Don Bosco was a positive realist.

He was positive because he believed that there was no such thing as a ‘bad child’: “In every youngster, even the most wretched, a point of goodness is accessible, and it is the primary duty of the educator to discover that spot, that sensitive cord of the heart so as to draw out the best in the young person.” (MB, vol. 5, 367)

His realism consisted in his awareness of the many possibilities that could impede a well-rounded education during the journey from childhood to adulthood. Having worked with youth for over forty years, he was convinced that the only education worth the name had to be one that addressed the fundamental yearnings of the heart, the mind and the spirit; an education that was a response to three fundamental needs of every youngster: the emotional needs, the rational needs and the spiritual needs.

In order to answer these needs adequately, he considered the importance of three values as the foundation of his pedagogy. They are  rapport, reason and religion. Therefore, in Don Bosco’s Way:   
  • the student’s emotional need for a trusting relationship is met with the loving kindness of the educator.
  • the student’s rational need for intellectual enquiry encounters the reasonable dialogue of the teacher.
  • the student’s spiritual need for personal and social happiness is inspired by the religious guidance of the educator.

Diagrammatically, this educator-student or parent-child encounter may be expressed as follows:

Understandably, the holistic nature of education is far more complex than can be demonstrated by a diagram. The relationship of each of the arrows – rapport, reason, religion – is not oriented to the emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs separately in isolated circles, which is why the circles are separated by dotted lines. Reason is as important to the emotion and the spirit as it is to the intelligence. The religious quest that affects the spirit has its influence on the heart as well as the mind. The rapport that an educator establishes with the student invigorates not just the emotions but also the rational and spiritual capacities of the young. Each need and educational response is symbiotically related to each other and to the whole human person.

This holistic nature of Don Bosco's Way involves not only the life of the youngster but the life of the educator or parent as well. Holistic education is not a one way flow from the educator to the student or from the parent to the child. Holistic education is holistic even in the educational relationship it fosters between the two interacting parties. It is therefore more challenging than mere teaching from a pre-arranged syllabus or an inert text book. Don Bosco’s Way puts the educator and educand, the parent and child, on a combined journey towards maturity. For Don Bosco, education is the art of  growing with the young day by day.

To accept such a difficult challenge as one’s own is certainly no easy task. One has to prepare well to  become a true educator by cultivating the right attitudes and honing one's skills.

The word ‘value’ can have many meanings depending on the context in which it is used. For example, in sociology, values are “the ideals, customs, institutions, etc., of a society toward which the people of the group have an affective regard.”  Ethically, a value is “any object or quality desirable as a means or as an end in itself.” Commercially, a value is “the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged.” (all meanings in this lesson are taken from

In this course, we understand a value to mean "a principle, standard, or quality" which we consider worth pursuing and striving after for the benefit of the whole educational enterprise. Seen in this light, rapport, reason and religion are values that are integral to Don Bosco’s Way. They are ends in themselves, as well as means to achieve the overarching goal of holistic education.

An ‘attitude’ is “a state of mind or a feeling, orientation or disposition”. Attitudes motivate us, usually in favour of the values we cherish. Attitudes can also be negative that flow in the direction of our negative prejudices and impulses.

The deeper our conviction of the importance of the values we hold, the better our disposition or attitude to live by them. This disposition orientates us towards living out our values through our words and actions. Therefore, as an educator:
  • the conviction that ‘reason’ is a value in the growth of my students, moves me to develop an attitude of reasonableness in my relationship with them;
  • the conviction that ‘rapport’ is a value in education, urges me to develop an attitude of loving kindness with them;
  • the conviction that religion is a value, moves me to cultivate attitudes of moral and religious propriety in my dealings with them.

A 'skill' is “the ability, coming from one's knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well.” It means competence and expertness.
The attitude of being reasonable in my relationship with young people prompts me to improve my skill of reasonableness in the daily contacts I make with my students. Conversely, a conscious, daily practising of skills will improve my attitudes to students, which will reinforce the values I live by, which in turn will affect my general behaviour and my relationships. Thus, values, attitudes and skills are essentially linked together in the one process of responding to the young person’s basic needs.

The chapters that follow are meant to filter the values and attitudes of Don Bosco’s Way down to concrete skills for participants to live out in their daily interaction with youngsters. This methodology will ensure that Don Bosco’s holistic education is understood, is rendered practical and is effective.   

Diagram: Peter Gonsalves

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