POPE VISIT/ Renewal of Education Begins with Teachers and Students
What Is Essential to Education?
My undergrade mentor always stressed that students and teachers make a school, and that everything else is secondary. Everything else includes all of those things we tend to think of first when the topic of education comes up: pedagogies, technologies, administration, textbooks. On his state visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict XVI gave an address on education to students and another to teachers. By speaking directly to students and to teachers, Benedict turns to the human heart as the engine to renew education.
Speaking to students at St. Mary's University, Twickenham (and in schools across the UK via television), Benedict begins by telling the students of God's desire for them to become holy, and makes clear that this desire of God is rooted in His love for them and His knowledge of what will satisfy them. After telling them about God's desire, he asks them, "What kind of person would you really like to be?" He knows that many people model themselves after "figures from the world of sport and entertainment." He told them that celebrity and money are not enough and challenges them "not to be content with second best." In short, the pope challenges them to examine the desire in their own heart for happiness, and to see if the lives of celebrities or others they meet distract from or fulfill this desire.
In a passage reminiscent of Robert Hugh Benson (Anglican convert to Catholicism who wrote a great book: The Friendship of Christ), he said that "God wants your friendship," and then he shifts imperceptibly to friendship with others. In this way, friendship with God and others becomes the path to holiness. To conclude he urges students to "Never allow yourself to become narrow": not narrowly scientistic but also not narrowly religious.
At the same university, Benedict spoke also to teachers, reminding them of the root of their teaching vocation: the formation of human persons. As with the students, Benedict stressed that this formation should not be narrow: neither narrowly religious nor narrowly utilitarian. He said that a comprehensive education also includes knowledge of the Creator.
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