-blank:
“There are three things we need to talk about. But what interests me most is to understand your concerns about the choice of the name “.
I had heard such concern at a meeting a few days before, and it had not gone unnoticed to him.
He an Argentinean, I an Italian, had taken part in an experience of sharing and re-reading the document on the pastoral guidelines of the Congregation and we were now comparing some long-term prospective.
The object of our dialogue was the collection of contributions on the Project of Pedagogical Research (now in its third volume), and my doubts were about the choice of the name: “Educating the heart – Pedagogy of love“.
At his request to clarify the reasons for my concern with a written speech I try to answer with these notes hoping that it will be the beginning of a dialogue that can help you find new synthesis in order to make more consistent and incisive our educational activities.
In my opinion the decision to define “pedagogy” our style of education opens today, especially in our country (Italy), a series of problems that need to be addressed with coherence not to relegate to the margins our reflection on the dimension of education.
It is not a theoretical risk.
For admission of the same operators (secular and religious) the daily emergencies, but even more a habit acquired to promote educational practice to “benchmark” and, even worse, to consider it sufficient in itself, aggravates the already chronic difficulties upon a deeper reflection on our vision of the event and of educational processes.
Which way seems most appropriate?
I do not think it’s a good choice for us educators, to fail to reflect on our assumptions of values; and even less appropriate is to delegate to the “experts” of the educational theories defining our tasks and the size of our educational work.
I rather think we should get used to accept the problematic nature of the issue in order to assume a critical confrontation and the dialectical dimension as a methodology necessary to discover the nature and the tasks of our educational activity.
Some people choose the shortcut from the tradition to carry, ipso facto, the insights (and sometimes even operating practices) to our present day.
To refer to these practices, even if adopted by saints, but put forward and implemented in socio-cultural and religious contexts profoundly different from the present one, it does not guarantee anything for their validity and their effectiveness in the current socio-cultural context.
This path has severely limited the comparison between the theoretical assumptions and the values of our educational work and the new contributions that human knowledge brings thus compromises in this way, their effective actualization.
In today’s multicultural and multi-confessional educational settings now I do not think you can deny the necessity of taking a critical look both at the basic values of our educational practice, as on the method for their actualization: without reducing our contribution to the margins or to be insignificant (exposing ourselves to the charge of being dogmatic and confessional).
Make no mistake: what I sustain is not the abandonment of reference to the content of Revelation and Tradition (essentially the dignity and nature of the human being, the person of Christ as a model and goal of his career and the need of his integral formation).
What I want to emphasize is the danger we can fall into following the ways that, starting from the data of Revelation or tradition, become objective and educational practice (often by confusing these two dimensions).
The same issues that are emerging from everyday life are inviting us to reflect on the complexity of education: the discussions on the origin and purpose of human life and on whether or not to intervene on the part of man, the debate on the admission of multiple gender identities (with all the problems connected with the existence or not of their civil rights), the meeting / clash with different cultures and religions (with the same look on the dignity and role of women and children), the progressive marginalization of direct educational mode (with the issue of promoting technological extensions) etc.
These are just some of the lines of conflict that our reflection and educational activity can not evade, worth the betrayal of our own mission as educators.
Evidence of the problem emerges when, in our language, we assume particular theological-pastoral categories; especially when we use affirmations and contents typical of the tradition and theological elaboration which S.L. Murialdo was referring to. For example the much-quoted “Ne perdantur“.
How can we make it our own without asking how this content was the theological vision which excluded the possibility of salvation outside the Church?
And how much therefore were responsible, the vision of the human being, his vocation, his relationship with the revelation? And much had to suffer the reflection and consequent educational practice that our own saint proposed?
It is clear that after Vatican II (cf. LG 16) and the recognition of the salvific value of the “right” (although not Christian) human journey, the “ne perdantur” takes us to a very different value.
In my opinion we are invited to accept that in this case, as with other theological and cultural assumptions of our tradition, it is not a dogmatic and untouchable data , but rather a direction, an appeal, which requires a constant redefinition and whose contours we can discover only through dialogue with what the philosophical and theological reflection tell us about the human being.
It is just the first step, but this step can open the possibility of a serious pedagogical reflection that may support the dialogue between the theological and the anthropological dimension and (since it is capable to dialogue with the human sciences) it helps effectively the work of identification of appropriate practices.
It seems to me that what emerges is the lack of a cue to the exclusive contents of Revelation and of Christian anthropology in order to obtain the hallmarks of humanity that we want to help grow; in the same way, the use of educational Murialdine practice or the contents derived from our tradition (typical example the use of the figure of St. Joseph) to define the content and methodology to be adopted in our current educational activities.
Regarding the first dimension I think it is necessary to set in dialogue what theology and anthropology say on the contents of the human sciences, a dialogue which can help us create a more complete and rich human dimension (I think mainly on philosophy and anthropology ).
On the second dimension I think it is inevitable the construction of dialogic paths between the contents of the charismatic cultural tradition we come from and the contributions of science that enlighten the different facets of the human being and his internal complexity (I think of the contributions of psychology, sociology, the sciences of communication etc.)
It is clear, that undue simplification should be avoided with care, such as to link the first step with a dogmatic knowledge (original), and the second with a critical knowledge (derived); where the former is subtracted from the eyes and judgment of reason and experience, and the second becomes simply the practical and operational dimension.
What is needed is the adoption of lines of thought and practices that are able to read through each other, that agree to condition themselves and to be reread thanks to each other.
Visions capable of sustaining the complexity and non-finality of achievements are needed, that do not castle themselves behind any “principle of authority” neither dictated by the theological and spiritual tradition, nor offered by science, nor those presented with increasing force from contemporary culture.
Avoiding the risk of a fragmentation of education and of a new form of subordination of pedagogical reflection to the contributions of different scientific disciplines, we are called to take the matter of faith as a point of arrival and as reference values, but points not obtained in all their dimensions and implications as yet.
Arrival points certainly irreplaceable, but goals precisely, to reach, to discover together, especially when it comes to identifying and taking operational lines in any particular situation in which the charism calls us today.