ZENIT reports Pope Benedicts XVI’s view that young people are need a “real education” to face the challenges of life.
In a recent letter, Benedict XVI noted that education today “seems to be becoming ever more difficult. […] Hence there is talk of an ‘educational emergency,’ confirmed by the failures that too often crown our efforts to form well-rounded individuals, capable of collaborating with others and of giving meaning to their lives. There is also talk of a ‘break between the generations,’ which certainly exists and is a burden, but is the effect rather than the cause of the failure to transmit certainties and values.”
The Holy Father said parents and teachers may feel the “temptation to give up” on education, and even run the risk “of not understanding what their role is.” He identified “a mentality and a form of culture that lead 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.”
Faced with such difficulties, “which are not insurmountable,” the Pope said: “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,” he added, “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 parents, by teachers, “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 wrote of the need “to identify certain common requirements for authentic education,” noting that “it 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,” he said.
The Pope contended that “the most delicate aspect of education” is that of “finding the right balance between freedom and discipline.”
However, he affirmed, “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.”
“Education cannot forgo that authoritative prestige which makes the exercise of authority credible” the Holy Father wrote. He added that this is “acquired above all by the coherence of one’s own life.” He also highlighted the decisive importance of a sense of responsibility: “Responsibility is first of all personal but there also exists a responsibility we share together.”
In this context, Benedict XVI observed that “the overall trends of the society in which we live, and the image it gives of itself through the communications media, exercise a great influence on the formation of new generations, for good but also often for evil. Society is not an abstract concept; in the final analysis it is we ourselves.”
The Holy Father then referred to hope as the “soul of education,” citing “Spe Salvi” and saying 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.'”
“At the root of the crisis of education lies a crisis of trust in life,” he concluded. “Hope directed toward God is never hope for me alone, it is always also hope for others. It does not isolate us but unites us in goodness, stimulating us to educate one another in truth and in love.”