The Problem With Education: We Don’t Know What it Means, But the Government Does

I read a quote from G.K. Chesterton that prompted this post:

The most important fact about the subject of education is that there is no such thing. Education is not a subject, and it does not deal in subjects. It is instead the transfer of a way of life.” -G.K. Chesterton

We believe that “education” is the transference of knowledge. And so we argue over who is best qualified to transfer knowledge so our children will be properly educated. When actually, knowledge is only a small part of a total education.

The question we should be asking is, “Who is qualified to ‘transfer a way of life’ to my children?” and “What ‘way of life’ matters to me?”

For example, who is teaching my child that he is fearfully and wonderfully made (as is his neighbor), foundational to who he is, who he will become and how he will live out his purpose? Or, is he being taught that since there is no Creator, life doesn’t have intrinsic value? Even this one part of our children’s worldview radically affects the life-choices they’ll make.

Who is teaching her that application of knowledge is more important than a letter that grades short-term memory? Who is taking her by the hand, showing her the world and how everything is related to everything else? Who is telling her that “wisdom calls out” and that she is equipped to search for and find it on her own?

Who is telling him that everyone has different strengths? That he can run with his brilliance as an artist and not be labeled if he doesn’t demonstrate equal ability in math?

Is it good enough for someone else–something else–to shape the very life of my children, their opinions, beliefs, values and self-worth?

I have long maintained that education can not be “neutral”. Assuming that education is, indeed, a transfer of a way of life, this fact becomes more obvious. Every institution, whether family, school, church or other, imparts a belief system where something or someone determines the values inherent to that system.

Unfortunately, founders of the modern system of education understood this well–that education shapes people, not just teaches them the three R’s. Those like John Dewey voiced his intention to use the classroom to erode any faith except the religion of humanism*. And largely, under the guise of “learning”, Christians regularly submit their children to the transferring of a way of life by a system that rejects most of their core values and beliefs.

As a Christian, submitted to the lordship of Christ, I am bound to “transfer a way of life” to my children that is wholly consumed with Him. Education, means then, to a Christian, that all facets of life–including the small one of imparting knowledge–must spring from an inherently Christian worldview–a transferring of life, lived out each day in a thousand ways.

Education: It’s so much more than academics! Let’s not pluck this small part out and make it an idol while neglecting what it means to prepare children for ALL of life.

* “I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers that correctly perceive their role as proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being…The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and new — the rotting corpse of Christianity,together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism, resplendent with the promise of a world in which the never-realized Christian ideal of ‘love thy neighbor’ will finally be achieved.” Humanist Manifesto


20 Responses to “The Problem With Education: We Don’t Know What it Means, But the Government Does”

  1. Danielle says:

    What a great reminder! I think every year I do a little less of man’s requirements and a little more of God’s. Time is slipping and I have so much to share with them… transfering a way of life is a great way to state that!

  2. Such truth here, Kelly. Thank you!

  3. Ellen says:

    Very well said! Thank you!

  4. LuAnne says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    Wonderful post. Thanks for articulating this so well!

  5. 6 arrows says:

    Good quote by Chesterton, and great thoughts expounding on this transferring of a way of life, Kelly, especially in your concluding paragraph.

    Your thoughts reminded me of the definition of education in Webster’s 1828 dictionary:

    “The bringing up, as of a child; instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.”

    My school education certainly didn’t “fit [me] for usefulness in [my] future station…” where it concerns my homemaking duties now. Sure, home ec. was offered in high school, but only the people who weren’t “going anywhere in life” took that. College-bound people didn’t waste their time with “slough classes”. And really, when you think about it, why would schools even need to offer classes like that unless the masses were required to leave the natural home environment for huge quantities of time to get an “education”, missing the opportunity to develop those skills which are natural to life?

    It’s like you said in your “Real Life and Parents Who Can’t Parent” post, Kelly: “We have separated the events of life, isolated children from the daily observation of adulthood, and in so doing, taken from them the most fundamental learning tools, resulting in adults who don’t know a lot about real life.” So true. We’ve gotten so far from understanding what true preparation for real life is.

    And you’re right to ask, “Who is telling her that “wisdom calls out”?” Who is teaching “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”?

    Really great post, Kelly. I felt an education post coming on 😉 and when I saw it, I just said “YES!” Thank you!

  6. Leslie from VA says:

    Wow! Excellent article, Kelly!
    (G K Chesterton is one of Ben’s favorite authors!)

  7. Natalie says:

    LOVE this…what a fabulous quote…and what a truth to expound. If only everyone could “get it”…it would rock the world.

  8. Carolina says:

    For the Hebrews, education was at the service of God.
    For the Greeks, education was at the service of culture.
    For the Romans, education was at the service of the state.

    Everyone educates for a purpose. What is ours? i wish my children to have knowledge, but above all, I wish them to have the wisdom that only comes from fearing the Lord.
    In my house we want restore education and put it at the service of God.

  9. Mrs. S says:

    “…the transfer of a way of life” Excellent!

  10. Heather says:

    Great article. It’s so easy for me to get so worked up over imparting knowledge even as I homeschool. I never think it’s enough because there is always so much more I could do. I’m so thankful for my husband who is always there to tell me that the children are really doing very well. It’s so difficult to maintain the proper perspective of what education is really all about!

  11. Terri says:

    From the very beginning of our homeschool journey (about 14 yrs. now)my husband has always said to me, “You have done well if you teach them Christ and Him crucified! All else is gravy!” I am so thankful for his encouragement.

    GREAT post, Kelly! Always appreciate the reminders!

  12. Mrs. Santos says:

    This was so good. Shared it on facebook

  13. Carolina says:

    I forgot to say that homeschooling helps shape independent thinkers, something that we really need nowadays.
    It is hard to find teenagers and even adults who are able to think differently, out of the box, and to be able to articulate that kind of thinking.
    Critical skills is something most kids do not come with after they graduate from a school.

  14. Keri says:

    Education…it is so much more then academics!! So very true..

  15. Angela says:

    Hi Kelly, this is my first response to your blog even though I’ve been reading for a few weeks now. I just want to give you a ra-ra cheerleading moment 🙂 to let you know what an incredible encouragement this website is to fairly isolated Moms like me. I live in upstate NY (upstate like 45 minutes from Canada) where it’s pretty rural, and there aren’t a lot of conservative Christians around here. The ones who are generally aren’t as conservative as my husband and I (try mentioning not encouraging college for your daughters or poo-pooing birth control and watch out for the rocks!), so it can feel pretty lonely. There are other homeschoolers in our area, so I’ll be looking to get connected with the ones I can find, but I always struggle with how much I will want to get my daughter involved in. They have some homeschooling sports groups and other convention things of that sort. What do think about these sorts of things? My daughter is only 2, but I know that the time will fly, and I’ll be needing to make decisions about this stuff before I know it. Lately, my husband and I have come to the realization that homeschool is the only option we will consider for the exact reasons you’ve discussed in this post. Handing her over to anyone, even a private Christian school, to teach her about how she should view Jesus and this world just seems like a tickly issue. I’d rather not take the chance of having to help her “unlearn” things later. 🙂 Anyway, rambling… I just wanted to encourage you that you are serving a great need for gals like me that need some Titus 2 help, but may not have many Titus 2 women around (or just haven’t found them yet). We attend a wonderful church, but like I said, we are considered ultra-conservative in our views on most things, so the online backup is very very awesome!

  16. Dana S. says:

    I’m going to print this out and mail it to my mother…..

  17. Tina says:

    Very well said. Thank you!
    I plan to share this with our local homeschooling group (via your fb link). I know many will be encouraged by it. (I know I was.)

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