The importance of education

Among other things, I am skim-reading the “instrumentum laboris” (“working document”) of the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome.  They met, during the run-up to the year of faith, to discuss the New Evangelisation.

Fascinated to see whether the document would say anything about education, I did a search, and found this:

  • 148. Taking into consideration the great differences, due to geography, in societies and the history of Catholicism in each nation, all agree that the Church has expended great energy in the field of education, a work which continues today. Catholic schools and universities are present in practically every particular Church. In this regard, the responses provide detailed information on the work undertaken in education and the fruits which this work has produced in the past as well as what is taking place today. The past and present development of some nations is a direct result of the Church’s efforts in education.
  • 149. Today, the work of education is taking place in a cultural context where every kind of educational activity is becoming more difficult and critical to the point that the Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of an “educational emergency.”[80] With this expression, the Holy Father intends to allude to the special urgency to pass on to future generations the basic values of life and moral conduct. Consequently, many places are increasingly demanding a genuine form of education as well as truly qualified teachers. Such requests are commonly raised by parents who are concerned about the future of their children, by teachers who are sadly experiencing the deteriorating situation in schools and by society itself which sees the very foundations of harmonious living threatened.
  • 150. Similarly, the Church’s duty in educating people in the faith, discipleship and witnessing to the Gospel can be seen as a contributing factor in permitting society to emerge from the weight of this crisis in education. When speaking of education, the responses describe a Church who has much to contribute and who has a concept of education she has managed to spread throughout the world, namely, that the person and his formation are primary and that she desires to provide a genuine education that is open to the truth, including the encounter with God and a faith-experience.
  • 151. Furthermore, some responses praise the value and emphasis of the educational endeavours of the Church as a way of providing an anthropological and metaphysical basis to today’s challenges to education. The basis of the “educational emergency” at present may in fact be a result of the imposition of an anthropology marked by individualism and a dual relativism which reduces reality to something to be manipulated and limits Christian revelation to merely an historical process devoid of its supernatural content.
  • 152. Pope Benedict XVI describes these roots in the following manner: “One essential root I think consists in a false concept of man’s autonomy: man should develop on his own, without interference from others, who could assist his self-development but should not enter into this development. […] I see the other root of the educational emergency in scepticism and relativism or, in simpler, clearer words, the exclusion of the two sources that orient the human journey. The first source would be nature according to Revelation.[…] It is fundamental to recover a true concept of Nature as the Creation of God that speaks to us; the Creator, through the book of Creation speaks to us and shows us the true values. And thus finding Revelation: recognizing that the book of Creation, in which God gives us the fundamental orientation, is deciphered in Revelation.”[81]

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