Like many, I am still working my way through Laudato Si and mining it for insights and ephiphanies. As I do so, I want to share the following two paragraphs, which I think have relevance for Christian educators, especially art teachers but not only art teachers.
214. Political institutions and various other social groups are also entrusted with helping to raise people’s awareness. So too is the Church. All Christian communities have an important role to play in ecological education. It is my hope that our seminaries and houses of formation will provide an education in responsible simplicity of life, in grateful contemplation of God’s world, and in concern for the needs of the poor and the protection of the environment. Because the stakes are so high, we need institutions empowered to impose penalties for damage inflicted on the environment. But we also need the personal qualities of self-control and willingness to learn from one another.215. In this regard, “the relationship between a good aesthetic education and the maintenance of a healthy environment cannot be overlooked”. By learning to see and appreciate beauty, we learn to reject self-interested pragmatism. If someone has not learned to stop and admire something beautiful, we should not be surprised if he or she treats everything as an object to be used and abused without scruple. If we want to bring about deep change, we need to realize that certain mindsets really do influence our behaviour. Our efforts at education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature. Otherwise, the paradigm of consumerism will continue to advance, with the help of the media and the highly effective workings of the market.
I like Pope Francis' thoughts on the importance of beauty, on simply beholding something for the sake of itself and not for any pragmatic use. Cultivating this sensibility has special priority in art classes, but so too in theology, which teaches prayer and contemplation, and which prizes an attitude of grateful cherishing instead of a utilitarian consumerism.