Giovanni Bosco – Don Bosco’s educational method in confidential discussions with a politician (1854) and an elementary school teacher (1864)

“Even though these were written down later (1881-1882), two presentations which Don Bosco made regarding his educational system are trustworthy. They were conversations that took place in 1854 and 1864. The first was with a Minister of the Kingdom of Sardinia, Urban Rattazzi; the other with an elementary teacher, Francis Bodrato.”

The two documents which follow one another present something special in this context of essays and testimonies presenting Don Bosco’s pedagogical thinking, especially if we consider how the material is organised. The first document furnishes us with an account of a conversation in 1854 with Urban Rattazzi. In the second, the other member of the conversation is Francis Bodrato, an elementary school teacher at Mornese (Alessandria). This discussion of Bodrato’s with Don Bosco took place ten years later in 1864 but the heart of the contents and how they are arranged is similar.

There is a similar departure point in both accounts: Rattazzi and Bodrato, when they meet the founder of Valdocco, and although on different dates and in different places, are struck by the exemplary behaviour of the many boys whom the Piedmontese priest is surrounded by. So they request a private talk with Don Bosco, so they can get to understand his educational approach and how he applies this in practice.

The version closest to the facts bears the date 1881 (Don Bosco is still alive). The account of the conversation with Rattazzi was published in the BS (Salesian Bulletin, 1882), probably by John Bonetti, the chief editor. The conversation with the teacher from Mornese is reproduced in the Cenni biografici del sacerdote don Bodrato Francesco (Historical sketch of Father Francis Bodrato).

It seems very likely that references to the “two systems of education” which emerged in the conversation with Rattazzi were suggested by the brief description: The Preventive System in the Education of the Young in 1877. A similar consideration could be given to the version of the conversation with Bodrato. At any rate the two documents are of special interest for understanding Don Bosco’s pedagogical thinking and educational praxis as well as their development.

Reference time period: 1854 – 1864

Salesian Historical Institute, Salesian Sources 1: Don Bosco and his work. Collected Works, LAS – Kristu Jyoti, Rome – Bangalore, 2017, 465-475.

Reference institution:
Istituto Storico Salesiano
Istituto Storico Salesiano

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