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The adults are the problem of the young. Pedagogical itineraries and educational emergencies
di Michele Corsi   
DOI: 10.12897/01.00073


I tanti discorsi allarmati sui giovani d’oggi, in crisi di identità o in preda al consumismo più sfrenato, sono un alibi creato da un’altra “compagine” davvero in crisi: quella degli adulti,

disorientati dalla perdita di controllo del mondo che li circonda e che hanno contribuito a forgiare, increduli davanti agli effetti di quella medesima “società dei consumi” che hanno edificato, e quasi del tutto “spaesati” nelle loro molteplici ansie di ruolo e fantasie anti-età. In un “discorso di sistema” che coinvolge assetti e quadri generazionali diversi tra loro, ambiti educativi formali e informali, messaggi e “massaggi” i più vari. Un “attacco ai giovani” spesso camuffato da “preoccupazione”, sensibilità educativa e protezione dei valori sociali e delle tradizioni (tanto più esagerate quanto maggiormente ipocrite), che fa pagare alla società presente e futura – una società giovanofila nell’immaginario, ma sempre più gerontocratica nella realtà – un prezzo altissimo. Una “questione giovanile” sulla quale, da tempo, si stanno interrogando le scienze umane e sociali, come le differenti ideologie; non ultima, la stessa Chiesa cattolica. Mentre alla pedagogia spetta il compito, non lieve, di “ridare speranza” alla famiglia e alla scuola, e di restituire “fiducia nella vita”. Perché è dall’educazione che dipende il futuro del mondo.



The widespread worried considerations about today’s youth, deemed to be in identity crisis or in the throes of unbridled consumerism, are an excuse created by another social group that is really in crisis: the adults, disoriented by the loss of control of the world that they helped create, baffled by the same “consumerist society” that they wanted to build and almost completely lost in their many anxieties and anti-aging fantasies. All this happens in a “system of meanings” which involves different generational levels, formal and informal educational settings, multiple messages and “massages”. An “attack on the young people” – often disguised as worry, educational sensitivity and respect for tradition and social values (the more exaggerated the more hypocritical) – that charges present and future society (apparently in favor of youth, really in favor of the old people) – a very high price. Social and human sciences, as different ideologies, are trying to solve for a long time the problems of young people. Not least the Catholic church itself. Pedagogy, on the other hand, has to give hope and confidence in life to families and school, because the future of the world depends on educational practices.


1. Some initial considerations


Too many alarmed considerations about today’s youth – in identity crisis or affected by unrestrained consumerism – are, in my view, the complex and multiple alibi of another “world” that is truly in crisis: the one of the adults.

This is a deeply rooted belief that I have reaffirmed and argued for years, in much of my written production. I am in the good company of other authors and researchers coming from different fields, ideological orientations and values. Last but not least, the Catholic church and its highest representatives. Italy is the country where I work and live. I have the duty of serving it intensely, beyond any provincialism coming from any direction.

My aim is to develop in these pages a “systemic discourse” under different viewpoints composed by: generational set ups and frames, formal and informal educational contexts, messages and manipulations; it also highlights, therefore combining them, ideal interpretations that differ at source, but coherent and tuned up on the diagnostic level and also be possible, welcomed solutions. A super partes analysis is attempted here (this has been another personal and research orientation for some time), which is also con-textual, as a critical and motivated mass of multiple and poly-morph messages.

Stefano Laffi (2014) – whom I have already and profitably used before (1) – sustains that this “attack against the young”, often camouflaged as worrying about, or educational sensitivity and protection of traditions and social values (whose exaggeration is increased by equivalent hypocrisy), makes present and future societies pay the price. Society is “still” imagining itself youthful, but it is actually and increasingly gerontocratic, if nothing is done the price to pay will be high. Some obsessive questions follow: who are the young? What have they become? Make us risk to fall in the trap of a defining and interpretative game that does not benefit the subjects, it only absolves those who talk about it. Adults are the problem, not the young – Laffi argues that they are disoriented by the loss of control over the surrounding world, the world they contributed to build; baffled by the same consumerist society that they, more or less guiltily, built; locked up, lost and disoriented in their multi-shaped anxieties about their role, and against age.

On the other hand, the question about youth entered the Church too. The first one to mention it, as a real “educational emergency”, was Cardinal Caffarra on September 5, 2006, who, talking to the tutors of the Christian Movement of Workers, declared that the genesis of the urgency resided mostly in the adult, as well as the present weakness of the institutions: firstly, family and school. Therefore, the ones who carry an “educational responsibility”.

In the “Letter” sent to dioceses of the city of Rome, Benedict XVI (2008) convinced that “future of the whole world depends on education”, equally wrote that at the “roots of the crisis of education [in itself], [there was] a crisis of trust in life”; in this way, he reiterated what he sustained already in Loreto on September 1 and 2, 2007, in the meeting with the youth on the plane of Montorso.

“Because [the young] are not helped by their socio-cultural environment, and [therefore] are easily exposed to flatteries and false myths. [Consequently,] rather than accusing the young we should put adult world ‘in state of self-analysis’. The problem [is] there and not among new generations”: this was echoed by Cardinal Bagnasco interviewed by “Il Messaggero” on September 1, 2007. The president of the Italian Episcopal Conference (C.E.I.) continued wishing that also priests, sisters and laymen could speak with a new language, as well as a more “motherly” church. Because the young, “in [their] instinctive ability of catching the good, are not helped at all by the adults, who should promote ‘what really matters’. [Instead] adults do not look convincing, not only in arguing, but mostly when they need to give the example”. Monsignor Forte added that [consequently] they should “put themselves at risk”.

Finally, the 2001’s C.E.I. “Document” about the centrality of education, the prophetic Leadership of Pope Bergoglio, and also the next Jubileum about “mercy” – from remarried divorcees to homosexuals, to the post Paul VI’s re-reading of responsible fatherhood and motherhood – are themes of great interest and vital contemporaneity for the young. They are critical re-thinking for the adults “looking for truth”.

There should be no opposition between Church and Nation (Italy included), Christian faith and historical secular thinking, social and civil engagement, as long as they are truly lived and correctly pursued, being rather synergy and ample and reasoned chances of cooperation. Hermeneutically, in planning and constructing, the opinion of the president of the “Gramsci Foundation” Giuseppe Vacca interviewed by Marina Corradi for “Avvenire” on October 5, 2008, while commenting on the meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the former Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at the Presidential residence, affirmed that all agreed on the “public dimension of the religious deed”. Clearly, the Pope re-affirmed this dimension, but also the President acknowledged it a strength of the secular State. Napolitano noted especially the presence of “phenomena that dim the fundamental values, and we feel we are facing – exactly like you [the Pontiff ed.] said – an educative challenge in our country too”. Vacca, in fact, notes positively that the President used an expression that has been used by the Church for a long time, and that the acceptance of this “diagnostic” enunciated by the President depended from “the common acknowledgment of the most serious [in his view] problem for the country. The premise [this is the wish of the president of the “Gramsci Foundation”] is that we should go beyond and [take] collectively charge of the educational question”.

As far as my competence goes: lay and catholic pedagogues “all together” should be in the planning and hermeneutic wealth of both anthropologies and reference points.


2. A first entry evaluation


“Our society is obsessed with being (and appearing) young”: this is sustained with due expertise by Daniele Marini of the University of Padua on “La Stampa” on December 30, 2013 ( In the combination existing between scientific publications and mass-media – already mentioned in this contribution – with the relative reciprocal responsibilities.

“[After all], it is sufficient to look at the behaviours of those parents who dress and act like their children”, it will be difficult to spot the differences, says Marini. Plastic surgery, cosmetics (for women and men), the obsession with the fitness room – surely for the well-offs (but not only) – are used to prolong the idea, “torment and ecstasy” and the delirium of youth. “in this way, youth extends to absorb (and mostly cancel) adulthood and goes into the arms of old age”.

Marini uses the results of a research carried out by “Laboratorio sulla Società e il Territorio – LaST”, implemented by “Community Media Research” and “Questlab” for the newspaper “La Stampa”. It compares different generations, using “specific” scales from 1 to 10, it highlights that present youth has a more marked and defined connotation compared to adults, who, on the contrary, look less identifiable without clearly distinguishable marks: they are invisible. In other words: “more concealed”. Consequently, we struggle to define the borderlines. When adults assume behaviours similar to the young, they lose the capacity of being a reference point, likening themselves to them. A further effect is that the invisibility of adults, their mixing and getting lost in the youth galaxy, gives us, educationally and pedagogically, a “society without fathers and mothers”; or, “without teachers”.

Young, children and students on the contrary starve and need to be educated with authoritativeness and grow up in the “culture and exercise of responsibility” (2).

Today, when this goes amiss, in the best cases, parents and tutors are “replaced” for example by musical myths (as, once upon a time, by political and contemporary heroes and figures), pop-stars and protagonists of the show-biz (Stramaglia, 2011). In particular, music influences also the young political ideas, they often listen to groups with clear ideological marks. With their songs, they fight against a society that, in their views, “is wrong”. Because of “independent adults” who earn money – “good money” –, do not look subject to external powers, do not answer for their daily routine, have social recognition among other things. Here, obviously, the perception of the “right role model” changes from person to person.

This society proposes also other examples to follow or to imitate, albeit often false and mellifluous, yet very attractive. These are shortcuts toward easy success: showgirls, footballers, TV quiz winners of hundreds or million Euros by answering correctly to questions posed in these shows. A rampant class that often flaunts its wealth, sometimes evading taxes, zigzagging among amnesties, end of legal times of persecutions, (former) Swiss bank accounts and the affirmation of illegality. Leading especially the poor (in money, culture and perspectives) to the many forms of “lottery” – with their hypocritical warning that “they may create addiction” –, or even to cheap underage prostitution, to buy telephone re-charges, clothes and more, while parents are not completely “unaware”.  However, who packs, at the origin, these behaviours?

Let’s try, then, to reverse the view and see the world through the eyes of young and adolescents.

What do they see in adult society?  Shallowness and oppression in more or less veiled forms, a daily acting marked by the motto “mors tua vita mea”, the search for appearance over the primacy of being, disengagement, refusal of constructive efforts and the craving for “everything now”, no matter the price.

The youth problem is, therefore, the other side of the adults’ problem.

It is difficult to deny that in our “society of spectacle” everything looks destined, sooner or later, to appear on stage or under spotlights, this applies to people and things, so much that some discuss about “social window-dressing” (Codeluppi, 2007).

Therefore, the conclusion is that – as long as spectacle and consumerism become increasingly the hegemonic culture without any action of educational mediating contrast – the complete commercialisation of the contemporary world as well as human relations will progressively win with a fatal outcome.

What do the young need instead?

- Listening.

If the “other” is ready to listen to them – particularly parents and, subsequently, educators, it means that somebody notices and wants to take care of them – it  means that they exist. This is the way to receive a personalised answer, not a generic or standardised one. While usually, young accept that adults arrogate upon themselves the right to talk when they like, often condemning and expecting answers. With a style, at least at home, which is not the usual lecture-interrogation-prize-punishment.

- Ties.

Youngsters look for containment and sometimes retention, but with tenderness (Stramaglia, 2009a). Taking residence in the others. To, retroactively, reside in themselves. Of overcoming solitude and isolation that the sophisticated virtual and technological world satisfies only superficially with i-pods, facebook and twitter created by adults. They give the illusion of belonging to a “huge tribe”, while effectively they lose, slowly but irremediably, much of the touch with reality. They avoid, without satisfying really the young’s right “desire of community”.

- Compasses.

As sailors lost in the sea of their age, with the restlessness, insecurity and sense of loss that have always characterised adolescence; today’s youth is uncertain, lost and disoriented, even if they are positively, like previous generations, fascinated by the experience of the voyage and the metaphor of the journey, they look for somebody who can show them the route toward a possible end. It is like water for crossing desert, by more than few “wanderers” of our contemporary history. 

- Building an identity.

Many youngsters are suspended above nihilism, relativism and fundamentalism, they are consequently trying to build their own identity. To obtain the goal they need a sense of belonging, history and traditions; to know to which community they belong and adhere to; to have adults as a reference point.

These four needs are complementary, circular and interdependent.


3. Building identity


The “I” becomes such after the hopefully positive meeting with the “You”, and the You all (family, groups, organisations, society), in a hopefully uninterrupted, effective and efficient communication, which is the synthesis of dialogues and communion.

But dialogues require “time”: time in terms of “quality” and “quantity”, supported by an “educating spirituality”, which is secular and confessional and originates from the “testimony” of (mostly) adults, and generally of the others, and, the peers, that is the young, with whom they “meet” (Corsi, 2003). Everybody needs education and tutoring: adults and children alike. It all starts from birth and children. If education is not “authoritative” – as already mentioned – or cannot overcome the constant confusion between authoritativeness and authoritarianism, is not education at all, it becomes a denial of its own nature.

For example, see the numerous contemporary and worrying phenomena of bullying and cyber-bullying (comparable, in my view, in many ways, to children bed wetting that lasts too long or “returns”). They seem to answer the call of the “sight” of the adults and educators in general. “Look at me/us” seems to be the call (even if untimely, screamed, unpleasant and unwelcomed) of them versus busy, distant or just worried (about themselves rather than the children) adults. Who, therefore, become punitive to stay in peace with their conscience. Adults also cut themselves out from a relational scene that they somewhat occupy. A world that they actually built or mostly contributed to build. These adults do not know, and do not want (in the circular inter-dependency of these two actions) to go beyond the symptoms, to stop just at the beginning of these manifestations.

Think of sexism and early sexuality in much of the contemporary society, and, sometimes, to too many precocious adolescents who believe that in this way they can give a meaning to thier lives, which is often lacking meanings and projects, and can fill a devastating solitude, look important, and be accepted among other things that they desire. While in truth the young themselves “are – often – used” (they did not realise it because of self-defence) rather than they “using the others” (feel “powerful”, important, desired and more). They commercialise themselves with banal gestures that have little to do with real, lived and felt pleasure. They remind us, in this aerial and fragmented post-modernity, of a unfulfilled need of cuddles and strokes; yet, these are not the “adult” reassuring and protective ones that “real adults” exchange, and therefore, must pass onto their children and so on. Precociousness is the measure and recognising tool that was delusionary and obtained through “short cuts” and not through sunny boulevards, but through filthy and sad alleys in the human peripheries, poor under every aspect.

Once upon a time, people, maybe, loved and were scared of sex; today, probably, people have sex but are scared of loving.

On the opposite, identity needs roots to build itself. Equally, trees, to grow, last and properly soar sky-wise, need a good fertile soil, where roots can extend and last.

Parents offer roots, above the roots there is a social system, which starting from its history, should build up the future.

Fathers and mothers, organisations and institutions should win over the dangers of relativism and scepticism that are widely spread today, if they want to provide children with a “useful” memory. Freedom is confused with arbitrariness, the “I” is brought up to be “the universal judge”, nothing less than the expression: “what’s wrong with it?”, which is the standard answer for any question about choice made and attitude adopted. Or, as explained in such affirmations like: “if it’s good for me it’s good for everybody”. Among other things, these expressions do not answer the reciprocity of different living permissions, they only lower “ethical levels” until they disappear. The consequence is the “crisis” of personal and collective responsibility, which was very well outlined and proposed by Kant in the “Critique of Practical Reason”, with his final questions of much higher value and nature; just like the oblivion of the value of autonomy. Responsibility, freedom and autonomy, and their systems, represent the three great goals of education. But only fashion, the fleeting moment and the ephemeral are sought. For example, many adolescents are annoyed with virginity, which was once elevated to the point of being a totem while today is lived with discomfort: that is a nuisance to remove and overcome immediately with a “surgical” intervention after any relationship. One more reminder of a general crisis of values, which are not adequately reviewed and updated, as should be fit. It makes one with the fatigue of many adults to keep their commitments against the background of the present eclipse of planning, as well as the cultural, spiritual (secular and confessional), economical and occupational ones that attain contemporary society especially in the post-industrial West. In addition to this comes the “aggravating side-effect” of the present prolonged and protracted adolescence (Blos, 1962/1971).

The true drama of present post-modernity is the tacit “agreement” to keep all the sources silent. The sources are the “revelations” (for the Catholics only the Sunday mass) and history. History “does not talk anymore”, it becomes only a chronicle: a cluster of existential, occasional and arbitrary decisions that count nothing in the present, and even less inn the future.

Finally, in a combined and also viable game of mirrors between the Christian and secular perspectives, between the two great anthropological references: “educating for hope” opens the universal project and the construction of the future. Likewise, “educating to charity” allows society to finally become such, teaching solidarity – which is not tolerance –, winning the challenges of inter and trans-culture  (Stramaglia, 2009b), overcoming the “fear of the new and the different” (see also the in progress dimension of homosexuality in Italy, which has not been solved culturally or juridically). These are the avenues to “educate for trust”, they share the same roots with faith: the faith/trust in a God or in humanity and its history. For example, trust in the young – once inter-generationality is overcome, especially by adults – means frequenting their environments, including the new technologies of communication without stigmatising them, and maybe transform them intelligently, connecting with them. Adolescents and youngsters would therefore return in touch with daily life meeting in reality, not virtually, worlds and people.

However, these educational tasks need “credible places”: families, schools, ONGs, churchyards and more. I will never be tired to repeat that adults really capable to educate to the truth are needed too. To mediate the present and govern the coming future.

Starting from the family.

Only one question among many arises here, it is about the affective and sexual identity of so many minors and youngsters today. Is the (just mentioned) exponential growth of homosexual people among contemporary men and women, aged from 18 to 30, connected or not to the present crisis of parenthood and its figures? Is it linked to increasingly absent “shadow” fathers (for men) or to career mothers, who are wavering, castrating or too permissive, and  mutatis mutandis (for women)? As psychoanalysis seems to sustain.

Further about school.

This institution must increase inter-cultural pedagogy and didactics to enhance new and necessary competences. Providing families with access to family advisors, and also services and tutoring groups and others who go in this direction. As the almost generalised failure of mixed marriages indicates.

The training of a teacher, at the beginning or in service, should focus mostly on relational competence with students, colleagues, organisations and territory. On the contrary, in the last years, the schooling system (not much of a “system”) is more attentive to various disciplinary didactics than to the educational dimension. It reduced the concept of education to mere instruction.

Last but not least comes the Catholic church whose educational and tutoring responsibility is surely not marginal in Italy. As it happens, the church “can” at times approach many youngsters and teenagers, recently with the current Pope Francis, while, in other instances it seems to keep them away, for the most varied reasons.

Two fundamental and inter-connected necessities follow.

The first: to train the clergy to truly understand contemporary society to better evangelisation, with suitable catechesis. The clergy should be trained on the theological and cultural levels, but also on the levels of self-knowledge, relations and communication.

Because, education is an act, or event, quite different from imposing and proposing, the educational act cannot avoid to adapt – as a second “need” to satisfy, to be totally effective – to interventions and messages quite diversified, in contents and approaches. It starts from the meeting with the adolescents (after Confirmation sacraments are in decline, although first Communion maintains positive numbers), to the rapport with the adults (parents, catechists, teachers and more).

Because the family educates less all the time, sometimes it dis-educates. Likewise, the school that, presently, as just mentioned, does not want, cannot, or know how to educate in the way that is expected.

Briefly: training systems, educational processes and identity building represent a non-separable triptych, whose effects may be positive or negative according to the contents, presences and relations that were activated (Corsi, 1993).


4. Results from two researches: the eclipse of the future, the need of future


I refer to the researches of Bonazzi and Pusceddu (2008) and Xodo (2008), both of them derive from accurate field work, with interviews and discussion groups on a meaningful number of youngsters. The results have not been refuted by more recent analyses.

In particular, the former focuses on the general diagnostic aspect of the relationship of the young with the future, while the latter highlights self-solving aspects, as well as the self-therapeutic and self-diagnostic ones, all of them turn toward the need of future and a commitment for it, with special reference to the family.

On this subject, Bonazzi and Pusceddu note that contemporary adulthood is a “denied value”, because youth progressively assumed the ontological statute of highest good.  As already mentioned, adults, many but not all, adhere to a false illusion of eternal youth, and are ready to intervene on their faces and bodies to wipe out the signs of ageing. They are ready to disavow past relationships and risk the annulment of all affective networks. Youth is not conceived anymore as the passage between adolescence and adulthood, an in fieri reality that acquires its meaning by being transient, the absolute hypostasis, unconnected with the becoming.

This absolute truth – the authors say – is not disputable as it is self-evident, it is celebrated by media and enters as an icon with the charisma of perfection in the collective imagination. Along with it comes the absolute, therefore non-disputable, certainty that only being young is desirable, but also possible for everyone. Consequently, the children’s, or the young’s, vital space is invaded by parents or  adults, who compete with them, they feel their space becoming narrower and revolving around itself, until it finally becomes a one dimensioned space. Space is used and disputed in its narrowness by children and parents, but most importantly, it is devoid of the chance of projecting itself in the future. Nothing is left but “the present lived moment by moment”.

This is a pervasive mechanism against adulthood, which is seen as a burden made of too many responsibilities that suffocate the chances of living, adulthood pushes adults to find immediate satisfaction to their needs, and also denies the future and exalts the present, which, in truth, lives out of a mystified vision of reality.

Therefore, adulthood aesthetic translates into new ethics, which transformed the adult in a subject who froze his role and decided to play the part that was more convenient: being a young. Indeed a “false young”.

Adult age disappeared amid this pretended indifferentiation. On one side, childhood, adolescence and youth survived, on the other, very old age (increasingly older old people, with longer lives) with nothing in the middle.

The adult exemplum as a role model disappeared, the same is true for the adult as the element to rebel against, adults do not want to build “adult identities” for themselves, they choose to stay forever young.

There are several consequences.

“The Neverland” ended up representing the total mirage of a life chance of endless games and adolescence, of cultural de-responsibility. By denying the value of their age, adults took from the young the only possible perspective in life, because they declared adult age a “Neverland”. Indeed, if adults do not want to be adults, why should the young want to be adults?

Bonazzi and Pusceddu continue: most of the teens who they interviewed showed that they were not especially interested to build personal “magnificent and progressive destinations”, escaping from real and concrete self-projection into the future but staying put here and now. In a sense, it is a smaller horizon the one that they affirmed they live in, even if it is globally connected: a universe of niches where the young cling to or traverse appeased with the present, even if it is liquid, moving and transient.

Therefore, future would be a word that would hardly find space on the vocabulary of those who have been seduced by the present, which is considered the only meaningful dimension of time.

Youngsters are not anymore, to borrow a XII century metaphor by Bernard of Chartres, the “dwarfs carried on the shoulders of giants”, the giants have decided to become (or remain) dwarfs too.

Thus everything floats.

The profiles of young and adults intertwine and mingle, since the young “accepted” these adults, they cannot even look at them with irony, something would make them come to terms with reality. In this way, the world becomes a mirage surrounded by glittering lights, hence the dimensions of time (past, present and future) reset into an endless present. Here, young and adults receive each other in this reciprocal fiction, they become accomplices and priests of the new religion of the eternal youth, which makes de-responsability its cornerstone. The “I” and the “You” confirm each other, consequently this delusion is never revealed, and it is furtherly praised by the ever-present media.

There is more hope in the results in the investigation carried out by Xodo and her research group.

In the region Veneto, the family somewhat (as seen in the volume) “resists”, even if 26% of the youngsters interviewed reveal that they do not feel a positive home environment, on the contrary, they find difficulties to relate with their own families. Maybe, the family in question is not the best possible one, and sometimes, its “value” is confused with the pleasure of the relationships that it develops:  a “pleasure” that, nevertheless, is consequence of scarce authoritativeness, whose risk of getting involved or discuss is reduced to minimal terms; for what concerns existential fears and worries, significant life choices and projects. The family would need to “increase hospitality”, “reciprocity and “dedicated time”, inside and outside. It should be more open to the “public” and less barricaded in the “private”.

However, the young from Veneto (in Bonazzi and Pusceddu’s research the young were from Bologna) look to the family that they will form with trust and hope, they count it among the winning choices for the future, which, even if still cloudy, they hope that will arrive soon. At the same time they want to improve it by making it the family of “gift” and “forgiving” of the “ontologically based value that lays the foundations of the person”. This family “talks more about itself and narrates” is “re-constructed” or “re-invented” between tradition and innovation, starting from the members’ experiences and lives, with “more children”, this is what the majority affirmed to desire. However and not rarely, the family appears, because of the present social poly-morphism that regards it, to project itself with unclear and casual contours, especially regarding the structure to choose.

Therefore: if the family resists, society has the chance to hold on and restart.

Despite the many dispirited analysis on the pages of this article, the entire pedagogical effort, nationally and internationally, secular and confessional, must make all efforts to avoid that people crashes against the rocks of pessimism and solitude, and of anarchy and nihilism.

To find and re-educate ourselves. The process starts from the young and move the best adults, or the ones who found and re-modelled themselves.


5. Conclusions


Who is the average youngster especially in Italy and in Western societies?

Surely increasingly “lonely” people, who enjoy smaller real chances of intimacy, starting with the ones with the parents, although they may have experiences some greater “quantities” of intimacy, which are not always healthy or bearers of a good growth. In the meanwhile, youngsters are suspended among (all kinds of) astonishments and goofy attempts of compensation. They are, therefore, more “envious” and competitive. In other words, they are also “less educated” in every sense: this is a consequence of the excess of permission they have been “subjected” to and did not benefit from a  qualitative and quantitative educational dialogue.  The same applies to the lack of positive witnessing (behaviours, ethics, projects and values) offered by the adults of reference.

Lost and confused “among excesses of virtuosity”, but also “for lack of company”, today’s young basically look for a real, prophetic and preventive educational accompaniment. Made of proximity and solidarity. The warning by Saint John Bosco, addressing adults working in education, is still valid: “You must love the things that the young love, then the young will love the thing that you like”. Staying with them “without tracking them”, preferring the dimensions of affectivity and tenderness in their proper forms (Stramaglia, 2009a), while prevalently nursing three decisive goals for their future:

  • Educate them to sociality.

In our individualistic society, we should make the young practise the culture and praxis of the “educational bond”, even if it is against the tide, it involves re-socialising and reconstructive functions in the communitarian context; from I to Us (Bauman, 2001/2002). All education in general should be also “preventive”.

  • Educate them to the future.

We are also marked by the “dictatorship of the present” (Augè, 2012), which has been wrongly made as endless or immobile (just like the results of some aesthetic surgeries, which are often monstrous and disturbing, by removing the wrinkles they removed all emotional mimics), removing the future becomes one with the oblivion of the past. Life is now is the common slogan for much of today’s advertisement. By re-proposing the future, education becomes the only force capable to contrast this communication and cultural system. Because education is always for the future starting from the present. If education and pedagogy were not prophetic, in the sense of “not saying it before”, but making the present possible, would indeed lose much of their reason to exist.

  • Educate them to public ethics.

Today, as yesterday and in every age, society allows the co-habitation of different genres and generations – young and adults and vice-versa – and also organisations and institutions based on “shared rules” of public ethics. There should be a re-orientation toward the “passion” for politics and the research/construction of the “common good” (

The passage from confusion to consensus like an Ariadne’s thread summons these three goals. This does not mean the cancellation, or a big reduction, of the gap that always inevitably exists between adult and young worlds. This “distance” has always existed for many reasons including the psychological and socio-cultural ones. A common ground of discussion should be promoted.

I end by saying that what comes out clearly is that adult society worries about solving the problems of the young only when they perceive them as a threat for their survival, to preserve their power, without even listening or trying to understand their subtle essence. Every form of youth distress is met by deep aversion and is perceived as potentially dangerous for the general safety and the interests of powerful political and economical groups. Meanwhile, watchdog institutions and organisations have become obsolete and immobile.

Instead, the path of con-sensuality demands to leave behind reciprocal prejudice (a duty of the adults as they have more responsibility). By substituting it with some healthy curiosity to explore the “world of the other”, young or adult as they may be, we will be ready to catch any new element that appears. By adopting com-prehension as privileged tool of communication, we cut all obstacles and build bridges and inter-generational passages. This constant bi-directional flux of candid and true information by the people involved, happens in a perspective of “discourse” and “common interest” (

In final analysis, the educational duty of adults toward youngsters – from parents to children; teachers to students; the school in favour of the territory; the Catholic church toward believers and “non-frequenters”; global society for its future – is to realise and extend to as many people as possible the wish of Rudyard Kipling in the unforgettable “If” (1910), of which I highlight some passages essential to the themes discussed here:

If you can wait without be tired of waiting,

[…] If you can dream and not make dreams you masters,

[…] And lose and start again from the beginning,

[…] If you can fill the unforgiving minute

sixty seconds worth of a distant run,

Yours is the world and everything that is in it,

And – what is more – you will be a Man my son!”.

After all, this is the future and the food on which it lives on: hypothesis and hopes, dreams and patience, humility and unwavering perseverance. Real, authentic and intellectual and relational honest humanity.




(1) Cfr. Corsi (2012) where, based on Pasolini and Bloch, I argued about the movement of sad, derelict and desperate hermeneutics toward secular and christian hopes by the young of today.

(2) This is sustained by Pope Benedict XVI in the already mentioned “Letter”: “Education cannot […] be without […] authoritativeness that makes the excercise of authority believable. It is the result of experience and competence, but mostly it is aquired with the coherence of our lives and personal involvement. [At the same time] it emerges that the sense of responsibility is decisive in education: surely, responsibilty of the educator, but also, as age grows, the responsibilty of children, students and young”.




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