Towards a Pedagogy for Faith and Justice

(15) Young men and women should be free to walk a path whereby they are enabled to grow and develop as fully human persons. In today's world, however, there is a tendency to view the aim of education in excessively utilitarian terms. Exaggerated emphasis of financial success can contribute to extreme competitiveness and absorption with selfish concerns. As a result, that which is human in a given subject or discipline may be diminished in students' consciousness. This can easily obscure the true values and aims of humanistic education. To avoid such distortion, teachers in Jesuit schools present academic subjects out of a human "centredness", with stress on uncovering and exploring the patterns, relationships, facts, questions, insights, conclusions, problems, solutions, and implications which a particular discipline brings to light about what it means to be a human being. Education thus becomes a carefully reasoned investigation through which the student forms or reforms his or her habitual attitudes towards other people and the world.

(16) From a Christian standpoint, the model for human life -- and therefore the ideal of a humanely educated individual -- is the person of Jesus. Jesus teaches us by word and example that the realisation of our fullest human potential is achieved ultimately in our union with God, a union that is sought and reached through a living, just and compassionate relationship with our brother and sisters. Love of God, then, finds true expression in our daily love of neighbour, in our compassionate care for the poor and suffering, in our deeply human concern for others as God's people. It is a love that gives witness to faith and speaks out through action on behalf of a new world community of justice, love and peace.

(17) The mission of the Society of Jesus today as a religious order in the Catholic Church is the service of faith of which the promotion of justice is an essential element. It is a mission rooted in the belief that a new world community of justice, love and peace needs educated persons of competence, conscience and compassion, men and women who are ready to embrace and promote all that is fully human, who are committed to working for the freedom and dignity of all peoples, and who are willing to do so in cooperation with others equally dedicated to the reform of society and its structures. Renewal of our social, economic and political systems so that they nourish and preserve our common humanity and free people to be generous in their love and care for others requires resilient and resourceful persons. It calls for persons, educated in faith and justice, who have a powerful and ever growing sense of how they can be effective advocates, agents and models of God's justice, love and peace within as well as beyond the ordinary opportunities of daily life and work.

(18) Accordingly, education in faith and for justice begins with a reverence for the freedom, right and power of individuals and communities to create a different life for themselves. It means assisting young people to enter into the sacrifice and joy of sharing their lives with others. It means helping them to discover that what they most have to offer is who they are rather than what they have. It means helping them to understand and appreciate that other people are their richest treasure. It means walking with them in their own journeys toward greater knowledge, freedom and love. This is an essential part of the new evangelisation to which the Church calls us.

(19) Thus education in Jesuit schools seeks to transform how youth look at themselves and other human beings, at social systems and societal structures, at the global community of humankind and the whole of natural creation. If truly successful, Jesuit education results ultimately in a radical transformation not only of the way in which people habitually think and act, but of the very way in which they live in the world, men and women of competence, conscience and compassion, seeking the greater good in terms of what can be done out of a faith commitment with justice to enhance the quality of people's lives, particularly among God's poor, oppressed and neglected.

(20) To achieve our goal as educators in Jesuit schools, we need a pedagogy that endeavours to form men and women for others in a post modern world where so many forces are at work which are antithetical to that aim. In addition we need an on-going formation for ourselves as teachers to be able to provide this pedagogy effectively. There are, moreover, many places where governmental entities define the limits of educational programs and where teacher training is counterproductive to a pedagogy which encourages student activity in learning, fosters growth in human excellence, and promotes formation in faith and values along with the transmission of knowledge and skill as integral dimensions of the learning process. This describes the real situation facing many of us who are teachers and administrators in Jesuit schools. It poses a complex apostolic challenge as we embark daily on our mission to win the trust and faith of new generations of youth, to walk with them along the pathway toward truth, to help them work for a just world filled with the compassion of Christ.

(21) How do we do this? Since the publication of 1986 of The Characteristics of Jesuit Education, a frequent question of teachers and administrators alike in Jesuit schools has been: "How can we achieve what is proposed in this document, the educational formation of youth to be men and women for others, in the face of present day realities?" The answer necessarily must be relevant to many cultures; it must be useable in different situations; it must be applicable to various disciplines; it must appeal to multiple styles and preferences. Most importantly, it must speak to teachers of the realities as well as the ideals of teaching. All of this must be done, moreover, with particular regard for the preferential love of the poor which characterises the mission of the Church today. It is a hard challenge and one that we cannot disregard because it goes to the heart of what is the apostolate of Jesuit education. The solution is not simply to exhort our teachers and administrators to greater dedication. What we need, rather, is a model of how to proceed that promotes the goal of Jesuit education, a paradigm that speaks to the teaching-learning process, that addresses the teacher-learner relationship, and that has practical meaning and application for the classroom.

(22) The first decree of the 33rd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, "Companions of Jesus Sent into Today's World, "encourages Jesuits in the regular apostolic discernment of their ministries, both traditional and new. Such a review, it recommends, should be attentive to the Word of God and should be inspired by the Ignatian tradition. In addition, it should allow for a transformation of people's habitual patterns of thought through a constant interplay of experience, reflection and action. It is here that we find the outline of a model for bringing The Characteristics of Jesuit Education to life in our schools today, through a way of proceeding that is thoroughly consistent with the goal of Jesuit education and totally in line with the mission of the Society of Jesus. We turn our consideration, then, to an Ignatian paradigm that gives prominence to the constant interplay of EXPERIENCE, REFLECTION and ACTION.