On Friday Pope Francis said education is a family matter, and rather than contradicting one another, parents and teachers must collaborate openly and constructively to form children in core values which enable them to face modern challenges.
Speaking of the relationship between education and the family, the Pope said “everyone knows that this relationship has been in crisis for some time, and in certain cases is completely broken.”
At one point there was a mutual reinforcement between the instructions given by teachers and those given by the parents, however, “today the situation has changed.”
“But we cannot be nostalgic for the past,” Pope Francis said. Rather, we must make careful note of the changes that have affected both the family and schools, and renew our commitment “for a constructive collaboration for the good of children and young people.”
If this synergy no longer occurs in a “natural way,” he said it must be promoted with a planning approach, and if necessary with the contribution of experts in the educational field.
To do this, he stressed the need for “a new 'complicity' between teachers and parents. Above all to renounce thinking like opposing fronts, blaming each other.”
On the contrary, parents and teachers must put themselves in the shoes of the other, “understanding the objective difficulties that one and the other encounter today in education, thus creating greater solidarity.”
Pope Francis spoke to members of the Italian Association of Catholic Teachers at the conclusion of their national congress, which took place Jan. 3-5 in Rome.
He has stressed the importance of the relationship between parents and their children's teachers before, using examples from his own past experience to drive the point home.
In his speech Friday, Francis also touched on the importance of building a culture of encounter from a young age and spoke of the need for a more solid education in ecology.
He encouraged those present to strive to build a culture of encounter in “an even more extensive and incisive way” than has been done in the past.
This “cultural challenge” is the basis for primary education, when children are still young, he said, explaining that Christian teachers, whether they are in Catholic or state-run schools, “are called to stimulate in the students an openness to the other as a face, as a person, as a brother and sister to know and respect with their story, with their merits and defects, their richness and limits.”
Francis said this also means forming youth who are open to an interested in the reality around them, who are capable of tenderness and free from the “widespread prejudice” which insists that to be worth something, “you must be competitive, aggressive, harsh toward others, especially toward those who are different, a stranger or whoever in any way is seen as an obstacle to their own affirmation.”
Unfortunately, this is “the air” that children often breathe, he said, adding that the remedy is to make it so that they can breathe “a different air which is healthier, more human.”
To accomplish this, the relationship between teachers and parents “is very important,” he said.
Pope Francis also pointed to what he sees as the need for a greater ecological education, which he said doesn't consist of just a few notions that are taught in the classroom, but instead means educating students in a lifestyle based on care for creation and the common home.
He stressed the need for “a lifestyle that is not schizophrenic,” such as that lived by those who care about animals going extinct but ignore the problems faced by the elderly, or those who defend the Amazon forest but neglect workers' right to a just salary.
“The ecology in which to educate must be integral,” he said, adding that all education “must point to the sense of responsibility: not to transmit slogans that others should implement, but to rouse the taste of experiencing an ecological ethic starting from everyday choices and actions.”
Francis also touched on the importance of making and being part of associations, saying they are a value that shouldn't be underestimated, but must rather be continually cultivated.
“I urge you to renew your will to be and make associations in the memory of the inspiring principles, in reading the signs of the times and with a gaze open to the social and cultural horizon,” he said, and told participants not to be afraid of the challenges and even conflicts that can often arise in lay associations.
Rather than being hidden, these differences must be confronted “with an evangelic style in search of the true good of the association,” he said, explaining that to be an association “is a value and a responsibility, which right now is entrusted to you.”
Pope Francis closed his speech thanking the participants for their presence and their work, and asked for their prayers.