Reading: From The Preventative System in the Education of the Young
Critical Edition: P. Braido – Translation & Notes: P. Laws Introduction
by St. John Bosco
II: Application of the Preventive System
The practice of this system is all based on the words of St Paul, who says: Love is patient,
love is kind… it bears all things… hopes all things, endures all things. ( 1 Cor. 13:4.7 passim)
Love is kindly, and patient; it puts up with all things, but hopes all things and endures any disturbance. For this reason only a Christian can successfully apply the Preventive system. Reason and Religion are the means the educator should constantly make use of, teaching them, making use of them himself, if he wishes to be obeyed and to attain his goal.
1: For this reason the Director should be dedicated to his pupils, nor should he ever assume tasks that would take him away from his duties; on the contrary, he should be among his pupils every time they are not taken up with other legitimate tasks, unless they are duly assisted by others.
2: The teachers, the technical instructors, the assistants should all be of known moral rectitude. They should try to avoid like the plague every kind of (morbid) affection or exclusive friendship with the pupils, and they should realise that the wrongdoing of just one person can compromise an educational Institute. They should operate in a way that the students are never alone. As far as possible the assistants should precede them to the place where they are required to assemble; they should remain with them until others come to assist them; they should never allow them to be idle.
3: Give them ample liberty to jump, run, make a din as much as they please. Gymnastics, music, declamation (of poems, etc), theatricals, hikes, are very effective methods for getting discipline; they favour good living and good health. One must only ensure that the plot, the characters and the dialogue are not unsuitable. That great friend of youth, St Phillip Neri used to say, “Do whatever you wish; for me it is enough you do not sin”.
4: Frequent Confession, frequent Communion, daily Mass are the pillars that ought to support an educational edifice, from which one would want to keep at bay threats and violence. Never require the youngsters to go to the Holy Sacraments, but just encourage them, and offer them every opportunity to make good use of them. Then on the occasion of retreats, novenas, homilies, religious instructions, one should highlight the beauty, the greatness, the holiness of that Religion which proposes with such easy methods things as useful to civil society, to peace of heart, to the salvation of one’s soul, as are these holy sacraments. In this way the young people will become involved spontaneously in these religious practices, with pleasure and with fruit. (1)
(1) Not long ago a minister of the Queen of England, visiting an Institute in Turin was taken to a large hall where about 500 boys were studying. He was not a little amazed at seeing so many children in perfect silence, with no supervision. His amazement grew even more when he came to know that perhaps in an entire year, one did not have to complain of a word being said out of place, or so much as threaten a punishment, much less inflict one. “Tell me, how ever is it possible to obtain such silence and such discipline”, he asked. And he added to his secretary, “Write down whatever he says”. “Sir”, replied the Director of the establishment, “the means we use is not available to you.” “Why?” “Because they are secrets known only to Catholics.” “What are they?” “Frequent Confession and Communion, and Daily Mass well heard.” “You are absolutely right. We lack these powerful means of education.” “If you do not make use of these religious means, you must turn to threats and the stick”. “You are right! You are right! Religion or the rod, I want to recount this in London”.
Reason and Religion, St. John Bosco emphasizes, are the chief means to effectively achieve discipline without “threats and the stick”. But the Preventative Method begins with love, with friendship. Not an improper or exclusive friendship, where the teacher is satisfying his own need for love and affirmation. The proper friendship a teacher offers his students is really a sharing in “caritas”, the divine love which impels Him who is without need to offer us a share in His life.
As a parent, I have always found that what children really want is not “quality time”, at least not at the expense of quantity time. The affection that binds children to parents comes from being an intimate part of their daily, hourly routine. Presence and the often simple interactions that come from it establish the loving authority of parents. Appropriately adapted to a school setting, presence provides teachers with abundant occasions for showing their real love and concern for students. It provides the context that helps the students accept the reasons for the rules that protect the community and allow it to flourish. Once well-established, teachers can allow students greater freedom, because they know the students will respond well when they need to be reined in.
The founders of our nation knew so well that religion is essential if a people is to live freely. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other,” wrote John Adams. St. John would add, “Religion, and the grace of the sacraments.” As Catholic teachers, we are so blessed to have this palpable divine assistance in fulfilling our duties. We should praise the Lord frequently for this, in the depths of our hearts and in the ears of our students.
To what extent do I seek the approval of my students out of a need for affirmation? To what extent do I enforce discipline because I want to approve of myself? Do I make myself present and available to students when overseeing their activities, or do I ignore them so I can engage in more self-fulfilling activities? Do I encourage my students to frequent the sacraments, and make myself an example for them?
Lord Jesus, thank You for the great graces You have obtained for us through Your Passion. May Your sacraments fill my heart with the love that You had for your disciples. Use me to communicate Your loving, authoritative presence those You have entrusted to my care.
Please also offer one Mass and one Rosary some time this month for the intentions of the members of the Confraternity.