An education is one of the few things that we can give ourselves and our children that will have lifelong effects. Although most American families send their children—as they themselves were sent by their own parents—to public schools, how often have we stopped to question the goals of the public education system? Christian parents especially should be asking this question if they are truly concerned whether their goals for educating their children are similar to the public schools'. Proverbs 1:7 tells us “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” It should to stand to reason that if “the fear of the Lord” is the beginning of knowledge, that the Lord has something to do with the end—the goal—as well.
Revelation 21 describes the “new heaven and earth” and the New Jerusalem. In verse 23-24 we read: “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” Notice that the final chapters of the final book of the Bible speak of being “illumined” by the light of God. The Lord is the beginning AND end of understanding and learning. This is the goal of education for the Christian. Notice also that the “kings of the earth” have glory of their own, but they bring it into (i.e. subject it to) God’s light. We must remember that our mind is a gift from God and we are to think His thoughts after Him.
The goal of education then—for the Christian at least—is not to acquire a bunch of facts and knowledge, but to glorify God. Our minds are to be sacrificed in humble dedication to the One who made thought possible. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Rather than viewing education as a means to an end—a better job, more money, higher social status, better at Trivial Pursuit, etc—we must view our education as a constant renewing of our minds in order to better think God’s thoughts after Him. If the educational establishment where you or your children are enrolled does not share this goal, then it should cause you to rethink sending you or your children there to be “educated.” As Allan Bloom points out below (and it has only gotten worse since he wrote these words in 1987), every educational system has a goal. And although he is primarily referring to universities in his book, the same holds true at every level of education. The question is: “What are we going to do about it?”
Every educational system has a moral goal that it tries to attain and that informs its curriculum. It wants to produce a certain kind of human being. This intention is more or less explicit, more or less a result of reflection; but even the neutral subjects, like reading and writing and arithmetic, take their place in a vision of the educated person. In some nations the goal was the pious person, in others the warlike, in others the industrious. Always important is the political regime, which needs citizens who are in accord with its fundamental principle. Aristocracies want gentlemen, oligarchies men who respect and pursue money, and democracies lovers of equality. Democratic education, whether it admits it or not, wants and needs to produce men and women who have the tastes, knowledge, and character supportive of a democratic regime. Over the history of our republic, there have obviously been changes of opinion as to what kind of man is best for our regime. We began with the model of the rational and industrious man, who was honest, respected the laws, and was dedicated to the family (his own family—what has in its decay been dubbed the nuclear family). Above all he was to know the rights doctrine; the Constitution, which embodied it; and American history, which presented and celebrated the founding of a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” A powerful attachment to the letter and the spirit of the Declaration of Independence gently conveyed, appealing to each man’s reason, was the goal of the education of democratic man. This called for something very different from the kinds of attachment required for traditional communities where myth and passion as well as severe discipline, authority, and the extended family produced an instinctive, unqualified, even fanatic patriotism, unlike the reflected, rational, calm, even self-interested loyalty—not so much to the country but to the form of government and its rational principles—required in the United States. This was an entirely new experiment in politics, and with it came a new education. This education has evolved in the last half-century from the education of democratic man to the education of the democratic personality.
The palpable difference between these two can easily be found in the changed understanding of what it means to be an American. The old view was that, by recognizing and accepting man’s natural rights, men found a fundamental basis of unity and sameness. Class, race, religion, national origin or culture all disappear or become dim when bathed in the light of natural rights, which give men common interests and make them truly brothers. The immigrant had to put behind him the claims of the Old World in favor of a new and easily acquired education. This did not necessarily mean abandoning old daily habits or religions, but it did mean subordinating them to new principles. There was a tendency, if not a necessity, to homogenize nature itself.
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The recent education of openness has rejected all that. It pays no attention to natural rights or the historical origins of our regime, which are now thought to have been essentially flawed and regressive. It is progressive and forward-looking. It does not demand fundamental agreement or the abandonment of old or new beliefs in favor of the natural ones. It is open to all kinds of men, all kinds of life-styles, all ideologies. There is no enemy other than the man who is not open to everything. But when there are no shared goals or vision of the public good, is the social contract any longer possible?
(Excerpt from Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), 26-27.)