A Nurturing Education
by Meghan Morales
The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but irrigate deserts.
~C.S. Lewis, Abolition of Man
Nurturing the soul or preparing for the practical world: what should be the aim of education?
While institutions have been successfully preparing students for careers since the beginning of civilization, the morale of humanity has continued to decrease. There are certainly benefits to training for particular fields, but this by itself will produce a man capable of only the work he was particularly trained to do. Schools crank out workers with fabulously specialized skill sets and papers of credentials and qualifications. This can be good for the economy as people get jobs thus keeping things moving. However, to keep a business running requires ethics. It requires a conscience. To be a good worker necessitates virtue. As America has traveled her roller coaster ride of existence as a nation, the ethical foundations have practically crumbled away. Men do unexplainable things for profit, for the sake of money, to keep the economy going. There is no longer an understanding of good much less of God. America is a lost people drifting in a raging sea of ideas and agendas trying to stay afloat and safe regardless of anyone else’s welfare. She has lost her humanity and become a society that reacts off of survival instinct. Where have the men gone? Perhaps the task of the educator in whose company most American youths spend the majority of their time is more critical than first thought.
Many people associate the term “education” with book learning and factual knowledge. While these are a piece of education, they must not be taken alone as the meaning. Throughout history, if someone was referred to as educated, it described something about their personhood, not merely their mind. In the time of the ancients, educational institutions either taught students how to survive in their society, or they led their students on a quest for the Logos (Absolute Truth). The idea of the search for the Logos appears in the root word for education. “Educō” literally translated means to pull out or to lead forth. Education is the act of pulling out or leading to. Are we pulling out the hunger for truth, goodness, and beauty in our students? Are we leading them to Truth incarnate, the Word, the Logos, Christ Himself? Alternatively, are we pulling out a love of money over the love of Truth? Are we leading them to a life of pragmatism over inherit merit? When the soul knows what is good, true, and beautiful, he will soon be able to discern the best decision. However, sometimes the most practical thing to do with an unwanted baby is to kill it. When man becomes so obsessed with ease and comfort, he tends to forget that ease and comfort do not replace goodness. Christians especially should not condone this kind of education for the Christian walk is not one of ease and comfort.
This process is also known as “restoring the broken Image.” God created man in the image of God. Thus man reflects God in all he does. That reflection is now heavily distorted because of the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Nevertheless, all man’s actions and choices reflect God, however, perverted they may be. For a further discourse on this topic, see St. Augustine’s Confessions. The act of education, the drawing out and searching for Truth that every soul partakes of, is God’s means of restoring humanity to his humanity. This can only happen rightly when Christ, the Truth, is the motivation. If there is no faith, there can be no success in the fullest sense. Perhaps the statement “The nurturing of the soul should be the aim of education” should be reworded. It should read “The purpose of education is the restoration of the Divine Image into that of the image-bearer.” God has given man grace and means by which he can begin to recover the broken Image. It is this that educators must understand whether they be homeschool moms or university professors. The calling of a teacher is to pull out love and desire for Truth and lead the students to that Logos, Christ the incarnate Word. The goal is to shape a soul to be more human than he was six weeks ago.
Cultivating a soul takes more than mere academia. Man is much more than his mind. Thus, the fine arts and life skills are important for education and the process of recovering the humanity of humanity. The act of creating is one of the greatest things man can do. When he creates, he participates in a divine thing. He is capturing the Logos into a concrete thing. He is telling a story. It is crucial to understanding this idea because the failure to do so will result in inappropriate pressure and false expectations. Not every man was created to be an academic. Not every man was designed to be “artsy”. One student may excel in his studies while another may struggle in school yet flourishes when performing in theater or dance. By nurturing the soul of the performer, his performance gifts will be cultured and nurtured through virtue and ethics. He may not remember much Latin, and he might not remember the exact year that the steam engine was invented, but he will know what is good and what is evil. He will be able to process large amounts of information. He will have a solid perspective of reality. He will have a conscience. The academically inclined must also benefit from nurturing. He will communicate through writing and learning. His place will be a classroom or a conference hall. While the performer appeals straight to the heart presenting the Logos through the myth of theater and dance, the academic will present the Logos for what it is appealing to the heart through the mind. Moreover, so it goes with each individual. By nurturing the soul, becoming a better human, the unique gifts and abilities of a person are cultivated and shaped.
In a day when conscience is out of style and tolerance is the latest trend, educators should consider their position and classrooms with an urgent heart. The lessons of history, science, Latin, literature, and so many other subjects all give the student an arena to play with and discover Truth. The classroom should be a place where the boy learns what is good and what is evil so that the man can produce something useful and good without killing the babies. Education is not a matter of letters and numbers on a page. It is a matter of conscience. Unlike the Greeks of old, the Christian teacher will realize that the only path to true education is through Jesus Christ. He is the Truth, the Logos incarnate. He is what all souls long for and crave. It is he alone who nurtures man’s soul and convicts him of right and wrong. The pagan ancients searched and searched, but they could never find the Ultimate Truth. They found some gems to be sure, but they never found the treasure chest. The call of a teacher is that of leading his students to the person of Jesus Christ where all Truth came into flesh and dwelt among humanity. Without him there is no nurturing, there is no loving. Only through Him can man be restored to his original state of a clear mirror reflecting the imago Dei. Only through him can the humanity of men’s souls be recovered.
Meghan Morales was homeschooled from K-12th grade with Classical Conversations and is currently a humanities student at Columbia International University. Meghan is interested in literature, philosophy, religion, and is preparing to become a classical educator within the Christian Classical Education movement.