The Person, educationís core
Voghiera, June 8th, 1996
We are gathered here to reflect together on the most serious and biggest enterprise that a human being can make. We are talking about the enterprise of educating another human being. From further considerations it will be clear why it is the hardest enterprise. But we want to reflect on education from a particular point of view. We want to look into the standpoint of the person who asks to be educated. We would like to start with a question:
"Why does the human person need to be educated and why doles he/she ask to be educated?"
1. THE "NEED-DESIRE" OF EDUCATION
Let me start from a very simple observation that each of us can do, if she/he just pays a little attention to what happens insideherself/himself.
Sometimes we act with justice, and sometimes we do not act with justice, but if you are asked: "Wolud you like either to be treated sometimes in a right way and sometimes in a wrong way, or always in a right way?" I'm sure what your answer in your heart is: I wish always to be treated in a right way. Nobody wants to be treated unfairly, not even just sometimes.
We tell the truth and we do not deceive our neighbour, but sometimes it may happen that we lie and we deceive our neighbour. But if someone asked you: "and sometimes do you want to be deceived?" I'm sure that none would actually like to be deceived; she/he would seriously reply so.
I could continue with these examples. I stop, because these are enough to take us to an amazing discovery about ourselves. Each of us knows the difference between "behaving with justice and behaving with injustice" between "being in the truth and being deceived". Not only, but each of us wants justice and truth.
Therefore we can say that: the human person owns this wonderful ability to know justice / injustice, truth / deception and to desire the former rather than the latter.
But the discovery does not stop at this point: although we desire justice, we may want to treat someone unjustly: though we desire the truth, we can decide to deceive a person.
This may happen as a "break" inside ourselves between what we know and what we want and what we actually do. This "split" is not an accident, but it is our work, our own work.
Therefore we can say that knowledge-desire (justice, truth ...) are asking for our personal matter-of-fact development.
They appeal to "something" that is inside us. That "something" has a name and it is called freedom. It is the capability to realize or not the "desire" that dwells within our person.
We can gather from these simple examples of our everyday experience that we have found out which our essence is: we are a great "desire" (justice, truth, love ...) whose coming true is entrusted to our "freedom".
We can say the same thing this way: we are pilgrims of bliss raised by our freedom.
But I already hear somene asking: "What has all this to do with education?"
Herew ew are: now we will immediately see that the human person needs, demands to be brought up precisely because she/he is a "beggar-pilgrim of bliss", a pilgrimage that must be accomplished by his freedom.
I'll show you beginning from one of the most "suggestive" pages of the whole Gospel: the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth. In this passage opf the Gospel, there is a particularly poignant beauty. Among the millions of human beings who populate the earth, only one had been waited for for thousands of years: he was the Son of God who came to live among us. Nobody had felt Him as actually present, but only his mother.
Mary meets Elizabeth. And what happens? That human person who was in Elizabeth's womb "leaped for joy" because he felt that God was present in the world: God was close to him. Even that child, had begun his "journey to happiness," as every human person into the world. What happened to him? He ecxperienced a Presence in his heart. This presence introduced a "surge of joy." And John never forgot that "leap of joy."
Once an adult, he will die in the name of justice and of the sanctity of marriage. Now let us gather together the key elements of this extraordinary story. A person is entering the world and we have seen what is the "crew of " which he is equipped.
Rather, who he is: a beggar-pilgrim of bliss entrusted to his freedom. He discovers a Presence inside this world, the Presence of Someone. The discovery generates in him a surge of joy: the certainty that his desire will not be disappointed and that his pilgrimage is not to nowhere. He was able to discover this presence because a woman mad it "feel close" to him.
Well, these are the key elements of an "educational community."
A human person who, on entering the world, starts its journey to happiness, he/she asks to be "helped" and meets other people. These make her/him feel or not a Presence. In this "communication", the new person achieves/does not achieve the full freedom to walk.
The "key point" of this event which is education, it is to understand what the words mean: "people who make them feel or not a Presence." This fact is the "heart" of the educational relationship.
I will try once again to explain with some examples.
You know that one of the most difficult moments of our entire lives were the early days of our lives. The difficulty lies in finding a reality completely different from that in which we lived in our mother's body. In other words I'm talking about the difficulty of getting in touch with reality.
Let us pause a moment to reflect on what "contact with reality" means, always atrting from very common experiences.
If I happen to lay my hand on a hot plate, I feel a terrible pain and immediately withdraw my hand. I had a contact with reality, a purely physical contact. It is inhabited, dominated by the principle of pleasure / pain. Well, now, I ask you: Is this the only possible contact with reality?
I now want to give you another example.
You meet so many people, some of whom you do not even know, while you do know some others. But at a certain moment, one of these there is "different from all others," and from the thousands of known "unique, irreplaceable." What happened? Have you seen this in person "something" that you have not seen anywhere else and that made you exclaim, "oh how nice it is that you exist," and finally: "How beautiful it is to live." You have had the experience of a presence in the physical reality that you made a "leap for joy."
What does "the person needs-demands to be educated" mean? It means she/he needs-asks to get in touch with reality so that it makes her/him feel a Presence who makes herself/himself "leap for joy," who gives the certainty that life is worth living, just because of this Presence. Education means to introduce the person to reality so that she/he feels accepted by a good destinee.
From what I have said so far shows that education can only happen within a relationship between people, an "indirect communication" that goes from "person to person. Let me explain a little here and so conclude this first part of my reflection.
There is a direct communication between people and I shall explain it to you of what it consists. When a teacher wants to teach you to make the division, she /he teaches the child some rules. If the teacher is good and the baby is attentive and somewhat intelligent, she/he understands the rules and has learned to do the division. There was a communication (of knowledge, in this case) and it was a direct one, in the sense that certain knowledge has been learned through some simple reasoning.
Now letís see another example. A boy soon realizes that he has in his heart a deep desire for justice in the world and that many people are acting with injustice, that sooner or later he will see himself in the position of having to choose whether to suffer injustice or to do it just not to suffer from it. He asks himself: is it better to suffer injustice than to do it? It is better to be deceived than to deceive? How do you convince the boy that it is better to suffer injustice than to do it? Namely, that to be fair, to stand in truth is more precious, beautiful and worthy of being looked for and liked. It is only the trust in the person who teaches him to suggest him that in life is better to give than to receive.
Itís an indirect communication.
And this is the reason why the first, the original place of education of the person is her/his family. And this is the reason why in the Church, the relationship between people is what is most important. And also why there can be no Christianity without "devotion" to the saints. Nothing and no one can ever replace this report "from person to person" education.
2. THE DESERT EDUCATION
In this second point Iíd like to help you open your eyes to what is happening today in education.
This is an event of incalculable gravity: it is the desert of education. Let me explain once.
In the first part of my reflections I said that in the end, each of us is "a great desire (for justice, truth, love ...) whose coming true is entrusted to our freedom." Talking about education makes sense precisely because this is the man.
And if you turn off the desire in the human heart, what will happen? What will become of liberty?
What happens? What is freedom?
Turning off the man's desire happens when you put into the human heart a suspicion that what you want does not exist: that your desire does not make sense, because it has no content. This happens when it is said, it is taught (and we act as if) there were no real distinction between justice and injustice, simply because the only real things are usefulness and interest. This happens when we say that there is no truth, only opinions. This happens when we say that you can not really love one another, but that the relationship between people is dominated only by the individual search for personal happiness. At this point, the man is immersed in pure relativism. And then, what happened to the human heart? It no longer has a real and deep desire. Man does not know what to look for? Man has become a pilgrim of nothing. In this situation is it still possible to teach? If you can teach, what do you need to teach?
The implications over freedom can be explained thorugh a very simple example. Imagine you have to sew, but you forget to make the knot to the wire. What happens? You go on sewing ... but you never actaully sew!.
So freedom eradicated by real manís deisres, by his "natural inclination" (St. Thomas), is a freedom that no longer knows where to move, where to go. He does not know why he chooses what he chooses. And then, everything and its opposite, and nothing deserves to be chosen at the same time. This is what I call "educational desert." The desert is a place where there is no water and where there are no roads.
When a man comes into the world, he has not the desert in the heart.
Every man is born with a heart inhabited by great desire and needs for a good education.
I also said that human education is not possible without a family. Perhaps here we find the opportunity to "rebuild" a great educational enterprise: we have to reconstruct the true familiar communities.
La traduzione, non rivista dal Cardinale Caffarra, Ť di Roberto Domanico.