12. A Communication of Yourself
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C H A P T E R 1 2 A Communication of Yourself Education is something that I have very much at heart, especially since I was a teacher for so many years. The Current Challenge If there is a watchword for all of us today, we can express it succinctly with the expression “educational emergency,” because we see the difficulty of our society (our society means us, we teachers, we parents) in transmitting a reason for living, that is, in truly introducing to reality all the new members of our people. To put it very concisely, what are the unequivocal signs of this emergency? In terms of the students, I would describe today’s situation with one word: disinterest. Teachers don’t find themselves in front of 157 classrooms of young people who are all eager and willing to study, interested in what they have to learn.The first question for any teacher, therefore, is how to stimulate interest in the subject matter. Today, we can’t take for granted that the student wants to learn; there may be thousands of excellent teachers, willing to teach all their knowledge , but the problem is that there are not students who have the desire to learn. So, how can we reawaken their interest? How can we generate the human subject? How should we put ourselves in front of the students and in front of what we have to teach, in order to begin that process that enables our students or our children to introduce themselves to reality? The consequence of their indifference, which prevents all their capacities from being set into motion, is passivity. We see so many young people “parked” in the schools or other settings. But often we adults are no different. Many teachers clearly feel sad or alone in the face of all the challenges before them. I still remember one of my fellow professors, whom I met once at the entrance of the seminary where I lived. He was returning a bit upset from class, and I asked him, “What happened?” He answered, “Look, I just told my students that I have less satisfaction than a mechanic, because if a mechanic tries hard, he can fix a car, but I’ve devoted endless effort, and half of them have to repeat the year.” So, to provoke him, I said, “Is this normal? How do your other colleagues fare?” He said, “They change their methods once, twice, three times . . . until they give up.” This situation applies to us teachers no less than to the students —after you stop trying, seeking, what do you do? You behave like the students: you endure the class hours, with heaviness in your heart. What interest can a teacher like this ever create in the students? This indifference towards reality, which leads inevitably to passivity, shows us clearly the nature of the crisis in which we are involved. It is not just a problem of the schools; it is a problem of the human, it shows up in the passivity of many young people, who are almost incapable of becoming interested in something for the long term, and it can be seen in the weariness, loneliness, and skepticism of so many adults, who fail to find an interest that makes it truly worthwhile to fully engage their own humanity. And thus they do not even have the 158 An Educational Emergency capacity for involving the young people, engaging their interest in what they have before them. As Charles Péguy said: “The crisis of teaching isn’t a crisis of teaching: it’s the crisis of life.”1 The situation in which we find ourselves is a challenge above all for us. Many attempts at facing this challenge have already failed, for example, saying, “Since we can’t interest them, we can at least give them rules so that the river won’t overflow; let’s appeal to the people’s, the students’ moral strength.” We all know that this does not help to arouse interest.The fact that we constantly have to appeal to this kind of extrinsic moralism means that we have already acknowledged defeat. The first question is whether we are willing to look this challenge full in the face, to take it on, to deal with reality exactly as it is, or whether we prefer to look for a way to manage without focusing on the true struggle before us. Saint Augustine wondered, “What moves man in the depths...