The Goal of Jesuit Education


(12) What is our goal? The Characteristics of Jesuit Education offers a description which has been amplified by Fr General Kolvenbach:

The pursuit of each student's intellectual development to the full measure of God-given talents rightly remains a prominent goal of Jesuit education. Its aim, however, has never been simply to amass a store of information or preparation for a profession, though these are important in themselves and useful to emerging Christian leaders. The ultimate aim of Jesuit education is, rather, that full growth of the person which leads to action - action, especially, that is suffused with the spirit and presence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Man-for-Others. This goal of action, based on sound understanding and enlivened by contemplation, urges students to self-discipline and initiative, to integrity and accuracy. At the same time, it judges slip-shod or superficial ways of thinking unworthy of the individual and, more important, dangerous to the world he or she is called to serve.

(13) Father Arrupe summarised this by pointing to our educational goal as "forming men and women for others." Father Kolvenbach has described the hoped-for graduate of a Jesuit school as a person who is "well-rounded, intellectually competent, open to growth, religious, loving, and committed to doing justice in generous service to the people of God." Father Kolvenbach also states our goal when he says "We aim to form leaders in service, in imitation of Christ Jesus, men and women of competence, conscience and compassionate commitment."

(14) Such a goal requires a full and deeper formation of the human person, an educational process of formation that calls for excellence - a striving to excel, to achieve one's potential - that encompasses the intellectual, the academic and more. It calls for a human excellence modelled on Christ of the Gospels, an excellence that reflects the mystery and reality of the Incarnation, an excellence that reveres the dignity of all people as well as the holiness of all creation. There are sufficient examples from history of educational excellence narrowly conceived, of people extraordinarily advanced intellectually who, at the same time, remain emotionally undeveloped and morally immature. We are beginning to realise that education does not inevitably humanise or Christianise people and society. We are losing faith in the naive notion that all education, regardless of its quality or thrust or purpose, will lead to virtue. Increasingly, then, it becomes clear that if we in Jesuit education are to exercise a moral force in society, we must insist that the process of education takes place in a moral as well as an intellectual framework. This is not to suggest a program of indoctrination that suffocates the spirit; neither does it look for the introduction of theoretical courses which are speculative and remote from reality. What is needed is a framework of inquiry for the process of wrestling with significant issues and complex values of life, and teachers capable and willing to guide that inquiry.