1. In a changing world
The school system is a sensitive crossroads of the issues that converge in the area of educational responsibility.
The pervasiveness of modern secularisms - which reject in practice any prospects in the metaphysical and truth dimensions, along with the gradual falling apart of the cultural frames of reference which had guaranteed harmonious (or, at least, effective) socialization over centuries - has a heavy impact on educational processes. These processes are deeply shaken, and the malaise of families, the unease of educational institutions, the often negative influence of the mass media, and the younger generations' feelings of having lost all sense of direction, are obvious to us all. Equally obvious is the fact that the Christian faith is being done away with as a foundation of existence.
The role and meaning of schools should be viewed against this backdrop when considering the need to educate the young to mutual knowledge and dialogue, with self-awareness and respect for the other.
2. Which culture?
In what is necessarily the mere outline of a proposal set out below, a few substantial definitions should first be given.
•Culture has an organic character
Culture takes the shape of models, interlocking meanings, traditions, values, objectives..., which all form its soul and its deep physiognomy: in this way culture may be assimilated to a living organism.
•The acquired character of culture
Culture lies within the scope of education and at the same time it challenges educational processes and institutions. Culture is not inherited, it is learned; it is the active correlation between existential experience and a pre-existing body of knowledge: culture creates us, and we create culture,
•The humanistic character of culture
The central personalist and humanist character of culture must be reaffirmed, to keep the classical tradition of paideia-humanitas alive - culture is first and foremost the formation of the person.
•The value character of culture
The notion of culture without a set of values should be clearly rejected, along with that other notion, which is its mirror image, according to which all cultures are of equal value and dignity. A narrow sociological understanding of culture leads it to regress to a formal figure, without any value foundation. Culture, therefore, becomes the name that is given to anything that happens, however it may happen, without any consideration for human persons and society. This neutering of culture is the background for the pervasive and nefarious neutralization of democracy, education, etc..
3. Identity and belonging
The challenges in education. Recovering the past, promises, commitments
Italian Episcopal Conference, European Symposium, Roma 1-4 July 2004