Traces N.9, October 2009

A Concern for All

There’s a recurrent expression surfacing in the vocabulary of our culture: “the educational emergency,” indicating the awareness that the void of education, the abandonment of this fundamental task for two generations now, has generated a dramatic situation right before our eyes. In the beginning, not many shared this awareness. Now they do and this is good, because the perception of the problem is at least a first step to facing it.
We are aware that at issue is everyone’s destiny, not just that of professional educators and scholastic “authorized persons,” be they teachers or students. Actually, though with different degrees of responsibility we are all in some way actors in the process of education.

What does it mean to be “all actors in the process of education”? What does it mean that education is a question that concerns me, whether or not I have children, whether I’m young or old, handsomely paid or recently laid off? And above all, what instruments do I have to face this challenge?
Here the educative proposal of Fr. Giussani (who founded a Movement 50 years ago when he began teaching high school) enters with all its power. A few weeks ago, at the Beginning Day (a moment of work for all CL members at the opening of the academic year–see the “Page One” article), Julián Carrón summarized it in this way, revealing its origin: “I’m amazed when I reread what he says about the first hour of classes: ‘From my very first day as a teacher, I’ve always offered these words of warning to my class: “I am not here so that you can take my ideas as your own; I’m here to teach you a true method that you can use to judge the things I will tell you. And what I have to tell you is the result of a long experience, of a past that is two thousand years old.’” That is, he knew that he could not help if he didn’t put the ‘I’ of those people in motion, that what he was saying wasn’t enough; not only witness was enough. He was aware that he could only help by offering a method so that they could judge everything he was saying. That is, from the beginning, Father Giussani challenged the heart of those he had in front of him. This is the exaltation of the person.”

A challenge to the heart. This is the method, the stuff of men and women and, as such, it extends far beyond the classroom–it concerns life. Certainly, when you’re dealing with your own children or your students, it’s clear. But if we just look with loyalty at our experience, we realize that, deep down, there’s no human relationship–from the most intense friendship to the most casual encounter–that escapes this dynamic, that doesn’t bear within it this possibility of a reciprocal challenge to take together a step of knowledge, to push ourselves more deeply into reality. No relationship lacks an educative importance, above all for oneself. Education is the very fabric of life, the concern of all men and women, of those who accept the challenge.