Friday, December 7, 2012

Why Do We Educate People?

Al Mohler published a blog article recently about the inequality of families with good parents versus bad parents:

President Hollande wants to end homework in order to level the playing field for the nation’s students. As France 24 reports, Hollande told an audience at The Sorbonne, “An education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school, rather than at home.”
He went on to explain that it was unfair for students with parents who are engaged with their schoolwork to gain an educational advantage over others, whose parents do not offer such support.

Dr. Mohler points out correctly that good parents are important for their children, even beyond the quality of education that they receive.

However, I want to take this in a different direction. Dr. Mohler, in summing up President Hollande's statements, points out that it is "unfair for students with parents who are engaged with their schoolwork to gain an educational advantage over others." (emphasis mine) The implication is that education is a matter of competition. In this view, the goal of education is to do better than others so that you can help yourself.

My understanding of education has always been that the goal is for each student to do better at the end of any course of study than what they did at the beginning. In other words, the goal of education is a personal struggle against ignorance.

But that's not and end in itself. There's a larger goal. While we improve ourselves the goal is to contribute positively to society thereby helping others, not defeating them.

An observation I've often made is that it seems more acceptable to tout some talents than others. For example, it seems relatively acceptable for a good leader to say, "I'm good at leadership." But one talent it seems particularly unacceptable to tout is intelligence. If someone says, "I'm exceptionally intelligent," he or she is quickly labeled arrogant. The fact is that some people have a natural predisposition to great intelligence. For some reason people don't think that's fair. And this doesn't figure into President Hollande's idea for a "level playing field."

But this betrays the fact that it is fairly common to think of education, not as a benefit to society, but a benefit to individuals over others. The reason is because many people use greater academic achievement not primarily for the betterment of society, but for their own advancement in society. What most in secular society will ignore is that this is precisely evidence that people are basically evil.

So what are Christians to do?

First, we must recognize the God-given responsibility we have to train up our own children.

Second, we must vie to help them get the best education possible with the goal not of improving their own status, but for contributing positively to society, particularly in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

So we have to stop looking at education as the means for achieving the best life for ourselves on this earth ans start looking at it as a means for drawing us closer to God by using our talents to help other people.

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