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Let's begin at the beginning. You may be unaware that their founder (St. Joseph Calasanz - aka Calasanza and Calasanctius) has been proclaimed "protector of all State primary and secondary schools" in Argentina ( National Law Nº 13 633/49). If there was general agreement on the importance of his contribution for our educators then, I wonder, how come his figure has gradually vanished from the curricula at Teacher's Training Colleges to the point of my never having heard about him in all my years at schools and training colleges?
This "teacher of teachers", as Calasanz has often been called, opened (back in November 1597) the first public free school in Europe. He worked all throughout his life to teach children in general, and poor children in particular. I've heard he discovered his calling to educate the underprivileged as he walked around some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Rome. I can't help thinking he would feel but quite the same if he walked around Buenos Aires, my city, today... He was, nevertheless, quite optimistic about the power of education:
“if from the time they are of tender age the children are instilled with piety and the arts, one can expect, beyond all manner of doubt, a happy tenor their whole life through" (Constitutions of 1622, n. 2 - as cited by J.Ma. Lecea)Piety AND Arts. An education in values PLUS the access to information. At times where many equated "teaching" with "instruction", this visionary grasped an unquestioned truth today (at least in principle): "to educate" does not merely mean "to transmit knowledge"; education is what makes us (both learners and teachers) human.
Joseph Calasanz was born exactly 450 years ago. Four centuries ago, he gave a step that would influence worlwide education forever... Let his passion for education and for the poor and unlearned go on living in every teacher's heart for long!