by Alexander Cervone
On Thursday, September 4th, Pope Francis held a Google hangout with schoolchildren from five schools across the world. Each school was located in a different country, featuring schools from Australia, Israel, Turkey, South Africa, and El Salvador. The purpose of this chat was to answer the students’ questions regarding education and global communication among young people as part of the launch of Scholas, an organization started by Pope Francis to promote education and foster student and teacher collaboration around the world.
A worldwide, multi-religious and multi-cultural social network, Scholas is designed to link schools from across the world for the purpose of allowing students to experience different cultures, share their experiences, and foster interpersonal relationships. It will serve as a networking tool for students and teachers around the world.
In a response to an Australian student’s question during the hangout, the Pope described Scholas’ mission as creating bridges. He articulated that: “In life you can do two things: create bridges or build walls. Walls separate and divide. Bridges bring us together.” He wishes for Scholas to allow students to correspond: to create their own bridges. By facilitating this, Scholas unites “more than just the schools. A network of schools—of neighbors” He wishes for this new tool to not only create bridges between individual schools, but establish networks among a vast multitude of schools in which students may interact and learn from one another.
The fundamental goal of establishing a worldwide network for international school communication is to incite a global cultural shift concerning education. Throughout the hangout, Pope Francis illustrated that one of the major flaws in education today, in his opinion, is a lack of communication. He feels that there is not enough interaction among students, parents, and their teachers. He wishes for Scholas to restore a culture where students, parents, and teachers resolve their issues together, peacefully.
The pontiff shared that he, as a child, was no angel—much to the surprise of those listening. He admitted that in the fourth grade, he was disrespectful towards his teacher, and his mother resolved the issue by forming a meeting with the teacher, herself, and the misbehaving future Pope. To correct her son’s behavior in a peaceful fashion, they spoke to him in a way that was supportive and in no way punitive. Pope Francis explained that the comforting process made him happy as a child and that he thinks open communication among parents, teachers and students should be more common, rather than the tendency to admonish children who misbehave. He emphasized a growing culture today of parents blaming teachers for their child’s poor behavior—a process that the Pope faults on today’s, “culture of disposal,” for producing an environment that deemphasizes collaboration between adults and young students.
Pope Francis is convinced that today’s “youth needs to communicate. They need to show their values and share their values.” He wishes for such communication to make them feel happy, as his meeting with his teacher and mother made him long ago. To conclude his hangout, Pope Francis responded to a student’s worries for the future by explaining that he does not have an omniscient “crystal ball.” However, he told them all to “not be afraid.” He articulated that the future “is in [the students’] heart, it’s in [their] mind, and [their] hands.” Francis hopes that Scholas will brighten the future and allow for today’s youth to build bridges and work together. His Hangout with the schoolchildren was an initial step in putting a better future in their hands.