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undermine the transcendental dimension of the human person. Materialism, or economism, as this phenomenon has been termed on different occasions.

It is a conceptual flaw which perverts human existence, both at the individual and community level. Its physical origin lies in abundance, when its roots are to be found in the very axiological structure upon which an individual’s and a family’s life is built. So much so, that the educational system has been corrupted and is used to spread these new counter-values, seen as objectives to be pursued if one wishes to lead a modern existence.

Carried away by a pantheistic materialism, which some deem as atheistic, this germ which has captured society only believes in whatever is tangible. It reveres only whatever can be gauged and weighed. The spiritual dimension, the call to transcendence is viewed as an archaic need, not appropriate for advanced societies.

Life in the post-modern era takes place exclusively in the present, for man is a merely corruptible being; he expects nothing and strives for nothing. Not surprisingly, having fallen prey to the melancholy of nihilism, individuals embrace the present as the best, the best in the material sense. The rest simply does not exist. They live in constant contradiction. While on the one hand they criticize opulence as a sign of civilization’s decadence, on the other they radically profess utilitarian principles. Non-compliance with the restrictions set by principles, materialistic alienation, sexual exploitation, the satisfaction of secular whims as a code of conduct, are only some of their manifestations.

In one way or another, with greater or lesser intensity, society and its structures are impregnated with these new aspects, which only the richest in spirituality and asceticism are capable of resisting. The educational system and education per sé are focused on “doing” and “having”, while forgetting “being”. There is no need to look far, we have clear evidence of this. The principles and ideas enshrined in the so-called European Higher Education Space may be summarized in a word: employability. It is the ability to carry out a professional activity, as soon as possible. It would seem that we are responding to the old principle of economics, announced by Lord Robbins, according to which once the end is determined, that is, the ability to be employed, it should be achieved in the shortest period of time possible.

This influence has not spared the family. It is rather common to look down on and even pressure one’s children if they express the desire to study classical languages or philosophy, or when they announce that they wish to enter priesthood or enter monastic life, in any of its permutations. “Having” has replaced “being”, and this dramatic situation in itself is aggravated when we consider that the our goal is to “have” today. There is a great display of arrogance on the part of those who think they know the secular realities of the future, and are capable of planning the long-term employability of individuals with a monolithic education, which they have chosen in the name of a misleading efficiency, thus giving up a sound pyramidal education with fewer utilitarian components.

The challenges in education. Recovering the past, promises, commitments

Italian Episcopal Conference, European Symposium, Roma 1-4 July 2004

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