A comparative study of the three methods of education just described reveal the following:

The philosophy underlying the repressive system of education is that the human person is prone to fail if not controlled and disciplined from time to time, almost like a machine that is expected to work with clock-like precision and is prone to function badly if not well regulated and cleaned. The preventive model of education acknowledges the weakness of the human being but admits that each one is free to choose between good and evil. The task of the educator is to let the good succeed over and against one’s evil tendencies. The expressive system of education perceives the human person in a positive light. Given the conditions favourable to growth, people are good and capable of realising their potential.

The attitude of the educator in the expressive method is encouragement and support. The educator creates the opportunities for such positive self-actualisation through a motivating presence. The attitude of the preventive educator, instead, is one of accompaniment and assistance, one of forestalling the possibility of harm through vigilance and the creation of a safe and healthy environment. The attitude of the repressive educator, however, is to control the student through force and threats.

The educator's skills in the repressive system are honed on instilling fear by maintaining distance and reserve. This is their strategy to ensure that students behave precisely as they are dictated to. In the preventive system, however, educators develop skills of loving concern. They are kind guides who are discreet and farsighted in the care of their students. They accompany them in the hope of fostering good and healthy habits. Educators in the expressive method develop skills of encouragement and motivation, beginning from the things that interest their students, to the things they consider important for them to learn. Such educators surround their students with a growth-facilitating network so that they mature in freedom, self-esteem and responsibility.

The strategy that facilitates learning in each method is different. The first induces learning through force, the second through guidance and the third by fostering self-determination. In the first two methods, the student continues to be dependent on the educator, in the third, the educator stands back and encourages the progress made by the student in his/her journey towards maturity.

The perceptions that students have of educators and educators have of students also differ. In the repressive system educators are looked upon as  intruders and surveillance police, while students are perceived as adults to be checked and controlled. In the preventive method students see their educators as parents, guardians and accompanying guides while educators consider their students as fragile and vulnerable persons with rights that have to be defended. In the expressive method the educator is looked up to as a friend, motivator, hero and fellow pilgrim on the road of life. The educator in turn perceives the student as a friend and fellow seeker who is to be prepared for self-reliance as a future contributor to society. 

The emphasis of the repressive, preventive and expressive methods of education therefore differ radically: the first highlights control, the second protection and the third growth.

The table above offers an overview at a glance. It identifies the points of difference in a comparative study of the three methods of education which are intentionally presented as isolated prototypes. In real-life, however, parents and educators do not operate in water-tight compartments. They are likely to use all three methods at various moments in the educational process.

Don Bosco’s Way, we have seen, is a combination of the preventive and expressive methods of education. His  presence among his students as father, guide, motivator, hero, friend and fellow pilgrim won their admiration and their love. Many were even willing to lay down their lives for him.

His presence, practical insight, charm and charisma may be translated into three essential components of holistic growth. They are rapport, reason and religion, or put in another way, they are attitudes of loving kindness, reasonableness and religious integrity. 

The second part of our study deals exclusively with these finer details of Don Bosco’s Way.

Table: Peter Gonsalves / Image: Nino Musio