Challenges to Implementing an Ignatian Pedagogy

(77) Achievement of value oriented goals like those presented in The Characteristics of Jesuit Education is not easy. There are formidable challenges working at cross purposes to our aims. here are but a few:

1. Limited View of Education

(78) The purpose of education is often presented as cultural transmission, ie, passing on to new generations the accumulated wisdom of the ages. This is certainly an important function to assure coherence in human endeavours within any society and in the human family at large. Failure to inform and train youth in what we have learned would result in the need for each new generation to reinvent the wheel. In fact, in many places cultural transmission is the dominant, if not the sole purpose of public education.

(79) But the purpose of education in today's world, marked by rapid changes at every level of human endeavour and competing value systems and ideologies, cannot remain so limited if it is effectively to prepare men and women of competence and conscience capable of making significant contributions to the future of the human family. From a sheerly pragmatic point of view, education which is limited to cultural transmission results in training for obsolescence. this is clear when we consider programs training for technology. Less apparent, however, may be the results of failure to probe human implications of developments that inevitably affect human life such as genetic engineering, the image culture, new forms of energy, the role of emerging economic blocks of nations, and a host of other innovations, that promise progress. Many of these offer hope for improved human living, but at what cost? Such matters cannot simply be left to political leaders or the captains of industry; it is the right and responsibility of every citizen to judge and act in appropriate ways for the emerging human community. People need to be educated for responsible citizenship.

(80) In addition, therefore, to cultural transmission, preparation for significant participation in cultural growth is essential. Men and women of the third millennium will require new technological skills, no doubt; but more important, they will require skills to lovingly understand and critique all aspects of life in order to make decisions (personal, social, moral, professional, religious) that will impact all of our lives for the better. Criteria for such growth (through study, reflection, analysis, critique and development of effective alternatives) are inevitably founded on values. This is true whether or not such values are averted to explicitly. All teaching imparts values, and these values can be such as to promote justice, or work partially or entirely at cross purposes to the mission of the Society of Jesus.

(81) Thus, we need a pedagogy that alerts young people to the intricate networks of values that are often subtly disguised in modern life -- in advertising, music, political propaganda, etc. -- precisely so that students can examine them and make judgments and commitments freely, with real understanding.

2. Prevalence of Pragmatism

(82) In a desire to meet goals of economic advancement, which may be quite legitimate, many governments are stressing the pragmatic elements of education exclusively. the result is that education is reduced to job training. This thrust is often encouraged by business interests, although they pay lip service to broader cultural goals of education. In recent years, in many parts of the world, many academic institutions have acceded to this narrow perspective of what constitutes education. And it is startling to see the enormous shift in student selection of majors in universities away form the humanities, the social and psychological sciences, philosophy and theology, towards an exclusive focus on business, economics, engineering, or the physical and biological sciences.

(83) In Jesuit education we do not simply bemoan these facts of life today. They must be considered and dealt with. We believe that almost every academic discipline, when honest with itself, is well aware that the values it transmits depend upon assumptions about the ideal human person and human society which are used as a starting point. Thus educational programs, teaching and research, and the methodologies they employ in Jesuit schools, colleges and universities are of the highest importance, for we reject any partial or deformed version of the human person, the image of God. This is in sharp contrast to educational institutions which often unwittingly sidestep the central concern for the human person because of fragmented approaches to specialisation.

(84) This means that Jesuit education must insist upon integral formation of its students through such means as required core curricula that include humanities, philosophy, theological perspectives, social questions and the like, as part of all specialised educational programs. In addition, infusion methods might well be employed within specialisations to highlight the deeper human, ethical, and social implications of what is being studied.

3. Desire for Simple Solutions

(85) The tendency to seek simple solutions to complex human questions and problems marks many societies today. The widespread use of slogans as answers does not really help to solve problems. Nor does the tendency we see in many countries around the world toward fundamentalism on one extreme of the spectrum and secularism on the other. For these tend to be reductionist; they do not realistically satisfy the thirst for integral human growth that so many of our brothers and sisters cry out for.

(86) Clearly Jesuit education which aims to form the whole person is challenged to chart a path, to employ a pedagogy, that avoids these extremes by helping our students to grasp more comprehensive truth, the human implications of their learning, precisely so that they can more effectively contribute to healing the human family and building a world that is more human and more divine.

4. Feelings of Insecurity

(87) One of the major reasons contributing to a widespread quest for easy answers is the insecurity many people experience due to the breakdown of essential human institutions that normally provide the context for human growth. Tragically, the family, the most fundamental human society, is disintegrating in countries around he world. In many first world countries, 1 out of 2 marriages end in divorce with devastating effects for the spouses, and especially for the children. another source of insecurity and confusion is due to the fact that we are experiencing an historic mass migration of peoples across the face of the earth. Millions of men, women and children are being uprooted from their cultures due to oppression, civil conflicts, or lack of food or means to support themselves. The older emigres may cling to elements of their cultural and religious heritage, but the young are often subject to culture conflict, and feel compelled to adopt the dominant cultural values of their new homelands in order to be accepted. Yet, at heart, they are uncertain about these new values. Insecurity often expresses itself in defensiveness, selfishness, a "me-first" attitude, which block consideration of the needs of others. The emphasis that the Ignatian paradigm places upon reflection to achieve meaning can assist students to understand the reasons underlying the insecurities they experience, and to seek more constructive ways to deal with them.

5. Government Prescribed Curricula

(88) Cutting across all of these factors is the reality of pluralism in the world today. Unlike Jesuit schools of the 16th century, there exists no single universally recognised curriculum like the Trivium or Quadrivium that can be employed as a vehicle for formation in our times. Curricula today justifiably reflect local cultures and local needs that vary considerably. But in a number of countries, governments strictly prescribe the courses that form curricula at the level of elementary and secondary education. This can impede curriculum development according to formational priorities of schools.

(89) Because the Ignatian learning program requires a certain style of teaching, it approaches existing curricular subjects through infusion rather than by changes or additions to course offerings. In this way it avoids further crowding of overburdened school curricula, while at the same time not being seen as a frill tacked on to the "important" subjects. (This does not rule out the possibility that a specific unit concerning ethics or the like may on occasion be advisable in a particular context.)