Don Bosco's Education

1. Preface

Dom Bosco said "Education is a problem of heart". It means that education needs not only money and organization but also people who work wholeheartedly. The bases of education are love, reason and religion. He himself named his way of education "Preventive Education." We have to understand the underlying meaning of this word correctly.

2. The method of Preventive Education.

2-1. Preventive medicine and preventive education

Today, we often hear the word "Preventive Medicine " but we rarely hear the word "Preventive .Education". When we hear this word, we tend tothink about a conservative education, like protecting the students from bad influence, or keeping them out of worldly affairs. If we look in a dictionary for the word preventive, we first find "preventive medicine" in which it is explained "A field in medicine where keeping of health and methods of prevention of disease are studied and practiced, for individuals and groups-compared to medical treatment" .
Medical treatment cures diseases, whereas the aim of preventive medical is to study and practice the way to keep health. The word preventive has a positive meaning. It is not to settle something afterwards but to get ready beforehand.
Preventive education advanced by Don Bosco has the same meaning. He knew well that it is necessary to protect boys from bad influence but this is not enough to form their personality. In 1841, Don Bosco who just became a priest visited a jail in Torino and also the reformatory "Generala", saw young boys in pitiful condition. There, he must have felt the necessity of "preventive education". In 1854, when he had a conference with the Secretary for Home Affaires Latatti, he expressed himself clearly about "preventive education". Against the "treatment education" which public institutions were using, he proposed the "preventive education".It is too late when youngsters have committed crimes. As experience shows, it is very difficult to rehabilitate a juvenile delinquent.
Don Bosco made wonderful results in "Generala" reformatory, in Torino. But at the same time he knew his work had limits. To avoid the difficulties, he realized that it is most important to bring up the healthy mind of boys and girls, in advance.

2-2. Attaching importance to the inside of a person

For Don Bosco, the opposite of "preventive education" is not "treatment education" but "suppressive education". In the first place, the first cause of the failure in education is a suppressive education which ignores students' personality. Human beings are weak but inside the heart they have power to understand goodness and to move towards it. If their freedom is ignored and they are under compulsion from above, they repel and there is even a risk that they will stop to aim goodness. Force and compulsion will not make a positive person. Teachers must always appeal to the heart of their students. If you are a religious, you must believe in the inside power of human beings and must avoid force. The " Preventive Education" aims at bringing up students healthily. As preventive medicine promotes health and makes power of resistance to disease. "preventive education" strengthens the function of spirit. As body is strengthened from inside, spirit is also strengthened from inside by "reason and faith". We have to educate students to have good judgment, strong faith, and also a view of the world. If not, we will not be able to expect to form a fine person(Don Bosco calls it a good citizen, a good Christian).

2-3. Teaching about reason.

Of course, human also needs rules. There are reasons why we make rules. If we can explain the reasons to students, they will willingly respect rules. Otherwise, they will just imitate others,.just be in someone's pocket or become selfish. Teachers must always make the students understand the " reason" and make them respect it. This is the "reason" that Don Bosco taught.

2-4. Guide towards Religion

Another necessary thing is to know the meaning of life or to have an ideal. Without it, even knowing the right thing, when it comes to something inconvenient, one might forget the reason or neglect it. In other words, "religion" or "belief" is necessary.. People are motivated by belief. Someone without belief cannot make a consistent action, but is influenced by the surroundings and desires. Thus, the most important and difficult part of education is to cultivate belief and to teach the meaning of life. As Don Bosco was a priest and spoke for Catholic countries, he calls belief "religion". In Japan we might call it"a view of life or world". Nationalism, like before the world war was also a kind of belief. Anyway, if we do not have religion or belief, what should we use for teaching students. Loss and gain? Punishment?. But this is not a real way of education. On December 20t 1880, Don Bosco wrote the following episode.
-Several years ago, the foreign minister of Her Majesty the Queen of England, Lord Palmerston visited Don Bosco's dormitory from 10AM till 6PM. He was impressed by students submitting to rules on their own initiative.. Hearing that no punishment was practiced, he said, "I see! I see! Religion or baton! I must tell it to everybody when I go back to London."
This minister was well known to be against the Catholic Church.

2-5. Togetherness=Assistenza and love

In order to carry out as mentioned above, however, there is another indispensable thing. It is the togetherness between teachers and students. This is the "love" mentioned by Don Bosco. Love must be neither one-way, exclusive nor spoiling. Don Bosco said that if we really have love, reason and religion will be understood.
Furthermore, he said, "To love children is not enough. Children should feel that they are loved." Salesians often use the word "Assistenza". It means "to be together" with the students. In the case of education, leading actors are not teachers but children. While teachers keep company with students, participate to their lives, advise them and keep an eye on them. They can understand each other thanks to "Assistenza". Between parents and child or teacher and student, the foundation of education is "Assistenza". If we do not have an everyday life together, even the most wonderful words will not be appreciated by students. If children feel any doubt or rejection, we can not start education.

2-6. Love- Reason- Religion

After all, for Don Bosco, the education presupposes a good human relation between teacher and student and is based on love, reason and religion. Only with this, can we persuade students of what is right and lead them to practice it.. Consequently, to begin with, teachers must have solid thoughts and belief to show as good example in their daily life. If it is not proved by real actual life, education will not be realized. . .
To study deeply the preventive education, I recommend you these basic books written by Don Bosco.

3. A letter from Rome

( Don Bosco's important document, a letter from Rome concerning the situation of Oratorio.).
The first task of Don Bosco in Torino is called "Oratorio". At the beginning, it was only like a Sunday School, but step by step, a dormitory and then a full-time school were added, making a general education system. The word Oratorio comes from Latin word Orare (to pray), but in fact, it was not only a place to pray but also a place for recreation, study and all kinds of educational activities. On May 10th1884, Don Bosco stayed in Rome more than a month for his work. Although he was very busy he had dreams about his students. As they contained actuality and precepts, he thought that he must keep a record of them. Having trouble with his eyes, he asked his secretary to write them down. He verified the contents and signed it. This letter was read in Torino to teachers and students, who were very much impressed.
"The letter From Rome" explains clearly the relation between "Assistenza" and "Love", It shows the essence and soul of his way of teaching.
What Don Bosco wants to say is that there is no education where there is no human relation. This is the big basic problem of recent Japanese education. The teacher in charge of class or activities are the closest to students to educate but they have too many things to do that they cannot always be with the students. If they realize the real meaning of Assistenza, many educational problems will be settled.
Don Bosco dos not like huge schools very much. In case of a big school, it should be divided to several functional groups in order to keep personal.contacts,

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