The Task of Education

As education goes, so goes society. Yet, there is no practice more misunderstood in our day. As society continues its anti-Christian trajectory, we will find the task of Christian education becoming a more ardent task. It shall therefore be all the more noble. Below I will lay out the first principles necessary for the task of education.

The Passing On of an United Identity

The importance of identity is never understated. Union with Christ is central to Paul’s theology, as scholars are starting to realize. Children are not to pick and choose their identity, despite the battle cry of modern pedagogical indoctrination.
Our identity starts with the grand narrative of creation. Are we cosmic dust created by the god of Chance? Or are we the image of God created by the Eternal Godhead? Are we fallen creatures capable of saving ourselves, or not? What and who we are is the first and most important item to pass on in education, and is precisely what all educations have done. No education has ever been neutral in telling the story of the universe and all that in it is. Even mathematics tells a story, a story of an ordered and complex universe governed by laws. Laws govern even the triangle, as Pythagoras showed millennia ago.

Initiation into Our Culture and Heritage

It is unfashionable today to say that we should “pass on a culture.” Despotic crowds declare whatever they cannot stand to be the greatest acts of despotism. Yet, identity is irrevocably bound up in culture and heritage. No one will pass on an identity successfully without passing on, to some degree, a consistent culture and heritage. Those who object, are really just objecting to a culture they don’t like. Christians know this, it’s the same tactic use by sectarians and heretics.
True, Christians have adopted various forms of culture that they later renounce. And yet, there is always a continuity/discontinuity paradigm requisite to rightly understand these actions. For example, Christians have always held a high view of life, much higher then the surrounding pagan cultures. This is a unique aspect of Christian culture and heritage that goes beyond all nations and all ages. I am not writing about the moral law, but of cultural practices which reinforces these values.
Birthdays, baby-showers, and funerals, all, albeit differently, remind us of the importance of life, especially human life. James Smith has pointed out that any educational program that only transmits these truths didactically, and neglects the cultural and habit-forming side of education, is failing to educate the way God intended it to be done. Man is more than a thinking computer, but a also a feeling creature, one of habit, shaped by his society. Al Mohler and Alan Bloom both agree, in that the current generation is utterly unable to understand any dilemmas, or where to begin to understand them, since they do not understand the Western culture. To understand the West, and it’s problems, we must read the Great Works that have shaped that culture. We must become familiar with the debates in its philosophies. Yet, that practice is rejected as the supposed sin of catering to “dead white men.” Whether we like it or not, we must interact with the dead white men, for it is mostly them who have shaped our culture that we have inherited.

The Vanguard Against Current Social Failings

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” Proverbs 22:6.
It is well known from study of the Old Testament that the way the king goes, so goes the nation. Yet the book of proverbs was not meant so much for the king but the commoner. The idea was to steer the people right, as a whole, as a grass roots movement, using wise tweets to instil practice helps for the people of God.
The word of God itself, or parts of it, like Proverbs, were meant to correct the wrong teachings and practices of their day, and ours. Likewise, we should shift our curriculum as often as the times shift.
What I am saying is that the task of education is always to proclaim and defend the truth. Ergo, subjectivism should always be addressed and shown for what it is. Yet subjectivism deserves more attention in an age of relativism than it would normally receive. For example, as a culture neglects mercy, we emphasize it the more, as a society perverts justice, we preach it the more. The Holy Spirit agrees as well.
In the book of James, the author said what his audience needed to hear, addressing their particular sin. Paul addressed his audience just as they needed. Each generation is a different audience, needing to hear different exhortations and rebukes. Or perhaps I should say, being equipped to deliver those exhortations and rebukes to each other. Should not education be fluid in this way? Adjusting to the sins of each generation? I, for one, think it is.

Conclusion

There is much more that could be said, as customarily is the case with such subjects. I risk brutal ridicule for attempting such a large topic in a short space as this. Yet I find the task worthwhile, and hope that you see it as well.

For Further Discussion:

A Christian Philosophy of Education on: The Imaginative Conservative

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