.- Rocco Buttiglione is a prestigious Catholic intellectual who in 2004 was deprived of a post in the European Union Commission because of his faith and âconservativeâ views. In a recent article for LâOsservatore Romano he explains that education demands a series of restrictions as well as a formation in authentic freedom in order to seek truth.
In the article titled, âThere is no freedom without prohibitions,â Buttiglione, who is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, explains that amidst the debate over the âeducational emergencyâ in society, Pope Benedict XVIâs statement that âproper education consists of formation in the correct use of freedomâ must be remembered.
Buttiglione notes that the first step in this education is to discard the present-day bias that âin order to educate in freedom, one simply needs to remove all ties and abandon young people to the simple, natural development of their passions.â This, he explains, is the âprÃ²ton psÃ¨udos (the âoriginal errorâ) of modern education.â
Saying that this way of seeing things ignores the tendency to evil and the concupiscence that entered man through original sin, Buttiglione writes, âThe emancipating and permissive pedagogy of our times has voluntarily ignored this anthropological structure of the human being. The intention was to create a liberated man,â however the effects are far from the intended results.
After contrasting âthe freedom of manâ and âthe freedom of instinct,â Buttiglione remarks that to find freedom it is necessary âto subordinate immediate desires to the judgment of reason."
He goes on to warn of the current-day tendency to make spontaneity into an idol and explained the need to truly adhere âto goodness in order to seek truth.â
To achieve this, he continues, two fundamental factors are necessary in the education process that âtoday are systematically ignored:â asceticism and the experience of authority.
Asceticism, Buttiglione explains, âis the capacity to say 'no,' to resist the violence with which an impulse demands to be satisfied immediately without reflecting on whether or not it corresponds to the truth or to the true good of the person. Contemporary permissiveness has defamed asceticism by calling it ârepression.â Certain asceticism implies the effort to repress, but it also implies the capacity to give a new form to the energy that comes from instinct, corresponding to the truth of the person. Without asceticism there is no education of the person.â
Writing later about the experience of authority, the Italian intellectual says that it consists of âthe presence of values in a person who bears witness to them and makes them directly and easily perceivable for others.
âAuthority is the guide in the path towards the experience of values. Without asceticism and without authority there is no educational experience. Authority transmits the experience of values so that it can be tried in the life of the disciple. The disciple will not repeat this experience in a servile fashion as it has been fulfilled in the life of the master.â Instead, the disciple âwill confront it with his own personal experience and filter it through it, reliving it and making it his own.â
Buttiglione then denounces todayâs âpermissive society for offering young people different ways of gaining immediate satisfaction of their own instincts, while consequently making it more difficult to form a free personality, capable of establishing an appropriate relationship with truth.â
âTraditional education was an invitation to fight to control oneâs own passions, to seek the truth, to guide oneâs passions according to the truth and towards the truth.â
By promoting âobedienceâ to oneâs own passions, he explains, one prevents âthe forming of a responsible and free personality, in order to create a mass of people that can be more easily manipulated by whomever is in power. This is the problem with education in our times.â
âThe purpose of many modern âdeconstructionistâ tendencies is the deconstruction of the self and the abolition of a conscious personality. In order to rebuild education we need to begin again on the basis of authorized testimoniesâshould not parents and teachers be the first in thisâthat are capable of unambiguously pointing the way towards an asceticism that makes us capable of the truth, that allows us to journey towards its discovery,â he concluded.