Education Should Aim at God

Daniel Drain has an excellent article on Church Life Journal entitled ‘Education Should Aim at God, Not the Job Market‘. I think it could well be expanded into a book, elaborating its current three sections with three more (4 Extended Renaissance: Aquinas, Dante, Luther, Shakespeare; 5 Prosaic Pragmatism: Sun Tzu, Confucius; and 6: Christ Crucified).

If, as Plato suggested, poets are not allowed in the republic, then I think we end up with the prosaic pragmatism of Sun Tzu and Confucius rather than the Church for which Christ died.

After the first two sections on Greek culture, Drain concludes section 3 with:

Responding to the present state of affairs, Benedict XVI sketches a few requirements for an “authentic education.” First, “that closeness and trust that are born of love.”[67] The obedience required to truly receive an education is thus best understood as a participation in a love that draws one forward into fullness. Second, an authentic education will be aimed at uncovering and knowing more deeply what is true. It will not ignore the authentic questions born of the human heart. It would be a failure to educate if that desire for knowledge were not acknowledge, fostered, and deepened. But this seeking requires also that we might suffer for it. Which carries an important corollary: the truth is worthy of our suffering. Benedict’s conclusion ties together freedom and discipline.The task of education consists also of finding the right balance between freedom and discipline. Freedom’s primary meaning is not that you are free from some external threat. Freedom, in the first place, is made for truth. You are free for the sake of coming to know and love what is true and good and beautiful. Thus freedom and discipline go hand in hand – there is an order to coming to know things. There is a hierarchy of discovery. G.K. Chesterton says this piquantly in his book Orthodoxy: “Art is limitation: the essence of every picture is the frame. If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If in your bold creative way you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe.”[68]

Understood in these terms as a certain unity of love, freedom, and discipline, education is not primarily a program to be exacted, or a problematic requiring calculation. It is instead a basic human activity. At its heart, education is contemplative, endeavoring to affirm the meaning of reality in its integrity, priori of any technological or mechanistic planning with respect to its potential “usefulness.” When rightly ordered, education as contemplation organically manifests as action, bearing its fruit in integrated human beings who bear no patience for a body-soul dualism, or its concomitant separation of love from knowledge, freedom from discipline. The task of coming to know things is of a piece with the Christian task of profound love for that which God loves. The formation of one’s soul, an ordering of one’s desires, and a deepening of one’s love: education is a life-form before it is a program.

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