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Schooling, instruction and education

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Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

On August 25, the liturgical calendar of the universal Church celebrates the memorials of St. Louis, King of France, and St. Joseph Calasanz. Since this year it falls on a Sunday, instead of these saints, we celebrate the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time because the celebration of Sunday takes precedence over the memorial of saints.

St. Louis IX ruled France during the 13th century. He is remembered among other things for his reforms of the French judicial system which introduced the presumption of innocence for criminal cases, the principle that all the accused are innocent until proven guilty, a standard that has been universally adopted for most crimes, which seems logic to us, but in his time, was an innovation of this Catholic monarch.

St. Joseph Calasanz was Spanish. He was born halfway through the 16th century. He founded a religious congregation, the Piarist Fathers, dedicated to the education of children and youth, especially those who are poor. This religious family still exists and is present in the Archdiocese of Miami running Cardinal Gibbons High School in Broward County.

Calasanz was a pedagogue and reformer of schooling. The modern school system which we are familiar with, which began the school year this past week, has been largely shaped by his innovations. He was one of the first to organize the students according to their age and level of learning to facilitate the instruction. He was also a pioneer in the education of masses, facilitating access of the poor to the classroom. His guiding principle was “piety and literacy”.

He is not the only saint throughout the rich history of the Church who dedicated his life to the instruction and education of popular masses. For Catholics, human development has been a constant concern. Many men and women moved by their love of Christ gave up and still give up their lives for their neighbor in educational projects.

There is a difference between education and instruction, just as there is a difference between the school system and the educational system.

Instruction allows a student to acquire knowledge, whereas education forms character and helps them to grow as persons.

The school system is made up of academic institutions that impart learning, whereas the education system includes these and also other institutions from society that contribute to the formation of character and personal growth, promoting a virtuous life among citizens which is indispensable for life in society to flourish.

There cannot be a dynamic educational system or authentic progress in a place where family life collapses, there is contempt for the law, the rights of others are trampled upon and the most fundamental human rights are denied. To educate is much more than preparing a person so that he or she can join the labor force. To educate is to help a person to develop as a human being.

In our times, utilitarian and ideologically charged visions of education that are only concerned with instruction have the upper hand. Instead of opening up the mind of students and lead them in the search for truth, they are often treated as mere consumers of information and content, part of a production system requiring human resources that the school ought to produce.

It is true that education is one of the engines of economic growth in a country.

It is also true that education prepares persons to join the labor force and provide for their own needs and those of their families, but it is equally true that education has a civilizing, socializing and humanizing purpose. Scientific knowledge helps us to know reality at a deeper level. The arts allow us to appreciate beauty, one of the attributes of being.

Catholic education, being faithful to the mission that the Church received from her Lord, seeks to transmit practical, speculative and scientific knowledge and appreciation for the arts to contribute to an integral human development. It is not based on a utilitarian view of knowledge that reduces it to a tool to generate revenue or contribute to growth in a country’s gross domestic product. It is a program of authentic human growth that obviously includes the spiritual dimension and is rooted on a vision of the human person that stems from the Gospel, a true humanism that recognizes the importance of the actualization of all potencies in a person.

Catholic education ought to mirror the Divine Master, whose life and teachings reveal to human beings our nature, our vocation and our transcendent destiny. That is why if offers quality instruction, forms character and promotes growth in virtue, effectively contributing to the advancement of the Kingdom of God in our midst.

Fr. Roberto M. Cid