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Pope decries 'utilitarian' approach to higher education

August 19, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI argued against a “utilitarian approach” to education, in an August 19 address to Catholic university instructors in Madrid.

In today’s society, “increasingly confused and unstable,” there is a widespread belief that “the only thing that matters is pure technical ability,” the Pope observed. He decried that approach to higher education, saying that “when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic.”

“The authentic idea of the University, on the other hand, is precisely what saves us from this reductionist and curtailed vision of humanity,” the Pope told the professors.

Pope Benedict began his talk by recalling his own first days in academic life, as a professor at the University of Bonn. He recalled the deep satisfaction that he felt as a member of “a universitatas of professors and students who together seek the truth in all fields of knowledge.”

The university, the Pope said, “embodies an ideal which must not be attenuated or compromised, whether by ideologies closed to reasoned dialogue or by truckling to a purely utilitarian and economic conception which would view man solely as a consumer.”

For professors, the Pontiff continued, teaching means serving as “a link in that chain of men and women committed to teaching the faith and making it credible to human reason.” He reminded them that their task “is not just about communicating content, but about forming young people.” Their ultimate goal, he said, must be “to awaken their innate thirst for truth and their yearning for transcendence.”

The Holy Father added that healthy academic life requires an acknowledgment “that truth itself will always lie beyond our grasp.” In that sense, he said, “the virtue of humility is also indispensable, since it protects us from the pride which bars the way to truth.”


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  • Posted by: Defender - Aug. 20, 2011 11:25 AM ET USA

    Part of the problem is that there is no longer a "seamless" Catholic education for anyone who desired it. The cost of K-8 and high school reaches the point where increasingly fewer may attend but this is where the foundation of Catholic universities is laid.