This blog is part of a discussion that Cindy at Dominion Family started. The book is called 'Norms & Nobility' by David V. Hicks.
Chapter 1 pt. III
This section is about the reason for education. The question is "Can virtue be taught?" Plato defined virtue as "the knowledge of good,the love of beauty, the vision of greatness, and the passion for excellence." I think that this definition leaves out the worship and service of the Divine. As I read through these ancient philosophers, I see their attempt to reach God, through human efforts. They hold out the hero stories as efforts to push their students to greatness, but I don't believe that virtue can be successfully taught apart from faith.
Samuel Johnson (1958) is quoted by Hicks as writing re education, "the first requisite is the religious and moral knowledge of right and wrong, the next is an acquaintance with the history of mankind, and with those examples which may be said to embody truth, and prove by events the reasonableness of opinions, Prudence and justice are virtues and excellence of all times and places;"
Hicks sees that education today has "the 'knowledge of external nature' standing in judgment over 'religious and moral knowledge'. " This section of the book discusses the conflict of preparation for a practical life skill rather than developing the soul and character. We need to be careful to avoid presenting the goal of education as being the life of financial success, pleasure, and entertainment. Hicks says, "preparing students for work rather than for leisure, for the factory rather than parlor, the school itself came to resemble the factory... losing its intimate and moral character." When we teach utility as our primary function, we do lose sight of doing the right things above our selfish interests, doing right in service to God and man. We need to challenge our students to choose to do things that fulfil the biblical mandates rather than seeking their own amusements. The god of amusement is clearly something that has been a part of our culture for a long time. Today, even our elderly have bought into this mentality. Many simply can't wait to reach retirement so they can travel and soak up the winter sun. They have forgotten the biblical mandate of the older women teaching the younger women. (Titus 2) Unfortunately, many of the older women don't have marriages that are reflective of God's plan; maybe it is better if they don't teach the younger women. They feel the need to rule their husbands. Proverbs 31 does not describe their lives. Virtue needs to be something that we constantly work on. As Hick says' " Virtue... is not a parlor game, but a perpetual activity."
These thoughts were brought to life this past Saturday at a presentation by a elderly christian. This gentleman was talking about making inner city youth aware of educational opportunities. His primary point of deciding for education for these jobs is how much they pay. There was no thought for service to God and man. Money was the be all, end all. There was no challenge to godliness. It was rather sad. It is easy to fall into this trap, even as Christian moms. We and our children fall into the trap of utility. How many times have we heard our children say, " Mom will I ever use this in real life? Why do I need to know this? " I thank Mr. Hicks for giving me good answers to this question. I like the thought he quotes by Plotinus, "Be always at work carving your own statue."
I do appreciate Hicks reminder that seeking after virtue and righteousness does "not imply a belief in the perfectibility of man," and "we tend to look upon virtue as what under a specific set of circumstances can be achieved, rather than as what ought to be achieved under all circumstances." We need to raise our standards for our students. We need to seek after godly character and right thinking rather than just occupational competence.