I am reading The Risk of Education by Father Luigi Giussani, founder of Communion and Liberation. I am very impressed by the first chapter. Guissani presents briefly but surely attitudes that are central to a proper approach to education, and that are also in a particular way appropriate for classical education as I understand it. Here is the beginning of his concluding remarks:
In reviewing what we have discussed so far, the major guidelines for a method to educate adolescents during their “age of verification” would seem to be the following:
- the correct setting up of a hypothesis of a total meaning of reality (we call this the offer of “tradition”), as the only condition of giving certainty to the teenager
- the presence of a clear and real authority, a person as the “location” of the hypothesis, as the sole condition for coherence in the educational process
- stimulating the adolescent to personally commit to the verification of the hypothesis in his own life, as the sole condition for true conviction
- the acceptance of a gradual, balanced risk as the adolescent independently tests and weighs this hypothesis against reality, as the sole condition for the coming of age of his freedom
My restatement: The hypothesis offered by an all-embracing tradition helps the adolescent develop certainty, allowing him to hope that reality has ultimate meaning.
Through the authoritative adult, teacher, institution which has lived and continues to live the tradition, it becomes a living reality, and the young person’s education gains coherence.
But the tradition cannot be simply accepted. As the young person matures, he must be encouraged to verify what he has learned by its agreement with his own experience; only in this way can the he move beyond simple ideological belief to real conviction. The best souls naturally strive for this, but many adolescents resist this, being content to receive without question.
Encouraging the young person in this way involves risk, which parents and teachers experience in his challenges, questions, doubts. Patience, prudence and prayer are required, offering help and guidance as needed, but never pre-empting or stifling the quest. Allowing the young freedom, so necessary for maturity, always involves risk.