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Discussing Education, Across Many Barriers

Interview With Mary Ann Glendon of Academy of Social Sciences

ROME, NOV. 21, 2005 (ZENIT) - Scientists representing the natural and social sciences, and various countries, cultures and creeds, are breaking down barriers in the name of education, says a pontifical-academy official.

Last Wednesday and Thursday in Rome the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences met to develop new and effective ways of providing education to an increasingly globalized world.

Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, shared with us the challenges facing a meeting of this type, and what she hopes will result from it.

Q: The topic of education presents a challenge to all nations. Is it an equal challenge trying to devise a universal program for education?

Glendon: This has been a challenge for our academies from the very beginning because we bring together, here at the Vatican, people from many countries. We should also not ever underestimate the challenge of communicating across disciplinary barriers.

Even within the social sciences, it is not that easy for economists and lawyers and sociologists to speak to one another. Then, add to that cultural differences, linguistic differences, religious and ethnic differences -- because we have many different religions represented in our academies. And now this week, for the first time, social scientists are trying to communicate with natural scientists, so we are really pioneering.

Q: So what compelled you to combine your forces?

Glendon: One of the features of this subject that brings us together is that we're living in age of historically unprecedented, great migration of peoples. And, the problems that are generated cannot be resolved -- even that's too strong a word -- even minimized, or meliorated without collaboration across these barriers. We have to keep pushing at the barriers, even if it's a draconian task.

Q: How, ideally, will the work you are doing to promote education for all, bring about a change to freedom and mobility to people in the global community?

Glendon: The very fact that our subject is education tells you that we are placing great hopes in education and in the capacity of the human person to long for knowledge and communication.

Here is the connection that we're having for the conference that we're having next week on the human person. Among other things, the human person is one who desires to know and desires to communicate with others.

Q: So, what is your hope?

Glendon: The major hope, and the focus of this conference, has been placed very much on those people who tend to get left behind when you bring a purely utilitarian or economic approach to these matters.

Here again, it's so appropriate that the Catholic Church should be hosting this conference because it has been a pioneer in educating the least advantaged, it has been a pioneer in countries where women were not educated -- i.e., the Church has been there -- and the hope will be to learn more about how we can reach the people who are being left behind in this age of great migration of peoples.

It's a time of promise, danger and challenge!

Q: What kind of an edge do the teachings of the Church give to the work of education on a global scale?

Glendon: I think it's important to keep in mind that one of the reasons the Catholic Church is so interested in bringing people together is due to the fact that the scope of concern of the Church is worldwide and universal. It's not just an intellectual curiosity; it is because we are actually present everywhere in the world through over 300,000 educational, health care and charitable agencies.

So, it's quite natural that the Holy See should serve as a place to bring people together.

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