Lasallian Values in Higher Education

Lasallian Values in Higher Education[1]


It is the mix, the sum total of all the elements taken together, that creates the distinctive atmosphere in a school that marks it as unmistakably Lasallian…


The first of these values concerns teaching and the person of the teacher. That is where it all began, what triggered De La Salle’s interest in education in the first place. He saw very quickly that if the wretched condition of the charity schools were to change, everything would depend on the quality of the teachers. From the very beginning, then, teachers and good teaching have been at the heart of the Lasallian enterprise – both inside and outside of the classroom.


A second value in the Lasallian tradition derives from the fact that De La Salle did not envision his teachers as functioning in isolation. He realized that to be effective, education had to be a corporate and communal exercise. It was a major breakthrough on De La Salle’s part to abandon the model of the single schoolteacher responsible for a parish school. Association in the teaching enterprise was such an essential element in the Lasallian school that from the beginning and still today.  Association is now expanded to help define and motivate the interrelation between the Brothers and their colleagues, and most importantly, association is also descriptive of the interrelation among and between the women and men in the Lasallian educational institutions across the globe in the 80 countries where Lasallian education takes place.


A third value that emerges from the Lasallian tradition is the commitment to service of the poor. The original vow of the Brothers was not merely one of association but association to keep gratuitous schools so as to be particularly accessible to those with little or no financial resources. Today for the Brothers that vow is expressed as a vow of association for the service of the poor through education. This aspect of the vowed life of the Brothers who are part of the Lasallian family is a characteristic of the mission and commitment for all who aspire to be a Lasallian partner or a Lasallian institution.  It is understood that the educational service of the poor can be achieved either directly, by teaching those who are genuinely poor, or indirectly, by sensitizing students who are better off to the needs of the poor and to root causes of poverty, social injustice, and oppression. For that reason, the Lasallian college or university is committed to honor the tradition of a special educational mission to the poor and disadvantaged – including the immigrant and first generation student.


No school, not even an institution of higher learning, could claim to inherit the Lasallian tradition if it were to neglect the religious development of its maturing students. In De La Salle’s day, the religious instruction in the Christian Schools was geared to inculcate in the youngsters the doctrines and the practices of the Catholic faith. But the intent was something more important, more profound, more universal, and more enduring. De La Salle saw in the schools a chance to widen the horizons of the young lads who came to the schools, most of whom lived in an environment rife with poverty, misery, and crime. In the Christian Schools they learned that there was more to life than what they saw and experienced on the streets, that they were created by a loving God and endowed with a unique dignity and an eternal destiny.  They learned that they could find in the school community a new set of values, new role models, and a new meaning and opportunity for salvation both in this world and the next.


This broader approach enables the Lasallian university today to find creative ways to offer a religious education suitable for young adults, men and women, with varying religious and ethnic backgrounds. It justifies the determination to maintain a quality religion department together with the commitment of personnel and resources in campus ministry, career development, student activities, and other areas that contribute to the education of the whole person and the development of their sense of the divine and their vocation in life… There is a reason to hope that the tradition of the Christian Schools in the Lasallian tradition can still purpose ultimate human, ethical, and religious values to our students of whatever religious persuasion. If John Baptist De La Salle could find creative ways to make religion attractive to the street urchins of his day, a Lasallian college ought to be able to do the something similar for collegians, whose chronological age and standard of living may be different, but whose basic needs and problems are much the same.



[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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