In this interview Antonio Allende SJ, Education Delegate for the Province of Spain, shares his reflections on the holistic nature of human excellence as a fundamental element in the schools of the region.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background in Jesuit Education, the Jesuit Community and your current role?
I’ve been a Jesuit since 1978. Since then my life has always been linked in one way or another to education, first as an English and Literature Teacher and then as a School Principal and Education Delegate of the Province of Castile in 2000 (1999-2005). Since 2015, I have been the Education Delegate of the recently constituted Province of Spain. As such, my role is to coordinate the 68 institutions that make up the network in Spain, with the invaluable help of all the men and women who make up “Educsi”.
What is your general opinion about action #7 (described below) and its impact on the successful achievement of the mission of the Society of Jesus?
“The Delegates commit to urge the schools to reflect on the nature of human holistic excellence (the 4 Cs) so that academic success can be understood in its proper context. The delegates also commit to urge the schools to reflect on traditional notions of success and failure in the lives of our students.”
Naturally, I believe it is of crucial importance to our mission, since it’s one of the founding elements of any educational project; what type of person and what anthropology we have as a model. For us this model is Jesus Christ, and it is from there that we must discern what a well-lived life, a valuable life and a true life consist of.
We wanted to express this by proposing four characteristics and not just one. I think that by presenting this complex vision (consciousness, competence, compassion, commitment) as well as a non-linear or one-dimensional vision (academic excellence or professional competence, for example), we can better understand what human excellence is. To be a person is to be many things and among them, fundamentally, to be the best you can be in service to others.
Could you tell us how the implementation process of this action has been in your Province? What steps have you taken?
We have the advantage of being a large network whose centres have been collaborating for more than forty years. This allows us to derive resources for the issues we consider fundamental with relative ease. Specifically, in this field, we have organized working groups that have been able to meet and share the fruit of their reflections through various documents (in which we highlight “Samaritans, teachers and witnesses”, or “the pupil we would like”) that could then be used in schools for the formation of teachers.
The key question is whether we are able to continue to insist on this purpose of making our students focus on a valuable life project (a vocation) where success and failure are experiences that one goes through in life, that one must know how to process so that they are not destroyed, stopped or blinded on their way to becoming people according to the Christian vision
What would you say are the main challenges in the implementation of this action? What would you advise other Schools/Provinces to consider before, during and after the implementation of this action?
Young people today are presented with many different offers of meaning or purpose in our society. Some are more valuable than others, but there are some that are more dominant and present themselves as more attractive yet are in fact deceptive. Often families, and in some cases society itself, ask our schools to educate according to these parameters and provide our students with the tools that will make them “successful” according to these models of life.
The challenge, therefore, is to open them to other possibilities of meaning and happiness, other ways of measuring success and failure, which are not necessarily the ones they can most easily find in their lives.