Enough negativity. It’s time I began a new series focusing on the positive, on what education really is, or should be. I’m trembling at the prospect.. and it serves me right. Always so much easier to carp and criticize.
I feel like Job when he said “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know… I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:3,6) But go on I must.
Perhaps the most important thing about education is that it is about what is most important. Whether we like it or not, what we do with our children all day communicates an incontrovertible message to them about what we consider significant. The amount of time we give to ourselves, to one another within the family, to others in the community and further afield, teaches our little charges more than any book could about what we really value. We invest both our time and our money in the things from which we expect some kind of return. Everyone seeks his own happiness, in whatever strange places he may seek it; some find happiness in self-indulgence, some in giving to others, some in appreciating the past, some in trying to influence the future – but we all seek happiness,and what we do demonstrates our beliefs about what will make us happy.
There is a kind of inevitability in this – that education will be about what we consider important,whether we like it or not. But there can be an intentional, considered aspect to it too. I think one of the most painful realizations that has ever come to me as a mother was that my children simply assumed that adults do whatever they please – that everything I did was done merely because I wanted to do it. I still find it hard to remember that I have to explain to them in words why we do what we do. Actions may speak louder than words, but they are not enough. And since none of us is fully consistent with what we believe, there is a process of trying to move our actions closer to our declarations.
For the Christian, it should be pretty obvious that God is most important, and therefore our children’s education should be about God. Sadly, to the fallen sinners which we all are, nothing could be harder to put into practice. It’s no coincidence that children who will listen happily to stories for hours suddenly go berserk when the Bible is read. Even children who are genuine believers evince this phenomenon. And this mother at least, who so desperately wants to pass on the faith, finds every opportunity to speak of the Lord accompanied by the devil’s piercing whisper: “This isn’t the right time to say that. Wait until some moment when they’re more receptive, or they’re all here, or you’re not so hurried, or you’ve thought about it more, or you have the material to hand to back it up, or it fits into the conversation more naturally.” It’s taken me all these long years to recognize the lie and learn just to say it, to forget all the reasons not to and just blather on about God all the time. And now I wish I could go back and start all over again with my first child. No doubt in twenty years I’ll be wishing I could start again with my youngest one.
And there’s the urgency of it. Our children’s education had better be about what’s really important, because we’re only ever going to have one chance.