Spring 2003

Education and Integral Experience

Angelo Scola

"If, in fact, tradition is the gift of the hypothesis of truth in the very person of the educator, this educator cannot but be a witness."

“The most important thing in education is not an ‘issue’ of education, much less of teaching.”1 Thus Jacques Maritain, going to the heart of the question of education, singles out the unsettling yet thrilling paradox of which every true educator is well aware. And, immediately after this statement, he suggests the reason for this paradox: “experience is an incommunicable fruit of suffering and memory through which the human person is formed. It therefore cannot be
taught in any school or in any course.”2

In his book The Risk of Education3—a brilliant synthetic statement of the method of Christian life—Msgr. Luigi Giussani reveals a profound awareness of this paradox and offers a key to interpreting it in the statement that concludes the book. When he is asked, “Do you consider yourself an educator?” Giussani replies, “I wish to be one with all my strength, because I don’t think that any human relationship is worthwhile if it isn’t a communication of however much truth has already become experience in one’s life.”4


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1. Cf. J. Maritain, Per una filosofia dell’educazione (Brescia: La Scuola, 2001), 86.

2. Ibid., 87.

3. “It was thus clear that the problem lay in the method of transmitting and developing the contents of the Christian tradition. This intuition was two-pronged, and its first element was theoretical: since the contents of the faith had to be accepted by reason, faith had to be presented as potentially capable of improving, enlightening, and enhancing authentic human values. The second element was practical, in that the contents of faith had to be tested in action. Rational evidence could lead to faith only from within the experience of a human need; and further, this need must be confronted from within a lived Christian reality, an involvement that would treat Christianity as a social, communal event” (Luigi Giussani, The Risk of Education, trans. Rosanna M. Giammanco Frongia [New York: Crossroads, 2001], 32–33.