The best education

Publish date 17-09-2023

by Gabriella del Pero

Only a few weeks ago we remembered the centenary of the birth of Don Lorenzo Milani (who was in fact born in Florence on 27 May 1923). There are and will be many official celebratory moments in Italy this year and therefore also opportunities to get to know, re-read and delve deeper into a figure of priest and educator who is as singular as he is interesting and undoubtedly current.

Let's take advantage of it. Also because there are many and often clearly conflicting readings of his thought and his spiritual and cultural heritage that have followed one another over time: for this reason, today's teachers, educators and parents should continue to study the his writings, his story, the testimonies of those who knew him personally, stop and reflect with some attention on his words, often provocative and uncomfortable and precisely for this reason so stimulating and effective. In fact, we all need new opportunities to deeply rethink the meaning, role and purpose of education today, especially in light of the enormous difficulties and obvious fragilities so often shown by the new generations. We need to continue to ask ourselves: what do we adults today still manage to pass on to our children and teenagers? As Pope Francis says «it seems to me that we are surrounded by a culture that, if on the one hand idolizes youth trying to never let it pass, on the other excludes many young people from being protagonists. It's the philosophy of makeup. People grow up and try to wear makeup to look younger, but they don't let young people grow up." Put another way, are we adult educators really "adults", therefore capable of care, responsibility, fruitfulness, self-giving, true love towards the generations now coming into the world? Or - as some recent studies and surveys now seem to demonstrate - in the Western context are we adults who are too self-centered, solely concerned with keeping ourselves young and healthy, with satisfying our desires and realizing our aspirations, so much so that we forget that we are made for others? And that the purpose of our life is not ourselves and our fulfillment, but what we can do to contribute to the good of others and therefore also to that of young people?

On the other hand, there are those who question whether our young people are really willing to bring out, to exploit in a positive way, to really put into play that special energy, that dynamism, that thirst for authenticity and infinity, that desire for novelty and joy, that desire for protagonism that typically characterizes (or should characterize) their age. Or whether they are now so "narcotized" by the overabundance of material goods and comforts of every kind provided by adults and which they can freely enjoy from birth, that they become too vulnerable to frustrations, not ready to face reality and incapable of take into consideration the hypothesis of having to commit and work hard themselves, at least to preserve what others have conquered or built at great cost in the past. In short, is it more the fault of the "adults" who have not become adults in the meantime or more of the "little ones" who prefer to remain children for life because it is more convenient than trying to grow up? Posed in this way, it is clearly a question that cannot have an answer, or at least not a clear answer: the question is in fact very delicate, relevant and terribly complex. It cannot be summarized by reducing it to just two alternatives. Usually, however, we prefer to simplify things by dividing them, rather than endure the effort of keeping them together in our head while waiting for thoughts to become clearer. It is a temptation that often leads to hasty conclusions and superficiality in judgments. Rather, it is better to continue to observe what is happening around us in order to be able to analyze and describe it and perhaps understand its consequences.

Gabriella Delpero
NP June / July 2023

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