“You are known and loved.”
Just outside the City of Boston, at a small private Catholic boys’ school, the headmaster addresses a crowd of prospective students and parents at its annual open house. The message by this man is similar each year yet captivating. People listen to him. Some, hearing him for the first time, wonder from where such a simple yet profound perspective on education hails. And those who have heard him speak maybe a dozen, or more times before, still walk away with new inspiration. Both parties leave the event asking the same question: Why does his message sound both new yet familiar?
“Every boy is in love with learning,” he says. “And every boy wants to fall more deeply in love with learning. In all things, your son deeply desires to be as wise, as just, as balanced and as brave as he can be.”
The headmaster will pause, tighten his bottom lip and dip his chin. He wells up. No one really notices. But it’s enough to change the texture of his voice. He’s just as emotional saying the next part of his address, as are those who hear it.
“I care more about your son getting into heaven than I do about him getting into Harvard.” He pauses again.
“Although many of our students matriculate to Harvard, I cannot guarantee which college your son will attend. Nevertheless, what I can guarantee is that while he is here, your son will be known and loved. This, I assure you is far more important for your son’s education.”
It’s a message that resounds with the mothers especially – the truth about their sons’ desires and an authentic man’s empathy for their true needs. No one knows more about the labor of love, even if just physically, than a mother.
The headmaster knows and acknowledges that she, along with her boy’s father are his primary educators – both in practice and in effect. He says, “We want to work with you, parents. Mutual participation and frequent and honest interaction is the only way to educate your son properly. No man is an island in this endeavor. You are not alone, nor should you ever feel alone. We are here.” His message speaks more loudly than anypedagogical jargon possibly could. The headmaster as an educator himself is an upstanding, articulate, devout gentleman. People in his school and community testify to this without prompt. He is focused sincerely on the care for a mother’s son, knowing fully the heart of all boys. He is a great orator, yet there is no gap between his appearance and his reality. What he says is what he believes. And what believes, he does without hesitation.
Man by nature is good – thus the daily expectation.
Communication is not just language. It is first an assumption. A teacher must be first a good and authentic person – otherwise with the student he develops no relationship. Education can masquerade simply as a tradition and renewal of information. It can be reduced and romanticized as simply story telling – especially in the humanities. Language learning and applied mathematics can be taught at trade school, homeschool or self-taught. Yet when it comes to educating character, there is no substitute for modeling by the person in charge. Thus the love of God and love of neighbor must be demonstrable in all things educational. That is the first priority. Everything else flows from this. Ubi caritas est vera, Deus est ibi. Let’s face it, such things are only learned my imitation and habituation. Virtue cannot be fully embraced in a classroom – it must be practiced religiously.
It’s about spirit and people.
Education is an exercise of the Soul, not just the mind or the body. This headmaster will say, “How much better would the world be if we all treated each other as if we’d live forever. After all, eternity is what we are designed and destined for anyway – thus your own obsession with the “best” education. Everyone longs for Truth.”
In his book Love and Responsibility Saint John Paul II says “Man must reconcile himself to his [own] natural greatness.” Saint Augustine asserts that man’s soul is restless until it rests in God. The Church has always proclaimed that man’s being is naturally inclined towards God, for Man’s being is inclined towards Being itself. Anything contrary to this disposition lacks goodness. It is evident in all good teachers – theists and non-theists alike. They want their students to improve. There would be no education otherwise.
The core of the curriculum is Christ Himself:
The Headmaster continues: “Other educational institutions manage out God as dangerous or unimportant, both of which are untrue. If the purpose of education is to seek Truth – we know it rationally by the gradation of good – then why would anyone want to start his education with a fundamental lie?”
There is nothing more True than The Word Himself. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. (Mt 19:14)” There is nothing more captivating to a boy than to be called by his own name. It is the very first tool with which God directs his life. Let his name be accompanied by joy and care on a daily basis that he might know good people. Let him listen at foot of the master that he might know teaching. Let him listen at the foot of the cross that he might know love. Let him learn patience through silence that he might know obedience. Let God prepare his heart to receive Him that he might know goodness itself. For a boy, his name is his first calling. It is the greatest asset and the greatest mystery – the vessel through which he is taught the whole world. Let it be predisposed to God, who is existence itself.
If a boy is taught that the Truth exists, Truth is good, the Greatest Good, who is God, created him, knows everything about him, loves him, and fills the hearts of those who educate him, this boy will grow up to seek Heaven and in turn marvel at the greatness of existence itself – his own and the world’s. What better education can there be?
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