Aquinas' Timely Pedagogic Proposals

Interview With Enrique Martínez

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BARCELONA, Spain, MAY 30, 2005 ( Enrique Martínez proposes St. Thomas Aquinas as educator for the present age.

Martínez, who has a doctorate in philosophy and education from the University of Barcelona, with the thesis «Person and Education in St. Thomas Aquinas,» is a member of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas.

Since 1997 he has been secretary-general of the Thomas Aquinas International Society, director of the St. Thomas Institute of the Balmesiana Foundation, and professor at Barcelona’s Abat Oliba University.

In his book «Ser y Educar: Fundamentos de Pedagogía Tomista» (To Be and to Educate: Principles of Thomist Pedagogy), he discusses the method of teaching according to the Dominican philosopher and theologian. It is published by the University of St. Thomas of Bogota.

Q: «To help to be» — is this synonymous with educating according to the Thomist perspective?

Martínez: John Paul II defined the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas as «not merely a philosophy of ‘what seems to be’ but a philosophy of ‘what is.'» His philosophy of education also reaches the very being of reality, as he shows that to educate is an action born at the core of personal life.

Every man wants to be happy, «to be exactly as God made us,» as Thomas affirms, but this requires the help of others: parents, teachers, God.

«To help to be» is thus a very evocative expression that well summarizes Aquinas’ pedagogy. However, he himself gives us a more formal definition of education, which was taken up by Pope Pius XI in the encyclical «Casti Connubii»: to educate is «to develop offspring to the perfect state of man as man, which is the state of virtue.»

Q: Why is a «perennial pedagogy» necessary?

Martínez: Because in our days the world of education suffers in a particular way from the maelstrom of changes, of fleeting opinions. Legislation itself on education changes with excessive speed, forgetting the wise advice of Aristotle, who recommended that laws not be changed frequently so as to maintain the force of custom.

Education has been divided in innumerable disciplines of study, without unity, without explicative and normative depth, without authority. This is why a «perennial pedagogy» must be recovered, that is, a pedagogy rooted in being and in man’s immutable nature, a pedagogy as found in St. Thomas Aquinas.

An authentic philosophy of education must be recovered, capable of ordering other more concrete, empirical and descriptive fields of learning. Recognizing the end of education — why do we educate? — one can cover short trajectories, the daily educational endeavor with greater speed and precision.

Q: What is the angels’ educational action, which you mention in your book?

Martínez: Although it might sound strange to some in our days to hear talk about the educational action of angels, it is good to recall that they are effective allies in our daily combat to grow in virtue.

Parents and teachers should habitually invoke the help of the guardian angels of the children and pupils, and not just as a recourse for children, such as to avoid fear of the dark.

However, above all, one must turn to Christ, the only Teacher, who is capable of stimulating growth in the truest education, the one that leads «to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.» Children must be led to Christ through prayer and the sacraments, so that Christ is the one who educates them interiorly.

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