Chronicle of the Month – September 2008

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Education: Passport to Civilisation
By Professor André-Marie Jerumanis

jerumanis This is how Prof. Sabino Palumbieri defines education. The absence of education, therefore, would lead to barbarous acts. This approach to education, sheds light on the etymological significance of the word e-ducere, which means “to lead outside”. This is the liberation that Plato’s Myth of the Cave illustrates perfectly. In fact, education brings to light that which is hidden. In the optics of Plato and Socrates, education proceeds forth through the maieutic, that is, through a dialogue which helps to “deliver” the truth. In this sense, education distinguishes itself from instruction. What can we retain of this manner of conceiving education?

First of all, that the teacher if he is really an educator, will not be content only of transmitting a certain number of data, but will through instruction seek to lead his pupil to profound comprehension, by imbibing the truths taught. There is always the subjective aspect with regard to the acceptation of transmitted notions. This acceptation depends, therefore, on biological, cultural, psychological, spiritual conditionings. A good educator knows how to take this into account. It is true that concerning the transmission of notions in mathematical sciences, one could be inclined to think that this subjective aspect could be overlooked. And yet, even in mathematics, the pedagogy of the teacher is a non-negligible element. The objective aspect of any science whatsoever is always to be considered within the cadre of rational epistemology.

On the other hand, the educator should not forget the objective aspect of his teaching. It is true that we are used to speaking of objectivity in mathematical sciences, with the tendency to making relative the objectivity, for example, of values to be transmitted in the class of ethics or again, in the education that parents transmit to their children. And yet, even in this case, the good educator, of course taking into account his interlocutor, should transmit the values which are not mere possible opinions, but which are – in the measure of actual knowledge- truths.

Education cannot take departure from approximation. Reason teaches us of the existence of truth. The question concerning truth is as old as man. Does it exist? Can one know it? Should one be sceptic? Can one really doubt everything? The post-modern epoch, speaks of plurality of truths, due to a conception of reason which most often does not even believe any more in its proper capacities to know the truth, the good and the beautiful. And yet we think that one cannot deny the existence of universal values like love, justice, pardon, the gift of oneself. It is absurd to say that all is relative or cultural, and to behave while teaching as if truth does not exist. Human being cannot live on the shifting sands of scepticism and relativism. He has need for truth just as he has need for food. The educator himself should be a seeker of truth, capable of transmitting the thirst for knowledge of that which is true. Intellectual honesty requires that! It is a question of justice towards the pupil.

To educate on the platform of truth, does not signify excluding the possibility of an interior growth in knowledge, or again, shutting oneself out of all dialogue. A good educator knows how to open the spirit of his interlocutor to dialogue with the position of the other. It is so necessary in the contemporary multicultural world. The famous dogma of tolerance does not signify abdicating before the truth or the search after the truth, but accepting to listen to the other, to try to understand him, but also it is very necessary to seek to enlighten him. Tolerance, as the respect of the conscience of the other, is a value. But tolerance does not exclude the right to share “one’s” truths. The same with dialogue. It should be done on a rational basis. Human being, insofar as he is human is endowed with reason. It is in the name of this reason that he can communicate with the other. To exclude reason, is to condemn oneself to living in the world of a “mad person” who has lost “reason”.

Christian educator, inasmuch as he is really Christian should not abdicate before the question of transmission of his values. The Christian is convinced that reason is a gift of God, and that he should use it. The Christian yet does not put in opposition his conception of reason to God, whom he considers the Logos of the world. In his dialogue with other religions, or with the contemporary secularised world, Christian educator will try to show the “foundedness” of a certain number of fundamental values which belong to the very nature of man. To the non-believer, he will recall the absolute value of human life, the relational dimension of his being, and will invite him to consider the world as a carrier of a message to be deciphered. To the believer of another religion, the opening to God could be the point of departure for service to humanity. In no case, therefore, should religion lead to violence. Be it whatever religion it may, if it leads to fanaticism, it becomes a counter-witnessing. Examples in the past and also in the contemporary times, show us the devastating effects. To those who would like to establish an equation between religion and violence, it is necessary to respond that Nazism and Communism are products of “lay” fanaticism which conceived man without God and against God. Laicality when it becomes laicism, should also be considered a violence against human beings….

In our humble opinion, it is necessary to promote, in education, the value of “loving” reason. Only “loving” reason will be able to lead humanity out of the devastating foolishness of egoism… A reason uniquely calculating will lead humanity to a new totalitarianism where human beings will be sacrificed on the altar of productivity and eugenism . Education can, in this optics, be considered as the passport for the survival of future civilization.

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