Education for a Free People
Education should start in the search for Wisdom and not in what we like.
We know Shakespeare is great and that most trendy things are not going to be great. Why? Shakespeare has stood the test of time and can still make people think and laugh. Shakespeare can handle the hardest thought after the show, even in his simplest comedies. This is something nobody will ever say after a Michael Bay film.
Feel free to enjoy Transformer movies if you do, but learn to enjoy something more.
Education teaches us to accept, but not always act on feelings.
True education is not opposed to feelings in the mature woman or man. Feelings can be a tip-off that something is wrong or that something is right. A strong emotion in an educated person will lead to serious reflection on what to do with the feeling. If I love ice cream, desire ice cream, then that may be a good enough reason to have some ice cream . . . or not.
Wisdom recognizes that some feelings are like the weather: they can be serious and there is little one can do about them, but they do not necessarily warrant any action. These stormy feelings may not be the sort you can do anything about: there is no moral action to take.
An educated man has cultivated holiness, right emotional responses, where he or she can and accepts other feelings. The civilized human being ignores nothing in his emotional life, but acts only in ways that are wise, virtuous, and will produce eternal joy.
Education should increase student choices over time: including coming to a conclusion on how to live.
Beware the school that sells you on a guru: the expert with all the answers. Instead, a good school will take a student from kindergarten through college giving the person more liberty until the school has produced a peer adult.
There is no education where people are kept in a childish state. Bad education can do this in one of two ways.
First, a bad school might have a “party line” (right or left, conservative or liberal, Christian or atheist) that nobody is allowed to question. I work at a Christian school, but we are allowed to ask any questions. No student would be expelled for working through “wrong” beliefs if the student does this with integrity. We are not afraid of any ideas.
Second, a bad school might never come to conclusions, but act as if all answers are equal. Christianity is true, but not all ideas Christians have held in the name of Christ have been good ideas. We need to be able to say: this idea seems wrong to us. We are not afraid to discuss it, though we may discover that it does not lead to wisdom, virtue, or a joyful life.
A good education helps a student commit to a reasonable, workable picture of reality and then spend a lifetime seeing how it goes.
Education begins in God and ends in God.
This is a strong statement. Can’t an atheist be educated? Of course an atheist can be wise (in some ways), virtuous (in some ways), and joyful (in some ways), but an atheist also denies the very grounds for wisdom, virtue and joy. There is only so far an atheist can go. This is partly why there have been no great human cultures formed by atheists, or even sustained by an atheist population.
Yet the atheist who begins with a vision of goodness can often find great wisdom. The non-believer who is attracted to moral behavior will find goodness. The atheist who starts by loving beauty can find joy. This is why all great faiths, and great men and women, can teach us something. The image of God in every person can lead them to deep insights . . . this is not “going to heaven when you die,” but it is of great value in this life.
Sadly, what is valuable in this life pales in the sheer joy and eternal glory of the life to come. Real education has an eternal perspective. We are being born into eternity as we live and die to this life: either eternity of joy or misery. This is why Christian education is essential.
What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?
But mere belief or an empty recitation of creeds is not enough. If one believes in God, that makes a man no superior to a demon. Devils believe and even tremble at the judgement, but this is not a fear of God that leads to wisdom, but evil. Some “Christian” schools teach this kind of fear and then marvel at the unhappiness they produce.
Instead, a Christian education begins by studying the nature of God as revealed by God in the person of Jesus Christ. If a young person soaks in the person, message, and character of Jesus, who is alive, then that student will fundamentally be educated by the Lord Jesus.
One needs no better teacher.
In this sense, the Christ followers that teach in a Christian school are guides to a relationship with the most wise, most virtuous, and most joyful human person. We begin in a fear that is a reverential awe at these qualities, and a humility in our own failing to live up to those divine attributes.
As the student grows older, he or she develops a personal relationship with God and this will result in integrity and a desire for excellence in all the student does. The student will eventually become a teacher of others, perhaps not professionally, but as a witness to goodness.
Education is not just something that takes place in schools, but in the life of the Church, the parish, family life, friendships, civil duties, and the mysteries of the sacraments. A real school harmonizes with all the other educators in a student’s life and produces a whole soul in a fit body.
And that calling is so great, I daily pray: Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.