· Vatican City ·


In search of the lost soul
of the school

 Alla ricerca dell’anima perduta della scuola  DCM-006
03 June 2023

Bureaucratized and the offspring of a cultural crisis affecting the entire West, the school system survives, but is like a giant in agony. The signs of this malaise are the teachers who have lost their role as educators; families who defend their children to the hilt even when they commit serious acts; and a vast distrust between teachers and students. The latter are embittered, anxious, and somewhat depressed. They burst into tears over a C- in maths and today fear intimate relationships because they do not want to suffer. Above all, they struggle to find a synthesis within a fragmented cultural framework, which is open to a myriad of possibilities.

This is the harsh outcome of the analysis of Rossella Barzotti and Roberto Cetera’s L'anima della scuola [The Soul of the School] (ed. San Paolo), a volume dedicated to RE teachers, but also to all those who work and experience a school that is held hostage to numbers (grades, students promoted or failed, reports to write, statistics). Instead, they argue, the school system should “assume a function of mediation between pupil and culture”. Barzotti and Cetera, as Andrea Monda, director of “L’Osservatore Romano” and a former teacher of religion in high schools, emphasizes well in the preface, do not limit themselves to drawing a bleak picture. They seek to propose a humanistic vision, a return to the word that sews relationships, to empathy that welcomes, to dialogue between parties. It is no coincidence that The Soul of the School is dedicated to Don Lorenzo Milani, who in times very different from today knew how to look at his students’ soul and guide them to find themselves in the maturity, that means finding one’s place in the world. The opening quotation is from Pope Francis, “A good educator aims at the essential (...) wants to transmit what really matters so that the child or pupil finds meaning and joy in life”. To get to this fertile goal, the authors write, one must recognise that children have changed. They are more vulnerable. They sometimes replicate their parents’ narcissism and individualism. They are sensitive to environmental issues. They painfully underestimate their own abilities, their own talents. That is why they need figures with a strong vocation for teaching, to return to a school that becomes a second home, a soul that extends a hand to them”.