The relationship between young people and the world of work can be explored starting from different perspectives, because that is a question of a very complex network which shows elements of economic, social, cultural, philosophical nature … and pedagogical one as well: and that is just the line of reflection chosen here. The discourse will be realized on two levels: the level of an analysis of the values of work, which nowadays seem to be proposed as objectives of formation, and the level of a reflection on some educational dynamics in order to appreciate the formative value of work, starting from the tender age.


           The question of professional values which are designed in the contemporary cultural scenario, expressed in pedagogical terms, leads us to asking ourselves, if there exists and in which respect there exists a kind of paideia of professions, in this first part of the 21st century. In spite of all the difficulties which you encounter examining the ways of a culture whose complexity and instability everybody recognizes, that paideia makes a pedagogical paradox evident, because it tries to maintain in a united way the features of functionalism and of individualism. Contemporary culture is inclined to finalizing formation according to the “requirements” of the world of work, so much that very often the choices of young people (starting from their proper studies) tend to bend themselves to criteria of a functional kind, which respond to the question: “What is more useful?”, taking into consideration a good and workable insertion in a profession. On the other hand, if you ask yourself what the most representative professional values are, among those which are proposed most often as an answer to personal expectations concerning work, there tend to emerge motivations of a pragmatic (economic) kind or personal (individualist) gratification. It seems as if meaning was being separated from the social function of work, from the contribution it could make to the construction of men’s city, to the realization of a common good exceeding the tiny horizon of subjective gratification of individual persons. Even research done recently confirms that double tendency.

The pedagogical paradox shows itself in the fact that the combined effect of those two tendencies makes it very difficult to educate persons towards the value of work conceived preliminarily as a sphere of expressing one’s person, what one can “give” thanks to what one is (against the functionalist tendency), but also as the sphere of construing a good which surpasses the subjective desires of each one, often limited to materialist horizons or emotional gratifications. At this time of crisis and difficulties it would therefore be necessary to reverse the tendency of that paideia of professions, counting on the humanising value of work. The same terms are proposed by Laborem exercens, according to which the human being is not only called to care for his/her daily bread by means of work, but also to “contribute to the continual progress of sciences and technology and above all to the incessant cultural and moral upgrading of the society in which he/she lives, in community with his/her brothers and sisters”.

On the level of educational and formational strategies one could say a lot about the necessity of contrasting the functionalist tendency of academic formation, which, however, shows itself in some way in continuity with a utilitarian vision of studies, which often already grows in secondary schools.

Apart from that, it seems important to us to provide formative contexts with a view to appreciating, at an early stage, the educational and formational value of work, starting from a tender age. It would be important to elaborate articulate strategies of exploration of professions, where the children could experiment themselves in various professional contexts, putting to the test both the competences acquired at school and – above all – their proper sensitivity, their capacity of inserting themselves in those contexts and of working there with a profit and – why not – with pleasure and joy.

It would certainly not be possible to make experiments in all the situations of work that each one could be confronted with throughout one’s life, but it is also necessary not to limit oneself to getting to know work as a kind of virtual reality to be approached by means of aptitude tests, tests which would have to predict the ways following which each one could insert him/herself in various contexts of work; this would be a much more promising pedagogical procedure: measuring oneself with reality and then after those experiences activate dynamics of a reflective kind, guided by teachers, possibly also helped by professionals who are specialists in the field of orientation.

 Siesc session Rome 2015