OUR advocacy of a person-centered curriculum led us to discuss personhood, magis and discernment. A person-centered curriculum enables students to use properly their learning for service to others according to His divine will. We need the full blossoming of our personhood and discernment to serve others. Let us discuss then personhood and discernment.
Discernment and a sense of peace. Simply said, discernment is “making careful distinctions between truth and error, between right and wrong in our thinking about truth.” Discernment means “acuteness of judgment and understanding…the ability to judge people and things well.” <dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/English/discernment>. We discern the meaning of our daily encounters and translate this understanding into action. At particular moments in our lives, especially when we are to make important decisions, we need a deep quiet—faith, grace and prayer—to help us decide accordingly to what He wills for us. After the decision, we wish to feel a sense ofpeace.<http://www.bc.edu./offices/mission/publications/guide/discernment.html>
Personhood and discernment. Our personhood helps us distinguish who we are. Education shapes how we useour talents to serve others according to His will. Herewith are eight characteristics of personhood drawn from our source: <http://cw.routledge.com/textbooks/balevelphilosophy/data/AS/Persons/Characteristics personhood.pdf>.
First, each of us is “embodied;” we have “mental and physical attributes.” Our general education courses taught us the basic applications of our attributes of rationality, affection and physical activity; we can think, feel and act physically, each one’s own way, differently from that of others.
Second, we have “our own perspectives” borne from “our network of beliefs.” How we see the world may not be the same as how others see it. We have individual differences; our own “network of beliefs.” One belief expands into another; for example, a belief in food would expand a network of beliefs on what is healthy food –haute cuisine, vegetarian?
Third, we have a “stronger sense of rationality.” “One of the most basic forms of reasoning is drawing inferences between beliefs.” We draw our rationality from our beliefs—“evaluate our beliefs and our desires by imagining having different beliefs and desires from the ones we have.” For example, “if we wonder whether a belief is false, or a desire is unhealthy, we set about testing such belief or desire.” A strong sense of rationality enables us “to discern what we really want and should want.”
Fourth, our social relationships make us “aware that one’s self is apart from the selves of others.” Our network of beliefs provides us reasons to relate or not with an individual, or group/s. Self-awareness emerges in social relationships—as “a continuing subject of experience” as part of our personhood. By knowing others, we can distinguish ourselves from them.
Fifth, “self-awareness and awareness of oneself as a continuing subject of experience” is “being aware of one’s self as a self,” that has experiences through time, such as an awareness of having a particular perspective of the world; “that there are other selves distinct from oneself, that each self is individual.”
Sixth, we possess “a language.” As such, we can articulate rationality and the affections “in a very different kind of self than a creature without language.” Language “greatly extends our ability to think of the spans of experience in our lives;” we become “reflective about our experiences, feelings and motives as well as those of others,” and both of which we are able to identify. “Our self-awareness makes us reflect on our experiences.” Through rationality, we identify “those we consider worthwhile to fulfilling our personhood.”
Seventh: “Our self-awareness helps us create our own individuality.” Our choices, goals, actions and reactions shape one’s personhood. In reflecting on our experiences, the different feelings and motives, “we are able to imagine different futures and different ways to be”—leading us to choose “the kind of self, or person, we want to be.” We pursue goals, “we aim for and choose the actions that will help us reach those goals.” In reflecting on our experiences, feelings and motives and evaluating them, we “alter and shape ourselves; we become a particular sort of person.”
Eighth: creativity, autonomy and individuality—“We can imagine different ways to be”; “undergo a creative process of self-development.” “We have a certain freedom in developing one way or another,” to choose the kind of self, or person, we want to be. We are accountable for the effect on people of our choice/s. Our freewill gives us the right to choose what we do. We are autonomous. We have the capacity to shape ourselves. But this capacity “can be undermined or diminished” if some other person/s make it difficult for us to do what we will. “Autonomy, then, needs to be protected against interference by other people.” Such protection is a right of any person; however, exercising this right entails accountability, too. Please refer also to<http://www.alzheimer-europe.org/Ethics/Definitions-and-approaches/Other-ethical-principles/Personhood>
Synthesis. A person-centered curriculum nurtures “the qualities of mind and heart that will enable (students), in whatever station they assume in life, to work with others…for critical participation in modern society…in the service of the Kingdom of God.” <jesuitinstitute.org/Resources/Characteristics%20Abridged.pdf>. Discerning His divine will, magis moves us—teachers and students—to love doing more. This defines the final goal of a person-centered curriculum. Serving Him well, through serving others right.
(Thanks to Rev. James A. O’Donnell, S.J., my former boss at XU and lifetime friend, for an assured understanding of Ignatian magis and discernment.)