Patrons in 2016: European
Cardinal Rainer
Maria Woelki
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The Risk of Education

Why speak about “education”? Isn’t practical training far more important in today’s society? Fitting into society? Boosting the economy?

Yes, the idea of “education” sometimes conjures up negative associations. It sometimes makes one think of discipline, or at its most extreme, indoctrination. It seems a dusty, outdated idea. And doesn’t it make claims that fly in the face of our striving for autonomy?

Despite this, education remains a live topic: German constitutional law gives parents the right, even the duty, to educate; the State reserves the right to intervene in cases of educational failure; on top of all this, the educational mission of schools, even if the precise topics to be taught remain controversial. Current discussions around the Pisa Study and the Bologna Reform, reduced school hours, the challenges faced by parents and educators, and the expectations of employers: all this shows that it is still worth considering just what education really means.

The forthcoming Rhine Meeting is entitled “The Risk of Education”, of course because educational efforts can fail, but especially because education is a challenge for all involved. This is the accent struck by the Italian priest and educator Luigi Giussani, in his book which lends its title and also its subject to the Meeting: that all education consists of a proposal that the learner must put to the test, using their entire reason and freedom. Only a concrete, specific proposal can be criticised and meet with acceptance, rejection or improvement. Not making a proposal would amount to saying “actually, it’s not worth thinking about this”. In this context, Hannah Arendt speaks of a “refusal of adults to take responsibility for the world”. Educators are justified in making a concrete proposal when their wish is to see young people come to their own reasoned convictions and take up a clear position with respect to the decisive questions of life. This applies above all to the questions of ones own personal worth, and the meaning of one’s life: when am I truly myself? How can I discover my identity and let it unfold?

An educational process like this is never complete, and thus cannot be limited to its original context, the family. At the Rhine Meeting 2015 we will therefore focus on the socially relevant and interesting dimension of education in the contexts of school and work.

We invite you to join us in taking this risk!