Pope gives advice on the ‘educational emergency’

.- A letter from the Pope to Catholic administrators, teachers, parents and students was made public today regarding the vital importance of education and its balance of freedom and discipline. The letter comes after some Italian politicians tried to make political capital out of earlier remarks by the Pontiff about an ‘educational emergency’.

In his January 21 letter, Benedict XVI notes that education today “seems to be becoming ever more difficult. ... Hence there is talk of an ‘educational emergency’, confirmed by the failures which too often crown our efforts to form well-rounded individuals, capable of collaborating with others and of giving meaning to their lives.”

The Pontiff points out that educators may feel the “temptation to give up” on education, and even run the risk “of not understanding what their role is,” and he identifies “a mentality and a form of culture that leads people to doubt the value of the human person, the meaning of truth and of good and, in the final analysis, the goodness of life itself.”

These difficulties “are not insurmountable,” Pope Benedict stressed.  “Do not be afraid! ... Even the greatest values of the past cannot simply be inherited, we must make them our own and renew them through often-difficult personal choices.”

“However, when the foundations are shaken and essential certainties disappear, the need for those values returns to make itself imposingly felt. Thus we see today an increasing demand for real education.”  It is demanded “by society as a whole ...and by the young people themselves who do not want to be left to face the challenges of life alone.”

The Holy Father asserts in his letter that educators need “to identify certain common requirements for authentic education,” one of which requires, “above all, the nearness and trust that are born of love.”

“It would, then, be a poor education that limited itself to imparting notions and information while ignoring the great question of truth, above all of that truth which can be a guide to life.”

The Pope identifies “the most delicate aspect of education” as that of “finding the right balance between freedom and discipline.” However, “the educational relationship is above all an encounter between two freedoms, and successful education is formation in the correct use of freedom. ...We must, then, accept the risk of freedom, remaining ever attentive to helping it and to correcting mistaken ideas and choices.”

In closing, the Holy Father wrote that hope is the “soul of education,” indicating that “our hope today is threatened from many sides and we too, like the ancient pagans, risk becoming men without ‘hope and without God in the world.’”


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