What do you think about adding column on a report card assessing what students do during recess?
Luigi Giussani, Italian priest, educator and intellectual, once told a group of parents that young people are not judged by how seriously, tenaciously and loyally they take to their school work, but by how they use their free time.
They were, of course, scandalized, but I’m not so sure he’s too far off.
You can’t tell what someone loves by looking at their work, either in school or on the job. There are all kinds of pressures and necessities that shape ones behaviour toward work. It is during free time that we can tell where one’s priorities lie. So, for Giussani, “vacation time is the noblest time of the year, because it is the moment when one becomes as involved as he likes in the value he recognizes as dominant for his life, or he doesn’t get involved in anything at all, and then he is…a fool.”
Giussanni says that if someone, “wastes his free time, he does not love life; he is a fool.” Free time is important and vacations, being the biggest chunks of free time, are extremely important.
Instagram, Hunting, and Watching Cats
I asked my students what they like to do in their free time—particularly summer vacation. Here’s what they came up with:
- Smart phone activities such as Instagram
- Play of many types
- Hobbies—sewing, art, music, dance, quadding, and longboarding
- Hunting and gathering—the quest for food
- Time with friends
- Watching TV and listening to music
- Computer activities including games and YouTube
- Sun tanning, bubble baths, and watching cats
- Amusement parks and waterslides
So, which of these activities is foolish? That depends, says Giussani. He offers this criteria by which to judge these uses of free time. Free time should:
- Remind you of what you should remember more often
- Make you better toward others
- Make you respond more to reason than to instinct
- Teach you to look at nature with profound intention
- Teach you to make sacrifices joyfully
If it hasn’t achieved one or more of the things on this list, then free time, be it the summer vacation or the weekend, has not achieved its purpose.
Vacations (and breaks in the work day, evenings and weekends) are indicators as to where one’s heart is.
So, perhaps we aren’t really going to add another column to the report card, but we all might do well to reflect on how we use our free time. If we shape our free time as Guissani suggests, we will be blessed with a spirit of gratitude and more blessed relationships.