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Prof. Italo Fiorin

Teacher of General Didactics, University of Messina

1.Ideas for the debate

Being born does not only mean abandoning the mother’s womb, but in some respects our whole life is a birth process. “Indeed – Fromm pointed out – we are actually fully born only when we die, even though the tragic destiny of most people is that they die before they are born”.1 In other words, constructing one’s identity is a journey, which in religious terms may be seen as the journey that lead us to realize what we are called to be, which lasts our whole life.

This fundamental task that each of us has, is certainly not something new since in all eras and in every culture the search for fulfilment is what characterizes human experience.

But if we turn our thoughts to today’s world, within the context of the current culture and society, and if we focus in particular on that sensitive and difficult developmental period that constitutes pre-adolescence and adolescence, growth-related problems take on a peculiar manifestation.

Modernity seems to have come to its end with the maturing of the crisis of subjectivity which had been inaugurated by Descartes, and continued through to the defeat of the Ego, a divided, fragmented Ego, ‘without quality’. The defeat of ideologies has left the field to the sole paradigm that seems to be dominant today, the market economy that seems to know no boundaries, neither spatial nor ethical. Our times are crossed by constant transformations of a society that is defined as being ‘complex’, in which relationships multiply, but they also become insubstantial, and the values of reference are relativized, experience becomes precarious, uncertainty with regard to the future induce people to fall back on the present. A new, ‘weak’ subjectivity is taking shape, one which is built on personal wishes, it is fragile, narcissistic, abandoned in the hands of immediacy also by the weakening of the traditional systems of meaning. As modern societies are dominated by the imperative to change “they are open, but they are also societies of uncertainty, in which none of the traditions work any more”.2

Even these few ideas may be sufficient in showing how education is faced with demanding challenges. What help can education give to a young person engaged in the difficult journey of fulfilling himself in a context of uncertainty and fear of the future, of massification, of exasperated individualism, of constant transformations…? But perhaps it is not accurate to speak of ‘challenge’ when referring to education. A. Agazzi has pointed out that the concept of challenge to education may be misunderstood and

1 Quoted in: A face or a mask?, 1997 Report on the condition of childhood and adolescence, edited by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, , Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato, Rome 1997

2 Hervieu-Léger D., Tendency and Contradictions of European Modernity, in Hervieu-Léger D. et al., The Religion of Europeans. Faith, Religious Culture and Modernity in France, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Germany and Hungary, Fondazione Agnelli, Turin 1992, p.6.

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

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

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