Conference to discuss problems in education from a Catholic perspective

BRAINTREE -- A conference that will address a Catholic response to the challenges of educating today’s youth in a context of increasingly restrictive student-teacher interaction will convene in Cambridge this July.

The second annual EdConference, organized by members of the Communion and Liberation (CL) movement, will take place July 17-20 at The Hyatt Regency and provide a platform for dialogue among educators with all levels of experience and specialization on how to address pupil disinterest and passivity in light of increased restrictions on the relationship between teacher and student in the United States.

The conference’s name, “The Risk of Educating: The Student-Teacher Relationship,” is taken from CL founder Msgr. Luigi Giussani’s 2001 book, “The Risk of Education.” In it, the priest and professor studies Christian education and faith formation in 20th century Italy, and offers a new instructional method for teaching youth amidst many of the same symptoms exhibited by American society and youth culture today.

According to event organizers, over the course of the four day conference, speakers will take Giussani’s distinctly Christian pedagogy as a starting point, and then focus discussion on how its central underpinnings are applicable to secular education as well.

In a telephone interview with The Pilot, conference founder Annemarie Bacich said that Giussani’s instructional method is founded on the belief that the teacher’s role must not be that of a lecturer, but that of a guide who lives what they teach, thus providing students with a stable standard for judging the reality of the world around them.

Bacich said that, due to the number of scandals that have erupted in recent years involving youth abuse by teachers and clergy members, many restrictions have been put on the relationship between teachers and students.

“However, there needs to be a fostering of this relationship,” she said. “So, we want to explore how the relationship between teacher and student can be fostered while at the same time maintaining the necessary concern for the safety of teachers and students in the school.”

A panel of school administrators will explore that balance, said Bacich, discussing how they can simultaneously foster connections with students and deal with legal issues involved in running a school.

Sitting on the panel will be Father Jose Medina, principal of North Cambridge High School; Sister Marie Pappas, associate superintendent for the Archdiocese of New York’s Department of Education; and Dr. Michelle Riconscente, professor of educational psychology at the University of Southern California.

The CL ecclesial movement began in 1954 in Italy when Msgr. Luigi Giussani established a Christian presence in a high school in Milan with a group of students. According to its website, the name synthesizes the conviction that the Christian event, lived in communion, is the foundation of the authentic liberation of man. CL is present today in around 70 countries.

To register for the conference, visit www.edconference.org.

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