“Education once seemed the gateway to Heaven-on-earth for everyone. Now that we’ve tried it, we know that schooling alone will not save society. Never before was there so much education, and never before so little arrival at truth. The twentieth century is the century of the greatest attempt at universal education in the history of the world- and yet it is the century of the most terrible conflagrations, wars, and revolutions of history. We have stuffed our children’s minds with facts, and neglected to teach them how to live.”
-Bishop Sheen, Lift Up Your Hearts
Of what use in the fool's hand are the means to buy wisdom,
since he has no mind for it?
Sky View Post Script:
Facts help us to form opinions about a given topic or event but values give shape to how we live. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that God and Christianity have no place in public schools, it hastened the erosion of values. In the absence of Christian principles, the average student in the public school is taught that we live in a value-free or morally neutral universe. For instance, in classrooms from coast to coast chastity is deemed to be no better than promiscuity, marriage between a man and a woman no better than same-sex marriage, saving a unborn baby no better than saving an owl, and dying a natural death no better than euthanasia.
For centuries, Christian education not only provided a hierarchy of values from which to live a moral life, it also gave unity, priority and meaning to a nation’s curriculum. Theology, for instance, was the primary and center of all subjects and disciplines. From this academic order, a worldview and lifestyle was fostered. Civilization, in turn, benefitted from this. Internationally, wars were fewer and domestically, neighborhoods and streets were safer.
However, in the early part of the twentieth century secularism began to make its way into our educational institutions. The cohesion and unity of education and its ability to inspire sound values began to show signs of weakness. As early as 1940, the President of Yale University, Robert Hutchins, spoke to the effects of secularism. In an address entitled, “The Higher Learning in America: 1940,” he stated that “today the young Americans comprehends the intellectual tradition of which he is a part and in which he must live only by accident: for its scattered and disjointed fragments are strewn from one end of the campus to the other. Our university students have far more information and far less understanding than in the colonial period.”
“The crucial error,” he continued, “is that of holding that nothing is any more important than anything else, that there can be no order of goods and no order in the intellectual realm. There is nothing central and nothing peripheral, nothing primary and nothing secondary, nothing basic and nothing superficial.”
Just eleven years earlier, in 1929, Pope Pius XI wrote an encyclical on Christian education. For him, as with the Church’s two thousand year tradition, education cannot be reduced to providing mere facts. It has to be a value based system that develops the whole person; one that is not indifferent to the student’s eternal destiny. Pope Pius XI put it this way:
“[S]ince education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man's last end, and that in the present order of Providence, since God has revealed Himself to us in the Person of His Only Begotten Son, who alone is ‘the way, the truth and the life,’ there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education.”
To repeat: There can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man's last end for which he was created. Christian education is inspired by a long-term vision; one that children in the public schools so desperately need today. Children need to be taught how to live, then, only then, can they use the facts to make this world a better place.
So, let's talk about getting the State out of education so that local communities can be free to re-introduce this long-term Christian vision for our nation's children. Our future depends on it.