KOŠČ, S.: The truth about the human person as a content of education targeting the “quality of life”

KOŠČ, S.: The truth about the human person as a content of education targeting the “quality of life”

In: Jablonský, T., Košč, S. (comp.): Sciences of education serving the quality of human life.  Annual colloquium of the Acise, Ružomberok, April, 7-10, 2010. Ružomberok : Verbum, 2010, ISBN 978-80-8084-584-1, s. 93-97.



 The Pope Benedict XVI in his new Encyclical Letter about the integral human development makes also a very important reflection of the sense of education. As everybody knows, education is an important way to the human development, both in the individual and in the social dimension. But very important is that the educational project should have an integral and true vision of the human person. Otherwise our “educare” – “to lead out somebody somewhere” will have either wrong target to follow, or wrong way to pursue. In other words, education will have either an incorrect vision of its goal, or wrong didactics.

“The term ‘education’ refers not only to classroom teaching and vocational training — both of which are important factors in development — but to the complete formation of the person. In this regard, there is a problem that should be highlighted: in order to educate, it is necessary to know the nature of the human person, to know who he or she is. The increasing prominence of a relativistic understanding of that nature presents serious problems for education, especially moral education, jeopardizing its universal extension. Yielding to this kind of relativism makes everyone poorer.” (Caritas in veritate 61)

The history teaches us very clearly that there is no education without anthropology beneath it. Although sometimes we do not make this anthropological reflection upon our pedagogical decisions, logically there is the vision of the human person in all of them. We can learn from our own history (I'm speaking about Slovakia and other post-totalitarian countries), how depraved the Educational system in the communist regime was. Of course, it doesn't mean that every teacher was a communist ideologist, at those times it seemed that only some educational subjects (like Civil education or Philosophy) are the instruments of the propaganda… But we can see, that the whole educational system, based on a passive memorizing didactics led the children and students not to be resistant to the future multiple manipulation made by political leaders, forced through the media and all other propagandistic channels. A fear to have and to express the own opinion, to discuss the various positions in the matter and to be active in searching solutions which are not “blessed” by the political power, was another terrible consequence of this



educational system. The very accurate selection of the students accepted to study the pedagogical disciplines on the universities, from the ideological point of view, such as the very strong pressure made to the teachers regarding the rejection of any not communist philosophical, but especially religious opinion and practise – all these manipulations deformed not only the person involved, but also the education itself.

Even now, after 20 years we can see the residuals of this deformation.

But also in the western countries, not reached by the communist ideology, the relativistic anthropology, as a consequence of so called “low philosophy” increases and distorts the integral vision of human dignity in the educational process.

That's why – and this we can see both in the Western as in the Eastern European culture regarding the scientific research and technological application – the pride of the achieved material development, combined with the so called scientific imperative, lead the research and education in the past 30-40 years to the ambush of the real fear for the own possibilities, as any moral directives and calls for human dignity criterion was rejected.

In the very beginning of his pontificate, the Pope John Paul II (in his programmatic encyclical Redemptor hominis) commented this situation focusing the attention to the self-destruction of the mankind by this process: “The man of today seems ever to be under threat from what he produces, that is to say from the result of the work of his hands and, even more so, of the work of his intellect and the tendencies of his will.”[1] This strange anthropological situation entreats of the very sense of the goal of this situation, I mean, of the progress which seems to become autonomous from the human person. Continues the same Pope John Paul II: “Does this progress, which has man for its author and promoter, make human life on earth "more human" in every aspect of that life? Does it make it more "worthy of man"? There can be no doubt that in various aspects it does. But the question keeps coming back with regard to what is most essential – whether in the context of this progress man, as man, is becoming truly better, that is to say more mature spiritually, more aware of the dignity of his humanity, more responsible, more open to others, especially the neediest and the weakest, and readier to give and to aid all.”[2]

Why is this question so important?

Why exactly the solidarity should be the criterion for the real human progress? The reason is that every society – from the nuclear family on to the human family as a whole – requires the solidarity as its bonding agent and without it disintegrates inevitably. That's why the progress is that and only that dynamism which directly or indirectly enhances the awareness of fellowship, which is the solidarity. And its external manifestation is especially the concrete engaged and creative interest for the human person in need. This is the very truth of the real progress targeting the “sustainable development” – both in individual and in social dimension.


Besides of this, the struggle of political and economical interests is not very favourable to the strong and free personality of the citizen or consumer. To have indifferent, ignorant and manipulatable people is preferred... The information, including the formation, does not develop the free and virtuous citizen and society, capable to the critical approach to what and how it's offered by media. Even the education is involved very often in creating some kind of fog around the truth in which the single person, but also the mass of people, bombarded by the continuous flow of half-truths mixed by real lies are offered, because the economical interests overbear…

That’s why every responsible educational project needs to be guided by truth, especially as regards the truth of the very nature of human person, including all its dimensions – the material, the intellectual, the spiritual and also the social one.

The universities as the institutions on the highest level of education need to have clear anthropological vision of their “raison d'être” – which is the truly understanding of what the “quality of life” really means. Yes, the “quality” – because this is what the education is forming, transforming, shaping or modelling. We as university teachers need to be awake of this great power of education influencing positively or negatively, no matter if the teacher and the student are conscious of it. I am not telling that the process of education in automatic in its influence to the recipient. But I am telling that every education, even the most liberal one, upholds some specific vision of human person which is forming by its own procedure.

Hence the call for “quality” of the university research and education regards not only the question of rigorous research procedures and didactical techniques, bet even more the very goal of all this: what kind of human person are we forming? The person full of knowledge and skills, or the one capable to contribute to the “more human” social life, it means the life more according to the human dignity which is manifested by a clear and integral vision of the human rights and duties?

Unfortunately, in the society we live in, the systematic vacuum of values, because of the rejection of any objective basis for a human nature and dignity causes a contestation of the evidence and objective universal valence of the human rights…

But this consecration of relativism brings very acerb fruits for the human person. A devaluation has a logical consequence in non-sense of life, i.e. in a practical nihilism with its consequences on a demographic winter and decline of this civilization. This is what John Paul II called “culture of death” – not only a promotion of a concrete conduct which leads to the death of others or self, but also the whole and logical destination of this culture to its own death.

The relativism, being presented as a necessary disposition for a fundamental democratic issue – tolerance, in its real social consequences transforms the democracy into a kind of totalitarian culture. It is not possible to implement the tolerance without a large vision of objective values, shared by all members of society.

To develop a university, and especially a “catholic university” in the situation like this, requires precisely that what the present Pope, Benedict XVI calls “caritas


in veritate”. The truth – as it was already said – to have a real integral vision of the human person we are forming by contributing to his or her self-forming. The social responsibility of the University educational project requires from the leadership and from all the staff, but also from the student that what the Apostolic constitution on catholic universities Ex corde Ecclesiae specifies as a call “to unite existentially by intellectual effort two orders of reality that too frequently tend to be placed in opposition as though they were antithetical: the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth”.[3]

And on the other hand the real love which is necessary both as a motivation and as an internal strength to follow this truth.

The Pope sees the very reason of the Church's presence in the society exactly in these terms: “The Church, being at God's service, is at the service of the world in terms of love and truth. Paul VI set out from this vision in order to convey two important truths. The first is that the whole Church, in all her being and acting — when she proclaims, when she celebrates, when she performs works of charity — is engaged in promoting integral human development. (...) The second truth is that authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension.[4]

One of the important examples which the Pope brings to make evident this integral vision of education toward the “quality of human life“ is the case of ecology. In the present time we can clearly see the negative or even destructive consequences of the reduced vision of the human person and human development, focused to its one and only material dimension. This criterion brings with it logically also the egoistic exigency towards the nature (natural sources, energy and so on). Although in the same perspective we can hear the voices that try to banalize the dangers of this situation, more and more evident is the self-destructing consequence of this short-sighted approach. Now, the Pope tries to focus the attention to this by underlining its connection to the deformed anthropology, as a nucleum of the problem: „It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development. Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society.“[5]

The purpose to build a Catholic institution of higher education (like a Catholic University), and especially an institute or faculty of Education, is a call to go against


this stream. It requires a very strong motivation which is not only a starting power, but even more, the internal strength to continue the “good fight” (cfr 2Tim 4,7) in any external or internal situation and to be a “leaven” which is took and hid into a meal till the whole is leavened (cfr. Matt 13,33). The convinced love seems to be the only motivation capable to such an undertaking.

The purpose of a Catholic university has to be this convinced pursuing of the “quality of human life” – quality which means the clear vision of the human dignity in all its aspects and dimensions. And the “quality of human life” can be fulfilled only by this “love-in-truth” approach, thus the ”educated society” is marked by solidarity[6]. Otherwise the education will end inevitably in a kind of impoverishment and manipulation, unworthy for a human person – in the role of the student, and in that of the teacher, and of the whole institution, too.

[1] JOHN PAUL II: encyclical Redemptor hominis (1979), art. 15.

[2] Ibid.

[3] JOHN PAUL II, apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae (1990), art. 1.

[4] BENEDICT XVI, encyclical Caritas in veritate (2009), art. 11.

[5] CV 51.

[6] Cfr. CV 21.



Stanislav Košč