According to the Vatican II Fathers, all people have the right to an education so that they may reach their potential for development as individuals and as a society. Further, all Christians have the right to a Christian education in order to truly understand the gifts they have received and to grow ever closer to God in faith, hope, and love. In Gravissimum Educationis, or Declaration on Christian Education, the Vatican II Fathers discussed the various purposes and forms of education in the modern world.
Here's a sampling of the topics and ideas you'll find in Gravissimum Educationis.
* Education is of “paramount importance” in the modern world, for it allows human beings to understand “their own dignity and responsibility”; participate in the social, political, and economic spheres; and discover the riches of technology, science, communication, and culture.
* While education has made progress in recent years in terms of recognition of rights, expansion of schools, and development of methods, deficiencies still exist that must be remedied.
* The Church, which promotes “the welfare of the whole life of man,” uses education to fulfill her goal of bringing Christ to the world.
* All people have a right to education, “which should be suitable to the particular destiny of the individuals, adapted to their ability, sex, national and cultural traditions,” and promote peace and unity. The goals of education are the “formation of the human person in view of his final end” and the good of society.
* Education develops people's “physical, moral and intellectual qualities” and instills in therm responsibility, liberty, courage, social and technical skills, and devotion to the common good.
* Christians have a right to Christian education, which helps them grow in faith, reach maturity in Christian living, form their consciences, make strong moral decisions, appreciate the gift of salvation, worship more deeply, understand the truths of the faith, discover and accept their vocations, and witness to Christianity.
* Parents are the primary educators of their children. They have a duty to “create a family atmosphere inspired by love and devotion to God and their fellow-men which will promote an integrated, personal and social education for their children.” The family, then, is the first and principal school in which children learn to worship and love God and love their neighbor.
* Society helps to educate young people in order to promote the common good and provide assistance to parents.
* The Catholic Church plays a key role in education, for she has the duty of proclaiming salvation and helping every person reach his or her full potential. The Church aids parents and society in providing education through Catholic schools, catechetical programs, educational media, and organizations.
* Schools are essential to education. Schools develop intellectual faculties, sound judgment, values, skills, and culture. They also provide centers for the entire community.
* The vocation of teaching is of high importance, and students are to be encouraged to pursue that vocation as appropriate.
* Parents have the right to choose schools for their children.
* The state must “ensure that all its citizens have access to adequate education” that prepares students for their civic duties and rights, but the state should not set up a monopoly of schools that takes away the parents' right to choose how to educate their children.
* Catholic faithful contribute greatly to the development of education in their communities, both intellectually and morally.
* The Church reaches out to Catholic students in non-Catholic schools in order to make sure they receive a proper Christian education.
* Parents are responsible for making sure their children receive “a balanced progress in their Christian formation and their preparation for life in the world.”
* If at all possible, parents should sent their children to Catholic schools, which help children grow in the new life they received at Baptism, orient “the whole of human culture to the message of salvation,” illuminate knowledge with the light of faith, and bring the kingdom of God to the world.
* The Church has the right to establish schools in order to protect the liberty of conscience, promote parents' rights, and advance culture.
* Catholic school teachers ought to be well-trained, charitable, and faith-filled.
* Catholic higher education promotes an academic spirit and a healthy balance of faith and reason in order to help students discover the truth and witness the Catholic faith to the world. Catholic universities and colleges must conform to high standards and care for the spiritual lives of their students.
* The Church should set up centers at non-Catholic universities to assist Catholic students in their spiritual, moral, and intellectual development.
* Catholic Theology faculties have “the very grave responsibility” for preparing students for the priesthood but also for the intellectual apostolate of research and teaching that promotes deep study of Divine Revelation, greater appreciation of the “Christian wisdom handed down by former generations,” dialogue with other Christians and non-Christians, and careful analysis of modern questions.
* Catholic schools at all levels cooperate to preserve and advance Catholic education that the Church may be renewed and the world inspired with faith and truth.
The full text of Gravissimum Educationis is available online at the Vatican website.