With a visit to the Vatican, Stanford education professors play a part in crafting a new global initiative

Three Stanford education professors helped shape a new global education initiative that Pope Francis introduced this week. The task brought them to Vatican City earlier this year for a research symposium that included an audience with the pope himself.

Stanford education professors journeyed to the Vatican in February to help shape a global pact that Pope Francis will introduce on Oct. 15. (Image credit: Vatican Media)

In February, just weeks before Italy confirmed its first deaths from the novel coronavirus and went on to place the entire nation under quarantine, BRIGID BARRONANNE COLBY and WILLIAM DAMON journeyed to Rome for a two-day meeting to present their work.

The gathering, held in Vatican City at the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, was convened to help organizers draft the Global Compact on Education, a document defining guiding principles for education from preschool through higher education. Similar in spirit to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, the pact puts forth a vision and a set of values meant to transcend geographic, economic, sociopolitical and religious differences.

The research meeting included an audience with Pope Francis, an Argentine native, who talked to the scholars about the need for “a broad educational covenant aimed at forming mature persons capable of mending the fabric of human relationships and creating a more fraternal world.” Urging cooperation on the part of families, schools and social, cultural and religious institutions, he called for education that combines “the language of the head with the language of the heart.”

Although situated in one of the world’s great religious settings, the research discussions were largely secular, the scholars said. Presenters discussed innovations in teaching and the importance of “whole child” education that includes attention to cognitive skills, literacy, social-emotional learning, motivation and purpose. Pope Francis directed the scholars to specify the educational tools needed “to lay the foundations for a more humane, healthy, equitable and prosperous society.”

Read the full article on the Graduate School of Education website.