What should the school we need in the 21st century look like?

Have we become in school, and in society, the blind leading the blind? Where are the noble models, the heroes capable of leading us from exemplarity to human flourishing?

We are going to answer directly the question implicit in the title about the function of the school: to educate exemplary, educated and knowledgeable citizens. It seems little due to the brevity of the proposal, but we believe that there are a few ideas behind it that are important to develop.

In any case, the role of the school (also of the university) is to educate each child, adolescent and young person to sustain and develop the best of civilization -its great lessons- that we have inherited in order to promote freer societies. , but at the same time also more cohesive, compassionate and responsible.

The wisdom of the past matters and must be present in the school to impregnate the wisdom of the present. And all this from a school designed not only to prepare the best professionals but also to make them exemplary citizens who spread their ethical coherence wherever they are.

But we are submerged in a self-referential disorientation and in an apathy that inclines us to live in the present without noticing our mistakes, in our small daily injustices, often in the form of bungling or decisions full of ignorance.

Perhaps we are looking for absolute omnipotent self-determination above everything and everyone. And at the same time we are more alone than ever. We live in an impulsive and crowded society, where, also from the current school, the spiritual pleasures of thinking about history, contemplating beauty, meditating, enjoying silence, reading and reflecting on the future “on the shoulders of the giants” have been anesthetized. that preceded us (phrase attributed to Bernardo de Chartres -s.XII-).

Blind leading the blind?

Have we become in school, and in society, the blind leading the blind? Where are the noble models, the heroes capable of leading us from exemplarity to human flourishing (eudaimonia)?

But it seems that we only care about dominating, power, image, profit at all costs, the picaresque of winning at any price. “What difference does it make?”, we often say to ourselves: “Everyone does it”.

It is true that whoever has more economic, political and cultural power has greater visibility; and that the consequences of his acts have more repercussions and are more demoralizing. But would we be better, ordinary adults, if we achieved much more political, media, and economic power?

One example is the rage and hatred that common mortals breathe on Twitter; the frivolity and existential emptiness of Social Networks; the excesses of an uneducated and sometimes violent adolescence and youth that perpetrate bullying and excesses of all kinds at school and on the street.

A school more sure of itself and of its mission

The school must focus on this reality and verify that mistrust is generalized, suspicion is the norm, cynicism in the judgment on many issues is devastating.

Let’s ask ourselves an unusual question: why has hardly anyone, in the face of these years of crisis (greed, detachment, corruption, ignorance, etc.) in our societies, thought of the school as a deep-seated social agent of change? What happened? What are they taught at school? Can current students be trained to face the present, and especially the future, in a different way?

However, the school also seems to be tired, disoriented and politicized; and it is not fulfilling its primary purpose: to educate good future professionals and better citizens who are wiser and more tempered. But the school is also society and reflects the prevailing confusion. A liquid education, in the words of Zigmunt Bauman, where any occurrence is possible.

And today many schools improvise, they forget vital content that illustrates us in geography, in history, in literature to situate ourselves more reflectively in the world.

Do we educate… or do we entertain?

But, “the children are impossible”: then the easiest solution is reached: you have to entertain them. And so at school they tinker, test questionable innovations, and hand out screens so that every child and adolescent educates himself, if that’s even possible. Is this how the school responds to the moral dilemmas that grip our society? Is this how the school responds to its transcendent social and cultural mission?

We insist: the educational laws, the curricula, the social models (or counter-models) permeate the school as well; because they are part of this network of disorientation, ethical deficit, disbelief and distrust that invades us. Consequently, the school continues to flee from its primary purpose and is lost in Byzantine discussions.

Consequently, to start somewhere, the school, whose mission is to educate in a strong sense, must be more self-demanding than ever and bet full of convictions, without fear or hesitation, to train exemplary citizens, cultured and experts in their areas.

And educated means, among other things, read, with their own criteria, capable of thinking about the present without forgetting the past to project the future. Just an example: a school that teaches deep reading, writing and arguing, often orally, is right now a revolution.

What do we ask of the school and families?

That is what we want from the school: authentically wise teachers, bold directors in coordinating advanced schools; highly prepared and fair tutors who display a pedagogy of excellence that leads students to the best version of themselves. In what plans? In the Humanities and in the field of STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics -Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics-).

And it is probable that these professors -of great authority and prestige- will also teach us, our families, about honesty, nobility and meticulousness if they are connected with the most sensible pedagogical currents; who today speak of strengths of character and virtues in an Aristotelian-Thomistic sense along the lines of Alasdair MacIntyre. Teachers, advisors, expert lecturers in various disciplines who visit the school, writers and seasoned readers, who give us good advice; good readings that enlighten us with their vision of the world, to the whole family (not just the students).

There are schools that have gone back to the classics (science, art, literature) and are thinking very deeply pedagogically. In short, teachers and specialists who are also teachers of parents – from school very often – and who in family orientation courses invite us to the best leisure (the otium cum dignitatem, of which Cicero spoke). Experts who accompany us in the best readings, cinema, travel, theater and also culinary and sporting.

In addition, some of these advanced schools have an offer of after-school co-curricular activities; where continuity is given to this climate that allows growth and education in many environments beyond the educational center.

The agreement between schools and families to create a new community climate

Is it certain that we cannot agree to build new educational communities full of responsibility that have schools and organized families as their center? With the very advanced current science and with so much technical progress, with the new digital communications; it has to be possible for free men of the 21st century to build better schools and communities.

In the United States, a model called School, Family, and Community Partnerships. And its apex is the school and the family, and other actors that educate such as libraries (school or public); federated sports, museums, volunteering, etc. We are talking about a new school that also trains parents; and invites you to join, from home, this campaign of knowledge, culture, righteousness of an educational center registered in the community.

We believe that it is so: the school must be a temple of knowledge and a microcosm different from today’s society; to nurture this same society, of which we are all part. A place where there is hope and faith in the future. A privileged space to propose another style of thinking, of studying, of working far from the fatalism of our times. A school, yes, that is committed to the truth of man, which is to live humanely in cohesive societies, full of service and care. As Aristotle proposed: a society of friends.