By Philippa Hitchen
The Pope began by urging all teachers to promote a culture of encounter, whether they work in Catholic schools or within the state system. The challenge, he said, is to educate children to be open and interested in other people, respecting their different histories, their strengths and weaknesses, their resources and limitations.
Combat bullying culture
Rather than becoming school bullies, he insisted, children must learn to be free of the prejudices stemming from a culture that is competitive and aggressive towards others, especially foreigners or anyone seen as an obstacle to personal achievement.
Rebuild relations with families
The second point the Pope highlighted was the need to rebuild educational alliances between schools, families and the state. He told the Italian teachers that this pact is in crisis and, in some places, completely broken so it is vital to work towards rebuilding constructive collaboration, drawing on expert advice from professionals.
Teach holistic care of creation
The final point of the Pope’s address was the need for a holistic, ecological education for young children, not simply teaching them textbook slogans, but rather training them in a lifestyle rooted in care for our common home. This must not be a schizophrenic lifestyle, he noted, caring for animals facing extinction while ignoring the plight of the elderly, or protecting the rainforests while ignoring those struggling for a living wage packet.
Rather, the pope concluded, young children must learn to develop the taste for an integrated Christian environmental ethic which springs from the choices and gestures of their everyday lives.