As I ramp up to begin teaching a number of online classes for Kepler Education, I’ll be posting thoughts and musings on the nature of education, especially classical Christian education. These are mostly posts for myself, to remind me of why I’m a teacher. Why do I get up every morning, excited to teach young people, when I could be making a lot more money in many other careers? Teachers aren’t in it for the money. We believe in something bigger, something much more important.
Every educational system assumes an end goal, an end product. Educational systems are part of a wider culture, and so the educational system will reflect, and reinforce, the values and goals of the culture. In the American culture of the 21st century, education is narrowly focused on jobs, careers, and gaining the skills necessary to be a successful worker. Idealistic teachers might have broader goals, and a more lofty vision, but the majority of students, parents, and probably teachers, have a narrow and utilitarian idea of what education is all about.
The timeless question that students (and parents, and school boards) ask reveals this utilitarian and materialistic bias: “What can I do with this (knowledge, skill, ability)?” Basically, how will this help me in the “real” world? Or, more crassly, how will this help me to earn money? Because we all know that money is the key to happiness, and that millionaires never commit suicide, or get divorced, or go to jail …
This shallow and near-sighted focus is tragic and destroys the real goals and purposes of education. But, it is not surprising, given what our culture believes about the nature of humanity and the nature of reality. (Fleshing that out will require more posts later!)
Right now, I want to remind myself of why I, as a Christian, am committed to the work of education, and why I choose to teach in the classical Christian tradition. For a Christian, humanity has a noble purpose. The Bible teaches that God created humanity in the image of God (imago dei), with a special role of responsibility and creativity in regard to the rest of creation (see Genesis 1 and 2 for more). This means that education is a vital part of developing each and every human being into their God-designed and God-ordained role as a worker and a worshiper. Again, I hope to flesh out each of these points in later posts, so pardon my brevity.
One of the best books that captures the vision and mission of classical Christian education is Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning. I’ll end with a couple of quotes:
“The Christian educational life, characterized as ‘discipleship,’ is a life of faith-filled learning to be Christlike. The Christian’s lifelong spiritual task is to increasingly express one’s God-given personality according to biblical norms of truth, goodness, and beauty.”
“So, the purpose of Christian education is always twofold. We want our students to grow spiritually, intellectually, and socially, and we want them to foster similar growth in society. Or as St. Augustine of Hippo would have put it, we seek to lead the citizens of earth toward citizenship in heaven, while instilling in them the desire to introduce the values of the heavenly kingdom into the kingdom they presently inhabit. In short, we aim to shape individuals who are both heavenly minded and capable of doing great earthly good,” (Wisdom and Eloquence, 20).
Now, that’s a reason to get up every morning and keep teaching!