1.3—Why School? (18 min video)
The following transcript was automatically generated and may contain errors in spelling and/or grammar. It is provided for assistance in note-taking and review.
Well, welcome back. In today’s lecture, we’re going to try to answer this whole question of why do we do school and why do we undergo such a lengthy education? And of course, I’ll give you several things to consider today. First of all, we do this whole thing called school for the same reasons I told you why we do life and what the purpose of life actually is.
Much of what we’re doing in education is developing a sense of wonder. You’re developing this sense of wonder in who God is and the way he’s actually made things. Lewis and Chesterton had a lot to say about this, but it’s always kind of interesting. that Lewis said was he said that often in terms of modernity, in terms of modern education, things like that, we have to be combating the disenchantment of modernity.
This whole idea that we live in a world that’s often very cynical, a world that often takes a look at what’s happened in the past, whether it be say the distant past or say just your own experience in life, and we often develop a cynicism, which is where we take that negative experience from usually our own lives and we apply it to everything.
We just assume that everything is going to fall apart all around us. Now I mean, on the one hand, yes, we live in a fallen world and things do fall apart and things will fall apart. Nothing lasts forever, not even a diamond, no matter what the diamond companies say about that. But all the same, Lewis points this out, he says that there’s this kind of disenchantment of the world, this kind of disenchantment or this loss of wonder and who God is and how he’s actually made his world, but he makes the statement that it’s almost as if this disenchantment has been created by an evil enchanter, somebody who’s actually turned our attention from wondering and delighting things and has kind of forced our attention inwardly towards our own misery created by sin.
That, of course, would be the role of Satan, who’s called the accuser, but we have to go beyond that. We actually have to develop a sense of wonder that’s combined with a thanksgiving and a praise in all the subjects that we look at and in all the things that we do. Remember I told you, Christian said, that there’s no such thing as boring subjects. There’s just bored people. Lewis, when addressing the whole idea that sometimes we come to a book, like a classic especially, and we think, man, this isn’t really, I can’t get into this, this doesn’t really move me. This is kind of a dumb book, and I think that it was poorly written and stuff like that. Lewis says that when we approach a classic book, especially in that manner, the problem is not with the book. The problem is with us. Remember I told you that in education we have to develop a sense of repentance, which is humility? That’s what I’m talking about. That leads us to thanksgiving and to praise. That’s really at the heart of why we do what we do and why Tolkien called education repentance. Another thing that we see in terms of this whole idea of education is what we call integration. In fact, and it takes sometimes a good teacher to see this or it takes wisdom to see this, but I want you to recognize that all the different subjects you’re gonna be studying, they’re simply different expressions to show how God reveals who he is and reveals himself in the works that he has made. Romans 1 tells us that the creation reveals who he is. At least it reveals that there is a God at the very least. But he also, if you dig deeply enough in the creation, you dig deeply enough in different subjects, you begin to see patterns. You begin to see God’s attributes in various ways. It takes the scriptures to really see them properly. It takes the scriptures for us to know things like salvation. But still, the whole idea of being able to look at all the subjects, recognizing, okay, this is a different expression for who God is and how he himself actually works, that’s called integration. It’s from that old Latin word, integritas. It’s where we get things like integrity, which means that you’re whole, you’re complete. It’s where we get things like integer, a mathematical term for a whole number. It’s where we get things like disintegrate, which means to make things not complete, to make them fall apart into small pieces or disappear. We need to be constantly understanding that the different things you’re learning, they’re not really divorced from each other. They all have connecting points, and they all connect around the character of God himself. The other major reason we’ll make this number two, that we actually do this whole thing called school, is for the whole sake of rest. I know that may sound like a bit of a strange idea, and something that if you study American history with me, you kind of have a familiarity with this idea.
But we’ll take a look at some of the old etymology. For example, the Greeks referred to school as skole. And when they talked about skole, It wasn’t just the art of learning. It was that. It was the whole thing we can now call education. But it was more than that. Schooly was a word that also meant rest. The Romans used the word ludus to describe school. But that same word was also used to describe game. In fact, the verb ludere also means to play. In other words, the Greeks and the Romans had this concept that there was something to be associated between school and learning and also play and rest.
It’s this whole idea that the heart of education is true rest and leisure. This whole idea that we have the opportunity to actually learn things. They’re not here for our survival in this world that is making money and a job. They go so much more beyond that because they give meaning to our lives. They give order to our lives the fact that our lives have meaning. James Shaw, who I’ve already mentioned to you in a previous bit of this lesson, he said this, he said, “The problem of contemplation, that is thinking on things, contemplating things, learning things, was not to create God but to discover him.” In other words, we find him and we learn. And this discovery initially consisted in having at least some experience of freedom of a sheer fascination and delight that had no reward but itself.
In other words, if you pursue education in such a way that I’m doing this so I can get to this pragmatic point or I’m doing this so that I can get to this grade or get this credit, that tends to be a very unsatisfying life. That tends to be a pretty meaningless life. And he goes on, James Shaw says, “We respond to God best in the freest of our activities. In other words, like I mentioned to you earlier, or I asked you earlier, think about the things that you do when you don’t have to do anything else. Think about the things that you do that give you joy, that give you some kind of satisfaction. Those things are your free activities. And what we ultimately want, and this is really hard, but what we ultimately want is we want the various subjects that we get to study, we want them to give us the same joy and satisfaction.
Because we’re showing them not just to achieve some kind of goal, not just to graduate from something, not just to acquire some kind of job and make money, we’re doing them because they in and of themselves are worthwhile. A third, we all see this whole thing called school. For the sake of passing on all that it is that we are, for the sake of passing on the faith. In fact, when you pass on the faith, you do it by teaching the history of the faith, by teaching the examples of how God is faithful, but you also show it in your own life and how it’s actually changed you. In other words, education really is transmitting our actual culture. That’s why education cannot be neutral when it comes to things like morality. That’s why education cannot be neutral when it comes to things like belief, no matter what our secular society says. This whole idea of tradition, which is a word that comes from Latin, tradere, which means literally to pass something on, to surrender what it is that we have to someone else.
We get both the words tradition and the word traitor from this. In other words, you can either pass on what it is that you have learned and how it is that you have changed to somebody else, and that would be an act of service, or you can give up out of fear and you can surrender everything.
That would be, of course, an act of treachery. That would be what we call a traitor. But all the same, there are other things to look at. Number four, I want you to write down for why we do this whole thing called school, is for what we call humanism. And let me define this very carefully. We’ll talk about humanism or secular humanism in a very negative sense later on in the series I’m gonna give you here. But humanism is the word that doesn’t necessarily have to be nasty or have what we call pejorative meaning to it. Humanism in its proper biblical understanding is the whole idea that we study things in school, we study different subjects to teach us what it means to be human.
In fact, that’s one of the things that Lewis points out or one of the things that Harry Lewis, who was once dean of Harvard, pointed out that we study the humanities, things like history and things like English classics and things like that and even things like Latin, that language and things like that.
We study those things to teach us what it means to be human. Lewis said we read to know that we’re not actually alone. In other words, we’re made to go for wisdom, the applying of knowledge and understanding. We’re not simply made to collect data, to put facts into our heads. It doesn’t really have any meaning to it. We’re made for love. We’re made to love others. We’re made to love God. We’re made to love the things that he’s actually made. We’re not simply made to gratify our bodily appetites. We’re made for things like community. We’re made to know other people and to be known by them. We’re made to actually serve others according to some kind of standard of truth. We’re not simply made to forge some kind of individual identity in which we say, “I will do whatever I want to do “because that is who I am.” Stratford Caldecott, one of the great educators of more recent times, no longer living with us, but he said this, he said, “Education is about how we become more human, “and therefore more free, “in the truest sense of the word.” In other words, we become what God created us to be, which is made in his image. When we actually go away from that in terms of sin, or in terms of denying what the truth is, we actually become less and less human.
Kind of like Nebuchadnezzar in his pride, when God turned him into a beast. Fifth, one of the fifth reasons that we do school, and of course there are many others besides these, I’m just giving you select reasons, we do this whole thing called school or education to develop discernment. We actually need to understand that there really are universal, absolute truths that transcend us. There really are things that drive us beyond ourselves. In fact, I often think about the character of George Washington. We talked about him in American history, but Washington was somebody who always seems to be a man who was driven by something beyond himself.
That’s called discernment. That’s called having a passion for something that goes beyond you. Alan Bloom, one of the great commentators of recent days, says, “One has to have the experience of really believing “before one can have the thrill of liberation.” Meaning that we actually have to, if we wanna really have this whole positive experience of education, we actually have to believe that there really is truth.
We have to believe that truth is actually possible. That it’s not just relative. It’s not just based upon our experience. If we want to have the experience of believing truth or the experience of actually experiencing freedom, we must actually understand that there is a truth that goes beyond us.
Lewis when talking about discernment, it’s very curious, Ken Myers in his book All Got in blue suede shoes, recounts Lewis teaching during the opening years of World War II.
And Lewis had to deal with the question of why are we actually in school, actually doing classes when there’s a war going on out there. And he said this, he said, “Every Christian who comes to a university must at all times face a question, compared with which the questions raised by war are relatively unimportant.
” In other words, why do this whole thing called school, especially if there’s major fights going on out there. He must ask himself how it is right or even psychologically possible for creatures who are at every moment advancing either to heaven or hell to spend any fraction of the little time allowed to them in this world on such comparative trivialities as literature or art, mathematics or biology.
In other words, if people are dying out there or if people are being lost out there, why Why are we bothering to learn things like history or things like biology?
Why are we just out there fighting the fight? Lewis goes on, he explains why. He says, “If you attempted to suspend your whole intellectual and your aesthetic activity – that is, the pursuit of beauty – you would only succeed in substituting a worse cultural life for a better.
You are not, in fact, going to read nothing out there, either in the church or on the front lines. If you don’t read good books, you will read bad ones. If you don’t go on thinking rationally, you will think irrationally. If you reject aesthetic satisfactions, that is beauty, you will fall into sensual satisfactions. In other words, we do this whole thing called school to provide discernment, to actually know what is worthwhile. John Buchan, one of the great writers of the 20th century, said this. He said, “Our greatest inheritance, the very foundation of our civilization, it’s a marvel to behold and consider. If I tried to describe its rich legacy with utmost brevity, I should use the Latin word “humanitas.” It represents in the widest sense the accumulated harvest of the ages, the fine flower of a long discipline of Christian thought. It is the Western mind of which we ought to turn our attention to with careful study. Indeed, this sort of educational philosophy and methodology is that which steadfastly affirms that every student, every family, Every community, every nation needs to be grounded in the good things, the great things, the true things in order to do the right things.
In other words, education is not just about teaching you how to do something. Education is steering you towards the right things, steering you towards the right affections, the right love for things. And that’s why whenever we want to pass on the faith, it’s not just about knowledge. is not just about stories. You need people you can actually look to, people who are flesh and blood, that you actually know, people who can actually show you what it means to actually be a follower of Christ, what it actually means to do this whole thing that we call life in the proper biblical sense.
Chapter Caldecott, when talking about this passing on of the faith through education, said that the Western world was like a, quote, “a thread that weaves its way through the history of our civilization. In fact, he’s talking about the faith there. It’s like a thread that weaves its way through all of our civilization. Without understanding the faith, you can’t really understand the past. These are the reasons that we really do this whole thing called school. Six, I want you to write down that we do this whole thing called school to form godly habits, to actually understand that education is not just about acquiring things.
It’s not just about acquiring credits and certain degrees on paper. Education of course is not just meant to be fun or entertaining. In fact you’ll find that often it’s not fun or entertaining. Education is designed to challenge you. It’s designed to force you to do things that you may not actually want to do because we often find ourselves lazy and sleepy people.
But not only is it designed to actually promote diligence in you, it’s designed ultimately to turn you towards worship. It’s designed to turn you back to the word, back to praise and thanksgiving. Finally, we’ll make the seventh, and why we do this whole thing called school, we do this whole thing called school for the purpose of virtue and service.
In fact, Arthur Clore Cooch, who was called Q, said that the true crown of an education was itself virtue, was itself actually being changed by the things that we have learned.
He said, “The true business of a university is to train liberty, our freedoms that we have, into responsibility. To teach a young man to think for himself, yet so he remembers he is a citizen and of no mean city.” In other words, you’re meant to think for yourself, but to think for yourself remembering where we actually come from. Who has actually made us, and what he has actually done and is doing for us. In other words, we have responsibilities to build upon based upon what God has done for us. Q said the ultimate end of education was service. In other words, he said, “Service in whatever capacity, with the mastery learnt in your studies, but a mastery of service.” Let’s take what we have learned and how it’s changed us and we use that to teach others.