The Don: When You Allow Some to be “Left Behind,” All Come Out Ahead

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“A truly democratic education—one which will preserve democracy must be, in its own field, ruthlessly aristocratic, shamelessly ‘high-brow’. In drawing up its curriculum it should always have chiefly in view the interests of the boy who wants to know and who can know. (With very few exceptions they are the same boy. The stupid boy, nearly always, is the boy who does not want to know.) It must, in a certain sense, subordinate the interests of the many to those of the few, and it must subordinate the school to the university. Only thus can it be a nursery of those first-class intellects without which neither a democracy nor any other State can thrive.

And what,’ you ask, ‘about the dull boy? What about our Tommy, who is so highly strung and doesn’t like doing sums and grammar? Is he to be brutally sacrificed to other peoples sons?’ I answer: dear Madam, you quite misunderstand Tommys real wishes and real interests. It is the aristocratic system which will really give Tommy what he wants. If you let me have my way, Tommy will gravitate very comfortably to the bottom of the form; and there he will sit at the back of the room chewing caramels and conversing sotto voce with his peers, occasionally ragging and occasionally getting punished, and all the time imbibing that playfully intransigent attitude to authority which is our chief protection against England’s becoming a servile State. When he grows up he will not be a Porson; but the world will still have room for a great many more Tommies than Porsons. There are dozens of jobs (much better paid than the intellectual ones) in which he can be very useful and very happy. And one priceless benefit he will enjoy: he will know he’s not clever. The distinction between him and the great brains will have been clear to him ever since, in the playground, he punched the heads containing those great brains. He will have a certain, half amused respect for them. He will cheerfully admit that, though he could knock spots of? them on the golf links, they know and do what he cannot. He will be a pillar of democracy. He will allow just the right amount of rope to those clever ones.” —C.S. Lewis, “Democratic Education” in C.S. Lewis Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces (HarperCollins Publishers, 2000), p. 599

The Don: An Apology for Philosophy

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“If all the world were Christian, it might not matter if all the world were uneducated. But, as it is, a cultural life will exist outside the Church whether it exists inside or not. To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defence but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work not only against cool intellect on the other side, but against the muddy heathen mysticisms which deny intellect altogether. Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village: the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.” ——C.S. Lewis, “Learning in War Time” in C.S. Lewis Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces (HarperCollins Publishers, 2000), p. 584

The August Theologian: Enticing Education

“This experience sufficiently illustrates the truth that free curiosity has greater power to stimulate learning than rigorous coercion. Nevertheless, the free-ranging flux of curiosity is channeled by discipline under you laws, God.” —Augustine, Confessions

The Exegetical Systematician: Fragmentation

The topic of Christian education may be approached from the angle of an evil of which I fear too few are aware, but one that is the bane of education at all levels. It is the bane of fragmentation. By fragmentation I mean that the pupil is not provided with what imparts a sense of unity, of wholeness, of correlation. This may most properly be called the need for, and aim of, integration. There is ground for suspicion that this directing principle is frequently absent and, therefore, those responsible for education at all levels need to address themselves to this question for self-assessment.

Perhaps the most germane example of the thesis that integration is a paramount concern of education is the place that education occupies in the fostering and development of character. It is not to be questioned that culture, however highly cultivated, has failed of its chief end if it contributes to the promotion of evil rather than that of good. The more highly educated the boy or girl becomes, the more dangerous the education acquired becomes if it is brought into the service of wrongdoing. It is easy to take the position that the fostering and cultivating of good character is not the concern of the school, that this is the function of the home and of the church. Admittedly, the home and the church are basically responsible, and it is also obvious that when the home and the church neglect this culture or are even remiss in imparting it, then the school is faced with a well-nigh impossible task. But it is apparent how devastating to the best influences exerted by the home and church will be the influence of the school if it pretends to be neutral on moral issues, or if the teaching of the school is alien to the ethical principles inculcated by home or church or both. And as it concerns integration, how chaotic for the pupil if opposing ethical norms are fostered in the same school. We know only too well to what depraved human nature inclines.

Underlying the plea for integration and co-ordination in education is the need for a unified world-view, a common conception of reality. If there is basic divergence in reference to world-view there cannot possibly be integration in education. —John Murray, Christian Education

The Apologist: Specialized into Ignorance

In our modern forms of specialized education there is a tendency to lose the whole in the parts, and in this sense we can say that our generation produces few truly educated people. True education means thinking by associating across the various disciplines, and not just being highly qualified in one field, as a technician might be. I suppose no discipline has tended to think more in fragmented fashion than the orthodox or evangelical theology of today.

Those standing in the stream of historic Christianity have been especially slow to understand the relationships between various areas of thought. When the apostle warned us to “keep [ourselves] unspotted from the world,” he was not talking of some abstraction. If the Christian is to apply this injunction to himself, he must understand what confronts him antagonistically in his own moment of history. Otherwise he simply becomes a useless museum piece and not a living warrior for Jesus Christ.

The orthodox Christian has paid a very heavy price, both in the defense and communication of the gospel, for his failure to think and act as an educated person understanding and at war with the uniformity of our modern culture. —Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There