Educational Innovation: our heritage

John Baptist de La Salle, Educational Innovator, as described by Brother Luke Salm, FSC, in his 1993 address: Lasallian Values in Higher Education[1]


De La Salle did not limit his educational vision to gratuitous elementary schools for the poor. He realized that there were other needs. Well trained teachers were high on his list of priorities. On three distinct occasions he was able to establish experimental training schools for lay teachers. Aware that there was no provision at the time for working teenagers to continue their education, De La Salle founded a Sunday program of advanced courses in practical subjects just for them. He opened a boarding school with offerings in advanced technical or pre-professional course, unavailable, unheard of, and unthinkable in the colleges and universities at the time. He pioneered programs in special education. He opened one of the first institutions in France to specialize in the care and education of young delinquents.


In short, John Baptist De La Salle was not the kind of plastic saint that emerges when, as some people tend to do, he is referred to as “Saint La Salle.” True, he was a contemplative of sorts and a penitent in the in the virtuosic style of seventeenth century spirituality. But he was also a down-to-earth human being, an effective financial administrator, a skilled manager, a creative innovator with the skills and the determination to structure his educational reforms and bring into being a religious community that would guarantee that the work would endure.




[1] This is an edited version of a presentation delivered by Brother Luke Salm, FSC, at La Salle University, Philadelphia, on March 18, 1993.   


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