Friday 24 November 2017

We need to foster a culture of real curiosity in our young people

This artist rendering released by NASA shows NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft barreling through space.
This artist rendering released by NASA shows NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft barreling through space.

Br Martin Kenneally

In 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 to explore the outer limits of the solar system.

Each of the space crafts carried a record called Sounds of Earth, which was intended to be a message from humanity to anyone out there who might be listening.

Annie Druyan was creative director of the project and, along with Carl Sagan, was given the daunting task of coming up with Earth's message to the rest of the galaxy.

Reflecting on that project in a 2009 interview, Druyan recounted that: "The first thing I found myself thinking of was a piece by Beethoven from Opus 130, something called the 'Cavatina Movement' . . .

"When I first heard this piece of music I thought, 'Beethoven, how can I ever repay you?'

"And so, as soon as Carl said, 'Well, we have this message, and it's going to last a thousand million years', I thought of this great beautiful, sad piece of music, on which Beethoven had written in the margin the word 'sehnsucht', which is German for 'longing'. Part of what we wanted to capture in the Voyager message was this great longing we feel."

That longing is at core of who we are. We long for acceptance, goodness, truth, beauty and love.

As a contemporary musician/songwriter like Bruce Springsteen puts it: "Everybody's got a hungry heart."

Any educational system and every school, of whatever tradition, must take this longing and desire seriously.

It forms the basis of all progress and advances in science, arts and culture.

Catholic schools (and other schools in the Christian tradition) believe that God answers the human longing for truth and love in the person of Jesus Christ.

Christ is present now in our lives. Christ lives through us in our efforts to love and to serve, to build community, to work for justice and to reach out to those in need.

The theme of this year's Catholic Schools Week describes Catholic Schools as 'Places of Faith and Learning'.

I saw that learning in action a few weeks ago when I visited the 50th Young Scientist Exhibition at the RDS. I was struck by the enthusiasm and energy of the students.

So many of these young people come from vibrant Catholic and other faith-based schools, clear evidence of the desire of these schools to foster a culture of curiosity and questioning.

The great drama and mystery of human existence is enriched by seeing the world through the eyes of faith.

In Catholic schools, we teach that Christ answers our longing by challenging us to go beyond ourselves – to reach out to the needs of those around us.

Catholic schools challenge our young people to move away from the narrow confines of ego and selfishness and to be men and women for other people.

Brother Martin Kenneally holds a PHD in education, and has taught at primary and second level and was a secondary school principal. He is congregation leader of the Presentation Brothers.

Irish Independent

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