Latin America and Africa

Argentina and Brazil. Mucho Gusto Education
Touring the Latin American continent. The Christian
educational method serves to know the meaning of things, through a friendship that communicates something bigger

by Paola Navotti

In Buenos Aires and Saõ Paolo, Communion and Liberation–Comunión y Liberatión and Comunhão e Libertação–has organized a kind of road tour on education, with Giancarlo Cesana as the “guest star” in the lands of Argentina and Brazil.
Monday, March 15th, in the Aula Magna Auditorium of the Medical Faculty of the State University of Buenos Aires, 900 people attended the presentation of Fr Giussani’s book, The Risk of Education.
Tuesday, March 16th, in the Auditorium of the Mitre Museum of Buenos Aires, 50 university professors participated in a seminar entitled, “What education for the future of Argentina? The risk of education as the creation of personalities and of history.” Daniel Filmus, the Argentinian Minister of Schools, opened discussions. The event was promoted by the Foundation of Diario La Nacion, an important Argentinian daily newspaper.
Thursday, March 18th, in the Auditorium of the Archdiocesan College of Saõ Paolo, Bishop Pedro Luiz Stringhini, Auxiliary Bishop of Saõ Paolo, and Cesana spoke to 500 young people and professors about “Educating to freedom: a response to man’s desire for truth, beauty, and justice.” Bishop Filippo Santoro, Auxiliary Bishop of Rio, hosted the event. Also present was “our” Bishop Giuliano Frigeni of Parintins.

A need for everyone
So, in Buenos Aires and Saõ Paolo, a concentration of comparative “risks of education,” making Cesana and the other illustrious speakers–but us listeners as well–feel like protagonists in the classroom, because discussions did not center mainly on educating others, “the little ones,” but on education as a necessity for everyone. Cesana explained, “Education should introduce us to the whole of reality, in the sense that the educated person should be able to deal with all the situations of life, even those never before seen. However, it’s not possible to know everything; a lifetime would not suffice. How can it be done? The Christian educational method described so well in Fr Giussani’s book seeks to know the meaning of things. The meaning of things is the relationship that exists between things. Who communicates it? Who forms an educator? Tradition. I don’t teach you what I think, but what I follow, so that you can verify whether what I tell you is true. Science doesn’t reveal the meaning of reality. In fact, not only are scientists not the best educators, but, above all, scientists can’t resolve man’s most serious problems. Facing the question of death, for example, certainly doesn’t mean measuring when brain functions cease. To deal with the problems of life, then, an ‘educational’ friendship is needed, a friendship that communicates something bigger, mysterious something that tradition continues to announce: the presence of Christ. Why is education a risk? Because the person in front of you is free and, to get involved, has to be fascinated. The true response to a girl’s need or a boy’s need is the Infinite, and the educator has to encourage the student to find her or his road, getting involved with all the aspects of her or his life. What we need most are educators who are critical, capable of identifying not the negative aspects but the positive ones; that is, what is of worth. From this, you understand two things. First, it is necessary to begin to truly educate, rather than to organize committees on the various problems of the school. Second, we ourselves have to be educated.”

“ Schizophrenic” generations
The other contributions were of great note as well. At the Buenos Aires seminar, published in its entirety in a Diario La Nacion insert, the Minister of Instruction, Daniel Filmus, defined the generations now being formed as “schizophrenic,” because “the school teaches them values but, in society, in reality, there are others. It’s like when we hear about students shooting in U.S. schools–no one would have imagined that these boys could murder, because they were only students, and yet it happened. Values are taught by example, and for this reason, it is necessary to recover the concept of authority, which can only be founded on a relationship. ‘My wish for you is that you never feel tranquil,’ writes Fr Giussani. Well, in Argentina, that’s no problem! This book could truly lay the foundations for a method that restores authority in the schools. In other words, it can be explained this way: the difference between antiquity and modernity is that the former used roads, while the latter uses highways. But highways are all alike, while roads are a walk. Yes, school is a walk.” Not bad at all! And to add to that, at the seminar, it was striking to see the illustrious audience listening with great attention to the seminar, which lasted–between introductory lectures and debate–a full seven hours, excluding the longed-for coffee breaks after “only” the first four hours. In Saõ Paolo, the Auxiliary Bishop of the city, Bishop Stringhini, exhorted, “Fr Giussani writes that education is the development of all of the structures of man to the point of his total realization, and thus he founds an educational process that integrates faith and life. He documents faith as the hope of life. Education to explain the reasons for one’s own faith is the participation of the consciousness of the creature in the creation.”

In words and in works
In Latin America, I not only heard great words but, above all, I saw great works–the Obra di padre Mario Pantaleo in Buenos Aires; the young people of the parish of Fr “Grigna” and three other priests of the San Carlo Fraternity in Plata, a nearby city; the Cren (center for recovery and nutritional education) in Saõ Paolo; and the Cantinho da Natureza (little nature corner) Education Center in a Rio de Janeiro favela. It would take another article to go into details, but here is the conclusion: thank goodness that these people exist, because their education works miracles.