Balduzzi, E. (Coord.) (2021). La sfida educativa della Laudato si’ e l’educazione del carattere [The educational challenge of ‘Laudato si’ and character education]. (Maria Valentini)

Balduzzi, E. (Coord.) (2021).
La sfida educativa della Laudato si’ e l’educazione del carattere [The educational challenge of ‘Laudato si’ and character education].
Studium. 151 pp.

Environmental education has broadened its goals. Whereas in the beginning it was mainly centred on scientific in- formation, consciousness-raising and the prevention of environmental risks, it tends now to include a critique of the 154 “myths” of a modernity grounded in a utilitarian mindset (individualism, unlimited progress, competition, con- sumerism, the unregulated market). It seeks also to restore the various levels of ecological equilibrium, establishing harmony within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God. Environmental educa- tion should facilitate making the leap towards the transcendent which gives ecological ethics its deepest meaning. It needs educators capable of developing an ethics of ecology, and helping people, through effective pedagogy, to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compas- sionate care.

Paragraph 210 of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato si’ represents the substantial opening of this book The educational challenge of Laudato sí´ and character education. It  is a  work that is profoundly inscribed in an emi- nently transformative and generatively pedagogical horizon of meaning, draw- ing lifeblood from the beating heart of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato si’: the fruitful, and at the very least revolution- ary, perspective of integral ecology.

Such innervation enlivens the identi- ty fabric of Laudato si’, underscoring its structurally educational nature, but ac- cording to a distinctive and original key of interpretation: the inexhaustible peda- gogical-educational soul of the Encyclical is focused in this book on a challenge that, in an indissoluble way, connects ecology and anthropology. Indeed, for ecology to be ontologically structured, the constitu- tion of a new and regenerated man and an intimately transformed humanity is nec- essary. In order for ecology to materialize and profile itself integrally, anthropolo- gy must be challenged equally integrally, developing a peculiar dynamism: that of character education.

“Character” represents the unique identity profile of each individual, in- escapably connoted by intentionality, and the term “educate” refers to the dynamic action of not only promotively changing in terms of improvement, but to an authenti- cally transfigurative conversion from the innermost roots of the human being. A concept that is expressed and sublimated by the Greek term metanoia. This is the foundational core of the reflection con- tained in this work: to educate the char- acter of each person under the banner of a dinamis that connectively articulates into transformative movement the plane of the capacity to act with the inner level, which ethically and morally interpellates.

But this purpose can only be achieved within an indispensable dimension of ped- agogy, which is ennobled and elevated in a masterful way in the Encyclical: freedom.

By virtue of the intentionality that denotes character education, in fact, Balduzzi discusses a human being inti- mately called to “make himself free,” to use Giuseppe Mari’s expression, that is, a subject who is the protagonist of his own existence, responsible for who he wants to be and who he will become, and thus en- gaged in a task that is properly humaniz- ing. For each individual, it is a matter of pronouncing and experiencing a unique, unrepeatable, non-delegable stance re- garding “who I am” and “who I am with the world”: in a perspective that, by virtue of man’s dispositional frailties and short- comings, and thus of his infinite possibil- ities in terms of existential perfectibility, is open to ulteriority and transcendence.

To a horizon that is not pre-packaged, but constantly in the making, to be chosen and, with commitment and responsibility, created and built.

Freedom is certainly a fundamental core in Balduzzi’s writings, which de- scribes a pedagogical-transdisciplinary vision of the human being as a subject characterized by design, intentionality, in- violable dignity, in accordance with what Robert Spaemann asserted in Persons. On the difference between “something” and “someone” (2007): man “cannot be under- stood as a causal consequence of one of his predicates, or of the totality of his predi- cates. What he may always be, he is in a way that does not determine who he is”. This position is also in consonance with the perspective of Emmanuel Mounier, whose work Balduzzi quotes in this book: “[…] my character is not what I am […]. It is the form of a movement directed toward a future pushed toward a better-being. It is what I can be more than what I am”.

Character education thus develops in a motion which is convergent and ascend- ing at the same time, and which, guard- ing a gaze of pedagogical-existential com- plexity and unity, intimately transfigures and converts man, making him integrally new. The semantic backdrop is that of a responsible freedom in which the human being’s dispositional fragility and vulner- ability are opportunities to “be more,” to use a Freirian expression; they are oppor- tunities to become wounded, opening up to bright rays of possibility and further paths, leaving footprints of awareness and value in the world.

Thus, a humanizing space of contigui- ty between Laudato si’ and character ed- ucation appears, in which the immanence of the here and now does not retreat into itself, is not exhausted in the instant, but opens wide to transcendence, to the fu- ture, to planning. This is the transformed and renewed space inhabited by virtue (arethè): not a simple “doing,” but a true way of life in which doing reflects the re- sponsibility of being, in a perspective of proximity that necessarily expands to the We (ethos); this is the dimension in which the inviolable dignity of each person em- braces practical consciousness and experi- ential baggage, linking these elements in an integral and unitary grammar, dual and non-dualistic.

From a structural point of view, the book testifies to the author’s open, expert and wide-ranging gaze. A horizon that is tinged with trans-disciplinary value, highlighting not only the originality of the thematized content, but also the art of comparing and dialoguing different perspectives. Indeed, the dialogic scope of the work is evident in bringing together the positions of diverse and internationally prominent authors, re- lating voices, ideas, experiences, and thus constructing a peculiarly generative and impactful narrative plot.

Organizationally, the book is divided into two basic sections, consistent with the cyclical and systemic nature of “the- ory-practice-theory” pedagogy itself: the first part is in fact related to research perspectives, while the second, pragmat- ically oriented, concerns the actual areas of action.

Thus, following the order of the work, Balduzzi opens the first section by high- lighting the intersecting roots of meaning between Laudato si’ and character educa- tion, which are transversal themes of the work as a whole: the contribution repre- sents the foundation and springboard for the subsequent development of the disser- tation, through three hermeneutical over- views of integral ecology.

Aurora Bernal offers a timely survey of the  current  importance  of character education, in which she explores, in a life- long framework of education the current research, critical issues, potentials, and complexity of the topic under consider- ation. Bernal also innervates character education in the framework of moral edu- cation, emphasizing pedagogical concepts such as autonomy, freedom, and self-de- termination. Marco Emilio’s philosophical contribution, on the other hand, is aimed at investigating difficult-to-resolve ten- sions against the contextual backdrop of the climate crisis. The keynote problema- tizes character education and virtue ethics from a perspective of renewal and repair of collective wisdom, rediscovery of com- mon home and destiny, in which individ- ual choices are necessarily conjoined with communal ones. Finally, in contiguity with the regard for the space of the We, the care of the spaces to be inhabited is inserted, through Marisa Musaio’s reflection.

Cities, nodes of a world understood as a global construction site, are investigated in their deepest meaning, not only phys- ical, but also anthropological, narrative and existential: through care, it is possible to build places of authentic encounter, leading to a regeneration of the periphery as a centre of proximity.

The transition to the second part of the book unveils vistas of action within the foundational framework of the connection between character education and Laudato si’. The school context, a privileged rela- tional space, is the fil rouge of the contri- butions collected, starting with the pro- posal of Carmen Martínez Conde and Josu Ahedo, who present an idea of a school in solidarity embodying nodal values of the Encyclical, such as proximity, sharing, generosity, and equality. Balduzzi contin- ues the discourse, envisaging opportuni- ties to make integral ecology tangible and authentic through the compulsory teach- ing of civic education in schools, screening potentialities and possible criticalities.

Elena Arbués’ wide-ranging interna- tional work concerns ecological civicism at the university, recovering its dialogi- cal, empowering and cognitive value, and bringing to light its transformative iden- tity, especially in the area of lifestyle and citizenship.

Finally, Enrico Miatto focuses on the practice of Service Learning: numerous semantic nodes connect Laudato si’ with this educational practice, but, above all, Service Learning is connoted by surplus, responding to Pope Francis’ call to build bridges, open windows on the world, be “outgoing” witnesses.

The zetetic and concrete action per- spectives presented in this book open possibilities of profound transformation to the reader. In particular, one grasps the no longer postponed need to chart paths of generative reparation toward a sense of a communitarian we, now banished in the society of narcissistic positivity envi- sioned by Byung-Chul Han, which con- sumes all forms of otherness to the point of elimination.

Without firm bonds, without the “eva- sion”, about which Emmanuel Lévinas writes, (dell’Evasione, 1983) which is ca- pable of snapping us out of the blindness of a solipsistic consciousness hinged in the Self, it is not possible to trigger metanoia and become the protagonists of integral and virtuous ecological and anthropologi- cal transformations.

The priority is to re-build the quality of human relationships, rediscovering our original creaturely fragility and, consist- ent with Buberian thought (Il principio dialogico e altri saggi, 1993), elevating the relationship with others from “I-itself” to “I-you”: a perspective that cou- rageously restores dignity, care and value to bonds.

The dialectical spade work of this book leads the reader to feel and touch deep roots of meaning. They tell of the virtue of taking a complex look at a world in which “everything is connected”; to protect care for the quality of every rela- tionship; to cultivate the strength to live fully the meaning of ex-ducere, not only by “drawing out” that inexhaustible best that tells of human perfectibility, but also by emptying oneself of the fullness of self, selfishness, greed, and thus overflowing into the beauty of the Other: the only destination in which to nurture hope, responsibility and action for an integral ecology.



Spaemann, R. (2007). Persons. On the difference between “something” and “someone”. Laterza.

Maria Valentini ■