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The ideas

An adventure in reciprocity

06 February 2021

The educational emergency as identified by Benedict XVI and Pope Francis’ global educational pact demonstrate the indisputability of the enormous problem with instruction. This issue cannot be addressed without questioning the framework within which we operate for that is one of the reasons that has led us to where we are today.  The educational crisis is a form of poverty that can make us see things differently; instead, we need to abandon inertia, and consider the “it’s always been done this way” as a misunderstood conception of tradition. Moreover, we should view its ashes unworthy of veneration, but rather as a source of life-giving inspiration. Let us listen to the signs of the times, rather than curse them and blame them for the failures, which are largely our own.

To educate is not to shape according to an ideal model that forms individuality, just as educating is not broadcasting, as in a one-way delivery of content by a qualified ‘broadcaster’. In order to educate, we cannot rely on consolidated knowledge that we believe to possess. As Pope Francis reminds us, the first of education’s gestures is to exit, to “ex-ducere”, to lead out; and, not just our students, but also oneself. To exit from reassuring formulas, from self-referential language, from a sweetened consensus that becomes a consolatory refuge rather than a radical commitment to become leaven. To exit from individual and identity “egolatry”, and from secure knowledge, and instead allow oneself to be provoked by new questions.  One does not exit through an act of will, but with the encounter/clash with others. Especially with those who are on the margins, with those who provoke us and summon us elsewhere with regard to our established knowledge.

The encounter is always a “living beginning”, wrote Romano Guardini. Sergio de Giacinto defined education as “continuous procreation”, while Hannah Arendt argued that “the essence of education is birth, for the fact that human beings are brought into the world”. Therefore, there can be no education without a relationship or reciprocity, and the first amongst these is that between a male and a female. This is not complementarity, based on a division of labor. It is not a question of pink quotas. Reciprocity means mutual fecundation, in the inescapability of the tension between the two terms, which do not exist outside of their relationship. The undifferentiated Adam becomes Ish, man, the moment he sees Ishà, woman. The recognition of a coessentiality cannot but have consequences on formation in the church, that of priests in primis, but more besides. If God is Father, Mary is mother and teacher. How this richness can be translated into the adventure of formation is still largely to be imagined and brought to life.

Chiara Giaccardi