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Keeping the integrity of education

Fr. Roy Cimagala
Candidly Speaking


Fr. Roy CimagalaI remember that some years ago, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI sounded off the alarm that the way education was being done in the West, it would seem that the essence of education was getting lost.

In our case, when we talk about some problems in education, we refer more to lack of classrooms and the need to attune and synch our educational programs such that they solve our headaches in poverty and literacy.

Thanks to God, our difficulty is mainly in that level which, I admit, is already big, urgent and really crying for immediate solutions and relief. Still, if compared to those of the West, our worries are mere chicken feed.

Our predicament is more in the material dimension of life. That of the West is already undermining the more important spiritual dimension of life. Many times I have seen people, materially poor but full of faith in God, who cope better in life than those materially rich but with weak faith.

We are, of course, a unity of body and spiritual soul. They cannot be separated in life. Only in death, and in a temporary way, since Christian faith teaches us that both body and soul reunite at the end of time.

Our education, for sure, has to take care of the needs of both our constitutive elements of body and soul, but always giving special attention to those of the soul. We may have to make the proper priorities in tackling these needs of our education, but it’s not right to put them in conflict with each other.

Just the same, we should not be complacent with our apparent luck. We need to give serious attention to the root causes of the educational crisis that the Pope Emeritus talked about, because even in our country we can see traces and symptoms of these Western anomalies emerging and developing.

The Pope Emeritus pointed a finger at two culprits responsible for the emergency situation in the educational system in the West. These are, first, the false notion of human autonomy that confines us to ourselves, and, second, the spreading mentalities of relativism and skepticism.

These things may sound abstruse to many, but I’m afraid they now need to be understood by as many people as possible, since these factors affect all of us. We may have to explain a little about these disturbing phenomena so we can get a handle on the situation.

The first cause mentioned by the Pope Emeritus, which is about a false idea on human autonomy, refers to the exaggerated understanding of our freedom and autonomy such that we think education is simply our development purely by and for ourselves.

We make ourselves the be-all and end-all of everything. We think we are not meant for something greater than ourselves now. We make ourselves our own God. Everything else is just used for our self-development.

This attitude is basically wrong since we by nature and as persons need to be in relation with others and ultimately with God. In short, we become more human and better persons the more we relate ourselves to God and the others.

Sad to say, the educational thrust in many places in the world today, including ours, appears to go in this direction of being selfish and of tending to self-absorption, detached from the immediate and ultimate sources of our life and our wisdom.

This first cause of the education crisis, as the Pope Emeritus warned us, leads to the second which are the dangerous attitudes of relativism and skepticism. With faith ignored, divine revelation blocked and the understanding of human nature twisted, we now create our own world devoid of absolute truths.

Everything is now held relative to whatever criteria we may want to consider as our truths and values. This will lead to skepticism and a host of kindred anomalies. In the end, what would rule will just be the law of pragmatism and eventually the law of the jungle, of brute force, etc.

These considerations of the Pope Emeritus, I believe, should not be taken lightly, thinking that they are not quite relevant to our present condition. They are always relevant. And the sooner we include these warnings into our educational system, making the necessary adjustments, the better for us.

We should not regard these caveats as something abstract. They have direct impact on our lives and on our society. We have to overcome that tendency to get stuck with the material and temporal purpose of education and give priority attention to its spiritual and supernatural objective.

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