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Ysgol Gynradd Gatholig Santes Fair

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Ysgol Gynradd Gatholig Santes Fair

Eloquent and Truthful

If you had asked anyone familiar with Jesuit schools and universities in the first two centuries of their existence (the first Jesuit school opened in 1548) what the distinctive characteristic of Jesuit education was, they would have replied eloquence.

Eloquence was at the heart of the Jesuit educational mission – to make sure young people had the language to ask questions, express emotions, speak beliefs, talk about matters of faith and hope, debate points of view, and engage in conversation.  Those first Jesuit educators recognized that lack of vocabulary and linguistic skills are a form of human impoverishment.  My ability to speak competently my own language, and the languages of others, is fundamental to my growth and confidence as a social human being. This is eloquence.

We don’t often talk about this virtue today.  And yet, no less than in earlier times, young people need to be articulate, to be confident with an extensive vocabulary, to be able to construct a persuasive argument, and to speak with elegance and style.

Eloquence is not confined to speaking – it finds expression in writing, music, drama, dance, the creative arts, design, film, digital media, and sport.  All of these are important to Jesuit education because they encourage children to express their identity as well as their talents.

However, being able to speak well is not much use if what you speak is not worth saying.  Eloquence must be used in a truthful way – to speak truth about myself and others, about relations between people, about the world, and about God.  Education is the search for truth and the eloquent articulation of what we discover.  As Jesus tells us, “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Knowing the truth about some thing or situation or person is what sets you free to see clearly and know surely. It is what allows us to grow as individuals and as a society.  Promoting the virtue of truth in our schools is not simply about teaching children not to lie, important though that is, it is about teaching them to seek the deeper truth, the more nuanced expression, the better account of something. 

Our contemporary culture seems obsessed with the quick and easy, the instant sound bite; there is a temptation to settle for the trite and superficial. The virtue of being truthful seeks, in contrast, to speak the truth in all its depth, complexity, messiness, and uncertainty.  This is the Ignatian magis in action – seeking the more.

Some Jesuit schools use traditional class names (Elements, Rudiments, Grammar, Syntax, Poetry and Rhetoric) from the renaissance curriculum.  Rhetoric is the final year of school education and the aim of all that has gone before: that, as they leave our schools, pupils can speak well and move and persuade others by their eloquence and truth.

"Together we inspire, empower and achieve, with Christ in our hearts"