edu

EducazioneUnità - Education for Unity

Conflict, dialogue and the culture of unity - Lublin, Poland

International Interdisciplinary Congress

Lublin, Poland, 3-4 June 2016 --> PROGRAM

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the conferral of an Honorary Doctorate in Social Sciences on Chiara Lubich at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (Poland)

2011 Comunità che educa: una vincente scommessa

Benevento, 9 ottobre 2011

Commissione EdU: Comunità che educa: una scommessa vincente

English: A community that educates: a winningformula

Domenico Bellantoni: Un reciproca appartenenza

Info: Dal sito del Movimento dei focolari

Info: Dal sito "Città Nuova"

 

 

A COMMUNITY THAT EDUCATES:

A WINNING FORMULA

EdU – Benevento 2011

 

 

1. From fragmentation to unity

 

In a society dominated by information and communication, paradoxically the sense of alienation and fragmentation has grown[1] so much that our times could be defined as an age of uncertainty and increasing individualism.[2] Uncertainty, then, leads to ‘difficulties for many adults in identifying a shared meaning’, which hinders them from transmitting it to their children ‘so that they run the risk of growing without reference points, without someone who truly educates them for life.’[3] Not only education, therefore, is affected, but ‘the meaning of our being and becoming’.[4]

And yet we believe it is possible to see ‘beyond’, have the view of one who does not live ‘skating on thin ice’[5] but sees life within a specific context of meaning.[6] For this reason educational institutions are called today not only to fulfil the traditional role of cultural transmission, but also, in a responsible way, to work for a necessary change,[7] guiding and supporting all possible progress towards a real and shared improvement in the quality of life.[8] Education is a global challenge, we need to be aware of its urgency and the huge demand for resources, not only in financial terms but above all in the energy and the instruments – cultural, psychological and moral – necessary to rediscover the courage to educate.

                But to meet this change education must always rediscover those ideals that shape the purpose of education, and which, as underlined in previous ‘educational meetings’, respond to the constant need for loving relationship within every person. The activity of the educator, in fact, is rooted in the first place in relationality, which is a primary characteristic of the what it is to be human, a constitutive purpose of a person’s being.[9] Hence it is necessary to have a form of education that seeks to stimulate and foster the passage from fragmentation to unity in the self and in the self’s relation to others.

                This sort of relation does not develop in a void, but it is encouraged or discouraged by a particular kind of environment and by the way that environment is structured. Looking at relationship as an objective, an itinerary and a means makes us then re-focus upon the context where it can take place: an environment containing ample space made lively by the community in the awareness that, among its many facets, the objective is to educate persons capable of entering into genuine relationships.[10] The educator, in fact, can help those being educated to reach fulfilment as human beings capable of an authentic existence, in the dimension of us, that is, in the dimension of the community which must be constructed.[11] And it is the dialogical principle, as Buber affirms, that gives basis and values to social dynamics and which makes it possible for the educating community to be a place where persons meet.[12]

 

 

2. Towards a community that educates

 

                There is an increasingly noticeable need and a longing for community, to use the words of the Italian title of a book by Zygmunt Bauman.[13] This community should enable the transformation of ‘polyphony into harmony’ and so achieve ‘unity in diversity’. And we, educators, catalysts prophetically capable of setting out on new and alternative pathways, have to lay the foundation for a new cultural and social edifice, using, as suggested by Brauman, the most suitable building materials. That is, we should use the strength of genuine relationships, the commitment and responsibility of those who do not duck the task but rather are engaged day by day with devotion.

                Such an edifice cannot be reduced to what goes on in school. It is necessary, as Dewey emphasizes, ‘to acquire the broadest point of view, the social view’, and to aim at ‘transforming each of our schools into an embryonic community of life’,[14] a community open to learning, to its human context, to the world.

                A community that educates, therefore, has meaning only if it is truly part of a wider community in which it is placed. A true ‘community education’ can only be such if it is able not only to articulate theoretically what it is to educate (from Latin ex-ducere, to bring out), but also if, in itself, it lives as a community of exploration and study and does this in an effective exchange with the wider community where it is placed, in all that it is socially, culturally, economically, politically and religiously. This finds its fullest expression in the concept of the ‘city’ which, in an educational sense, can be understood as the historical dimension of a community made up in essence of the bonds among persons and groups. It can, however, also mean an ‘ideal city’, where the bond is sharing in a common Ideal. From this point of view the radical crisis of education today is not only methodological, but above all axiological. Thus it is not a crisis of the means but of the content in terms of values; it is not so much a matter of ‘how’ but of ‘why’, the choice and the justification of its proposed aims.[15]

                 It would seem that there is an increasingly clear need to ‘promote a true educational community that offers an alternative model of living together in contrast to standardized and individualized society’ and which gives space to ‘a way of being human rooted in reciprocity,[16] which before existing as a cultural artefact is capable of being made concrete in daily practice.’[17] It is a community that functions less as a static institution, but it is more a ‘vital network of relations among persons’ and ‘a space needed for its own fulfilment’ that ‘starts from communion between two people and is developed through a variety of relational and organizational forms.’[18]

                The same idea is expressed in a wonderful and meaningful African proverb: ‘To bring up a child you need a whole village.’ But what village are we constructing? What is, as Plato would say, the panthak­­ū, the whole place? – meaning by that the whole place that educates well or badly, builds or destroys, according to the value system that characterizes it.[19]

                It is the task of educators today – taking into account the critical gaze of the teacher – to ask themselves about the basis upon which they are building the community/village. That is to say, to ask about, as it were, what are the criteria of habitability[20] in the reality proposed and acted upon.

 

 

3. Towards communion-based education

 

                The development of a human being, therefore, demands a whole variety of elements from a wider context than just the educator-educated relationship; it demands a community.[21] This asks us to accept the partial nature of our points of view and, as a result, have the ability to identify all useful educational resources and strategies and, from a practical perspective, manage to consider some of the basic things needed for a shared project.[22]

                Looking at the community as if it were a plurality of persons to be educated[23] urges us to discover, know, value and effectively promote intercourse among the various potentialities of this shared space, of this ‘common field of experience’.[24] The school itself becomes, therefore, a living community not as a result of bureaucratic or informal contacts, but through personal and living relationships among all involved, which means not only those with direct educational responsibility within the school but also with all who make up its mini-society.[25]

                Looking at each person as an essential element of this mini-society leads to recognizing the enormous dignity of each, seen as a unique and unrepeatable personal subject who is fully expressed in a mutual I-Thou relationship that comes to maturity through a healthy educational relationship. Following Dewey’s insight, individuals are called to think of themselves within the group and see themselves from the perspective of their social relationality.[26] A meaningful image often used by Chiara Lubich to describe the elements that make up the relations within a group is that of tiles, the pieces forming a mosaic. Each one must be itself, living, active, free, self-aware[27] and, at the same time, each must be aware of the others and of the relationships that bind all together and give meaning to the whole.[28]

                For this to happen we must be able to have genuinely reciprocal relationships, and this means growing in the art of hospitality. This art is difficult. It demands a dynamic to-and-fro capable of invitation to the other, going out to meet the other, supportive being with the other. The art of invitation to the other requires authenticity[29] and acceptance of the other in the other’s diversity.[30] The art of going out to meet the other implies listening, decentralization, desire to know, to understand, in a word: empathy.[31] The art of supportive being with the other leads us to a concrete and responsible educational encounter, to a phase where we have to move to action, working together, planning together, in a co-operative building of the world together. We need as Freire says, ‘to give a name to the world,’[32] to give it the identity it deserves, beginning with that educational act which gives identity to the ‘Thou’, the person we encounter in relationship, an act that Martin Buber defined in a powerful word as ‘struggle’. It is a struggle, however, where we do not strive to come out as winners or losers but as winning together.

                In a similar way, it is clear a community is formed if it is based upon mutual understanding and solidarity among its members,[33] and it follows also that we cannot educate fully without such reciprocity and a thorough participation in a series of actions that, although distinct, are also planned, guided and verified by the community.[34] The human being, therefore, is completely fulfilled in civil and social life, in the life of the community. This means that, now more than ever, it is in our educational, social and cultural interest to work together to create a common space where no one is excluded.[35] Being actively directed towards unity, in building a community, thus, is not only a matter of seeking peaceful and constructive relations between people. It is a law inscribed in every single thing made explicit in interpersonal and social relations. Chiara Lubich sees the basis of this in the pattern of relations characteristic of the Trinity.

                This brings about a synthesis between the concerns of educating the individual and the concerns of educating the community. It is a synthesis that seems to be entirely in keeping with the ideas of those who, despite their different points of departure, throughout the history of educational theory (philosophers and educational theorists such as Buber, Mournier, Lévinas, Derrida, Freire, Capitini and Don Milani)[36] have insisted upon the importance of education for the construction of a society based on genuine relationships.

 

 

4. Towards a shared project

 

                We firmly believe in the importance of this vision, that is, of the foundational nature of this dialogical-communitarian understanding of what it is to be human. And we know that our insistence upon this basis for education finds ample confirmation in what is discovered by educators, involved in the widest range of commitments, when they come to know one another as they gather from different parts of the world. They are unable to accept easy answers with regard to teaching methods but, rather courageously, together they seek a solid theoretical foundation that makes sense of their educational work and experience.

                The first interpreters of this art of reciprocity-unity ought to be, each in his or her own way, parents, teachers and educators in general. From the most practical point of view this requires several conditions[37] as the foundation for a shared project, for instance:

 

·        the recognition of common areas of commitment;

·        the affirmation of the specific value of each person or group-institution;

·        the search for freedom as a right and, at the same time, of solidarity as a task;[38]

·        respect for differences and openness to them as a resource within a shared outlook and values

 

                The family can truly be the ‘primary social capital’ strengthening the ‘primary and base-level trust,’[39] that is, the intrinsic closeness of ‘I-You-Us’ present in the microcosm of solidarity within the normal run of daily life. And the school too, from the earliest years, can be drawn into this primary role though teachers capable of giving a witness to healthy educational relationships. But we need also to recognize the importance of a ‘secondary social capital’, namely, the natural tendencies to association, networks of families, sources of ‘belonging’, of ‘secondary and contextual trust’, of living in the same place. We refer here, obviously, to the (social-intercultural) educational strategy of networking, and to the need, also from this perspective, of decentralization, of going towards the other, of forging links between people.

                A significant experience that we ourselves have had with other educators is using and disseminating the use of the ‘cube of fraternity’,[40] the ‘cube of peace’ or the ‘cube of love’. This promotes a fully conscious and shared choice to put into practice (in family life, in the classroom or at school) a motto that stimulates attentiveness in relationships with the other. (They are mottos such as, for example, love everyone, be the first to love, love your enemies, love your neighbour as yourself…) This simple but effective approach, as many attest, brings about a real change in the group and in individuals. On the one hand, the harmony of the group grows, the social atmosphere of the institution improves and, on the other, quite apart from any other benefits, individuals ‘grow’, and they come capable of decentralization, of understanding the other’s viewpoint, of resolving conflict and of building genuine relationships.

                There are other things that have the same effect. Some have proposed to the class group that it should take on the commitment of working in solidarity with others, whether they be far away (children or schools in need because endemic poverty or for the victims of war or natural disasters) or near at hand (older people in the same town, and so on). Still others, especially important in a multicultural context, have sought to help people come to know one another more deeply and to generate relationships of trust and respect among members of the same school community. They end up drawing in all the members of the community, teachers and non-teaching staff, young people and parents. Some of the most significant of the experiences in this area will be presented at the afternoon session of this meeting.

                There are many studies in the broad field of how to develop a sense of community.[41] They have innovative methodological approaches and educational strategies, some of which are very much in tune with our core proposal. We can refer here to the initiatives and to the research, such as the Economy of Communion, that, on several occasions, we too have been part of and to which we have contributed with publications on several topics, such as: pro-social education,[42] learning as service, the educational role of networking and intercultural dialogue[43]… These, and other tracks we can follow, are things that we can use as a focus for sharing in a deep conversation with one another, seeing them also in relation to the many experiences we all have.

                For us the new word is Unity. It is a word that should not be understood as monolithic uniformity but rather as pluriformity, respect for each person, the integration of all thoughts, ideas and individual perspectives into one humanity[44] and into new possibilities to transform areas of disintegration and conflict into spaces of integration and reciprocal relations.[45]



[1] Alberto Siracusano, a consultant psychiatrist at Rome’s Tor Vergata University, speaks of a kind of ‘suspension of the affective memory’, which ‘is put aside and does not participate in the person’s actions’, precisely because, being overburdened with things to do, ‘the mind seeks rest’. It is a thesis upheld by an in-depth argument presented in an important study published by the Washington Post in 2010, which earned the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s most prestigious accolade, for the columnist Gene Weingarten. Based on neurological surveys, he argued that ‘the brain’s activity suffers from overload’ when presented with an excessive accumulation of information and tasks to do. It can only proceed by a dumping things without selection, so that it can even happen that a child may be excluded from a person’s field of attention and bad behaviour condoned. (See Il Fatto quotidiano in Il Corriere della Sera 28.5.2010).

[2] In the opinion of the English sociologist Anthony Giddens, the overwhelming power of consumers and of individualism has transformed towns and neighbourhood, the vision of the ‘nation’, the representation of what is ‘past’ and of what is ‘modern’, while everywhere new sensibilities and divisions emerge among peoples and cultures. (See A. Giddens, Le conseguenze della modernità (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1994).)

[3] A. FABRIS, ‘Tre aspetti dell’odierna sfida educativa’, in Pedagogia e vita, 2010, 2, pp. 87-88.

[4] Ibid., p. 88.

[5] See Z. Bauman, Amore liquido (Bari: Laterza, 2004), p.XII. (This is an observation by R.W. Emerson).

[6] Heidegger affirms that the task of the educator is to find a new name, a word, a God, capable of nurturing young people with the joy of learning and the desire to exist. This means finding a new reference point, a reordering of values, beliefs and shared techniques that look from a different perspective, leading to a shift from a traditional substitutional and individualistic way of seeing things to models that integrate and are contextual, giving value to the close relationship between cognitive, affective, organizational and relational processes, and using an interdisciplinary approach and multidimensional strategies of intervention. (See M. Heidegger, Ormai solo un Dio ci può salvare (Parma: Guanda, 1987, p. 136).)

[7] See D. Francescato, M. Tomai, E. Mebane Minoi, Psicologia di comunità per la scuola, l’orientamento e la formazione (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2004).

[8] ‘Mocking the hope of progress is the height of futility, the last word in poverty of spirit and mental debasement,’ H.L. Menchen, Prejudices: First, Second, and Third Series (Library of America, 2010).

[9] It is a radical educational challenge, also in the sense that it starts at the very basis, the origin itself of human being, from the first steps of what it is to be human. The beginning of a child’s life is signed by the trauma of birth, by the first separation that makes the child distant from the adult, who is then perceived as extra, outside, distant. What is revealed as needed? For Erikson it is ‘face to face dialogue’, namely, the gaze of the adult who stands before the child as a personal interlocutor and who says (even without words): ‘You are wonderful!’ This restructuring of the ego contains an interplay of reciprocity that allows the adult, in a necessarily gradual fashion, not to remain as a mere extra but, as it were, to knock sensitively on the child’s door, entering in and coming within, to a position that is intra, inside the essential identity of the child. It is this adult’s energy of love that transform him or her into an ‘inner parent’, capable of impressing upon the child the presence of a personal other and bringing the child into a circle of reciprocity which had been lost temporarily and which it is difficult to bring back in the right way. The child’s experience becomes relational, indeed, it is the child that finds itself in a ‘reciprocal relationship’ because of the experience of having an interlocutor, a source of that reciprocity which gives a fundamental trust, a secure basis, and that is a real starting point for future developments in the child’s autonomy and capacity to take the initiative in social relations. This first, basic experience of ‘reciprocity’, the dimension of the ‘inner parent’, can gradually become the experience of an ‘inner family’, of an ‘inner group’, of an ‘inner school’, of an ‘inner community’, to the point of being widened to having a world dimension which is constitutive of what it is to be human, becoming a ‘global person’ (that is, Chiara Lubich’s ‘world-man’, a human being with culturally global proportions). But at root the praxis of reciprocity is always implied, in profound respect for the ‘principle of dialogue’ (as put forward by Martin Buber), where listening and speaking become hospitality (in which the other comes to dwell within you and you dwell within the other). This dynamic hospitality (in which the personal interlocutor is not extra, external, foreign, but is an inner dimension constitutive of what it is to be human) is unity, the fruit of reciprocity, of encountering one’s neighbours, of the living in the differences of normal and everyday existence.

[10] Indeed it is the awareness of having a common task (cum munus) with shared problems and that gives life to communitas, a term that can be seen as both descriptive (being in a specific social group) and as evaluative and normative (pattern of being, that is, what is desirable for a social group).

[11] See F. Ravagnoli, ‘Introduction’, in G. dalla Fratte, Studio per una teoria pedagogica della comunità (Rome: Armando, 1991).

[12] See M. BUBER, Il principio dialogico e altri saggi, (Rome: Edizioni San Paolo, 1994) where the author compares the community to a circle with ‘rays that spread from the selves as points on the circumference and, converging in the centre, form a circle’… and it is only this common activity of the rays going to the centre which guarantees a community’s existence in reality.

[13] Z. Bauman, Voglia di comunità (Bari: Laterza, 2001), originally called In Search of Politics (Cambridge: Polity, 1999).

[14] J. Dewey, Scuola e società (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1967, 2nd ed.) pp. 2 and 19. An attempt to give normative expression to a vision of a broad and complex educational community took place in Europe during the 60s and 70s, where to strengthen the weak links between academic institutions, which tended to be centralized and conservative, and society, which was in continuous upheaval, a study was set up of organizational systems that would permit cooperation between academic institutions and society. That period saw the publication of the Faure Report (E. Faure et al. Aprendre à être, UNESCO-Fayard, Paris 1972) which ‘countered the culture of deschooling … with the proper need to bring school close to life. It was a breaking down of the barriers within educational systems and between educational systems and society, going towards a vision in which school is not seen as the whole of education’ (A. V. Zani, Formare l’uomo europeo (Rome: Città Nuova, 2005), p. 131).

[15] See E. Giammancheri and F. M. Peretti (eds), L’educazione morale (Brescia: La Scuola, 1977).

[16] This necessarily picks up again the key idea of ‘reciprocity’ which, coming etymologically from recus and procus, recalls the dynamic to-and-fro of a genuine relationship and a fruitful dialogue. Closely related to this, it also reaffirms the key idea of unity, both as personalizing the individual as constituted by a unified identity – ‘essential unity’ as opposed to the fragmentation of the ego that loses itself in becoming alienated among objects – and as the ‘unity’ that must be achieved socially, in the construction of genuine sociality, characterized by those elements that specifically define it as ‘community’. The human being needs to reaffirm this belonging to relationships of reciprocity, to unity and multiplicity made possible by the cohesive element of love. The Hassidic story of the Fool of Lublin, told by Buber, is significant here: ‘There was once a fool who was so densely stupid he was called the “Golem”. When he got up in the morning, it was so difficult for him to recall where he had put his clothes that, just at the thought of it, he was scared of going to sleep. In the end, one evening he took courage, picked up a pencil and a sheet of paper and, as he undressed, he noted where he put every piece of clothing. The following morning, he got up feeling happy and looked at his list. He found his hat in one place and put it on his head. He found his trousers in another and he pulled them on. And he did the same thing until he had put everything on. Yes, he suddenly said as fear grasped him, but I, where am I? In vain he tried, and tried again, to find out. This is what happens to us as well.’ (from M. Buber, Il cammino dell’uomo secondo l’insegnamento chassidico (Magnano VC: Ed. Qiqajon, 1990), pp. 47-48)

[17] A.V. Zani, Formare l’uomo europeo (Rome: Città Nuova, 2005), pp. 502-503.

[18] G. Dalle Fratte, Studio per una teoria pedagogica della comunità (Rome: Armando, 1991), p. 21.

[19] The experience of one’s learning environment plays a key role in personal development (See H. Mean, ‘Lo Studio dell’Interazione Sociale nei Contesti Educativi’, in Human Development, 47, 1998). Many studies on educational deprivation indicate the importance of environmental conditioning, especially in the first years of life. In this sense, there would be no separation between the human being understood as a biological or a cultural organism, but rather there is an interaction made up of a mutual exchange between the organism and its environment (See A. Oliviero, A. Ferraris Oliviero, Lo sviluppo comparato del comportamento (Turin: Boringhieri, 1978).) The findings of research are unanimous in showing the infinite possibilities of the human being, as well as, for instance, the consequences of a negative influence from the environment upon personal development. Educational possibilities, therefore, are determined by a complex set of interacting variables in which the various elements of a vast system of relations (similar to an ecosystem) mutually condition one another (see U. Bronfenbrenner, Ecologia dello sviluppo umano (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1986).

[20] A fundamental condition is that the various components of the community understand that the change is not only something for ‘the others’ to do, but for every member, group and institution of the community, and that ‘hallowed ways’ of seeing things and the narrow patterns of individualism no longer function. In this sense, knowing how to achieve decentralization from one’s own point of view requires a cultivation of vision that spans the grasp of a range of points of view, purified from letting itself be manipulated and from superficial generalization (see T. Todorov, L’uomo spaesato (Donzelli: Roma, 1997) and guided only by a sincere search for truth

[21] See E. Stein, La vita come totalità (Rome: Città Nuova, 1990). It is well established by now that we cannot learn or be educated on our own, and this demands a constant rediscovery the educator, the educational receiver and of the community as part of the dynamic ‘we’. (See M. Pollo, ‘La società complessa. La dimensione educativa e la dimensione socio-culturale’, in Various Authors, La professione di educatore (Rome: Carocci, 2001).)

[22] For example recognize: shared areas of activity, the specific value of each person, group or institution, freedom as a right and solidarity as a commitment (in practice, also, of the complete interdependence between unity and distinction), differences and embracing difference as resources within a common outlook. (See L. Pati, L’educazione nella comunità locale (Brescia: La Scuola, 1990).) On such a basis it would then be possible to have common investment in more practical objectives, such as communicating what is done educationally in an area, comparing the analyses of emergent problems, researching shared understandings and setting up cooperative projects.

[23] This was particularly highlighted at the International Congress entitled E per scuola… una città (see the proceedings published in English at www.eduforunity.org).

[24] See B. Lonergan, Il Metodo in teologia (Brescia: Queriniana, 1975), p. 374.

[25] A. SEN, La democrazia degli altri. Perché la democrazia non è un’invenzione dell’Occidente (Milan: Mondadori, 2004).

[26] See J. Dewey, Il mio credo pedagogico (Florence: La Nuova Italia, Firenze 1987).

[27] F. Chatel, In cammino verso la libertà (Brescia: La Scuola, 2011).

[28] ‘Each one of is a living tile that understands, sees its specific place, knows the place of others, and is also aware of the meaning of the whole. Indeed, each sees clearly that it has value only within the whole. At the same time, however, it is clear to each that if it were missing, the mosaic would be incomplete.’ (C. Lubich, Santità di popolo (Rome: Città Nuova, 2001), p.68).

[29] We could also say sincerity, consistency, a genuine practice of one’s principles. I can give hospitality to the other in my home if I am authentic… if my being is not false, if I am not a lie, but I exist in authenticity. Authenticity comes from the Greek, meaning ‘that which comes from the author’, not some kind of copy, therefore, but the original. It means living a sincere relationship with oneself and communicating the genuine practice of one’s principles, without masking or hiding anything, offering with openness one’s own personal and cultural identity, a triumph of being and not seeming.

[30] It is welcome of the other as different, with a personal world of plans, fears, activities and errors. The other needs to be ‘accepted’, not always given ‘approval’ but welcomed in his or her original and unique identity. ‘To accept’ comes from the Latin ‘accipere’, meaning ‘to take upon oneself’, ‘contain’, and its etymology extends to and is close to ‘conceive’, that is ‘give life to’; it ought also to include the sense of giving life to the other. Accepting you is giving you life, bringing you into the light.

[31] That is, a real participation in the world of the other, in the other’s thoughts, feelings, fears, memories, longings, difficulties. It is not something purely rational and cognitive, but it involves intuition, and [taking the word in its Italian form, a construal can be made of the word so that] it means ‘in-tu-ire’, going to ‘tu’ [that is, going to ‘Thou’, to the other person]. This implies seeing the world, but also oneself, with the eyes of the other, from ‘elsewhere’, from another perspective, another point of view.

[32] P. Freire, La pedagogia degli oppressi, op. cit., ch. 1.

[33] F. Tonnies, Comunità e società (Milan: Giuffrè, 1986). Last year at our educational congress we looked at the art of loving in its educational implications. Louise Kaplan, describing the characteristics of learning implied by the meaning of the term education, gave an excellent exposition of the need for love, and she affirmed that the most valuable thing a child can receive from its parents and teachers, even more important than bodily nourishment and knowledge, is affective support and being treated as a person. Deep communication based on the good of the other has the capacity to create that virtuous circle of welcome and communion among persons which is the only antidote to the individualistic egocentricity of persons either on their own or in groups, to power seeking, to vandalism’s many forms inside and outside families, in schools, inside and outside various social institutions. (See L. Kaplan, Voci dal silenzio (Milan: Raffaello Cortina, 1996).)

[34] Being a community, then, is different from being a mere aggregation of groups, in that in a genuine community participation means not acting by proxy and every position is fundamental for an intricate network of relations where power is continuously redistributed and ‘meaning’ is rooted in an orientation towards shared values.

[35] See the classic distinction made by F. Tonnies (op. cit.) between society (fundamentally constituted by extrinsic motives and by a formal typology of roles serving common financial and legal purposes) and community (based mainly on intrinsic motivations, self-realization, affective and social well-being, by means of more informal roles linked to interpersonal and group relationships).

[36] Among the numerous writings of these authors, we note the following: M. Buber, Il principio dialogico e altri saggi (Milan: Ed. San Paolo, 1993); E.Mounier, Manifesto al servizio del personalismo comunitario (Bari: Ecumenica Editrice, 1982); E. Lévinas, Umanesimo dell’altro uomo (Genoa: Il Melangolo, 1985); J. Derrida, Addio a Emmanuel Lévinas (Milan: Jaca Book, 1998); J. Derrida, Sull’ospitalità (Milan: Baldini & Castaldi, 2000); P. Freire, La pedagogia degli oppressi (Turin: Ed. Gruppo Abele, 2002); A. Capitini, Le tecniche della non-violenza (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1967); L. Milani, Lettera a una professoressa (Florence: Libr. editr. Fiorentine, 1967).

[37] Martini and Sequi sought to facilitate understanding and knowledge of an area by developing a means of community analysis (see E.R. Martini, R. Sequi, La comunità locale (Rome: Nis, 1995)). This allowed them to evaluate an area’s multiple, interdependent variables and draw up an outline of a community. Their analysis looks at a community under seven headings or profiles, namely: geography, demographics, manufacturing, service provision, institutions, human conditions and psychological factors. Inquiry into each of these profiles examines different indicators: objective and numerical data and, also, subjective data drawn from individual perceptions and group narratives gathered through focus groups led by one or more moderators responsible for keeping the groups on task. This technique of community profiling encourages the integration of different methods of understanding and gives space to a plurality of viewpoints, while, at the same time, identifying which resources could be applied for the best educational outcomes (see. D. Francescato, M. Tomai, G. Ghirelli, Fondamenti di psicologia di comunità: principi, strumenti ed aree di intervento (Rome: Carocci, 2002)). It permits consideration of various weak points such as, for instance, the social and geographical isolation of educational institutions, which tends to produce a lack of knowledge of the needs and resources within the local community. An educational project that intends to take into consideration local needs cannot ignore the question of local resources. Community profiling running alongside other methodologies fosters an improved awareness of an area, the setting up of networks, the ability to have a project adapted to the users, as well as increasing the educational service’s accessibility and popularity.

[38] L. Pati, L’educazione nella comunità locale (Brescia: La Scuola, 1990).

[39] E. Erikson, Infanzia e società (Rome: Armando, 1976).

[40] See the Proceedings of the European Educational Congress: Educazione un atto d’amore [Education an Act of Love] in, Cadine, nearTrent, northern Italy, 2010 (at www.eduforunity.org).

[41] For example, it has been clearly demonstrated that the sense of unity and of being an ‘effective group’ in a body of teachers (in practice, through their sense of responsibility and of participation in the educational project) is a determining factor for academic success and for social education. This holds true also in the poorest quarters. Where there are groups of teachers who work well together and who are convinced of their pupils potential, there are better learning outcomes as well as a strong sense of community. A striking area of research on the development of the sense of community is in the take up of the project for shared education by families. In these schools academic performance improves, above all among young people from other cultures. It has been shown that various kinds of solidarity, whether within the family or within the school or the wider community, have a positive effect upon more general relations within the community, stimulating new reasons for trust and mutuality among the community’s members and with other communities (see P. P. Donati (ed.), 8° rapporto CISF: Famiglia e capitale sociale nella società italiana (Milan: S.Paolo, 2003).)

[42] M. De Beni, Prosocialità e altruismo (Trent: Erickson, 2001).

[43] A. Granata (ed.), Intercultura. Risorsa per educare (Rome: Città Nuova, 2012 (soon to be published).)

[44] T. Boi, L’intelligenza sociale. Verso una teoria relazionale dell’intelligenza nel quadro della pedagogia di comunione, (Rome: Città Nuova Editrice, XXXI gennaio-febbraio 2009/1.)

[45] A. Biela, ‘Laudatio per il conferimento della laurea h. c. a Chiara Lubich’, in Nuova Umanità, 6, 1996, p. 704.

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