March 1, 2014
In the first article, we discussed the nature of the partnership between parents and teachers as co-educators. As parents, we have an essential role as the primary educators of our children. We know how important it is to actively pursue this role, but it can be difficult to discern what this actually means in terms of our daily lives. This leads to a practical question. How do we, as parents, fulfill our responsibility as primary educators of our children? Where do we even begin?
The best place to start is the end. All of our efforts to educate our children are ordered toward the end, purpose, or goal of education. Surely, we know the goal of education—it’s part of the reason many of us have joined this community. However, there is a real danger here. Familiarity can easily be mistaken for understanding. It is quite easy to forget the goal of education because we are so familiar with education itself. To avoid this trap, let’s take a moment to reflect on the source of the goal of education and what that goal actually is.
Without skipping ahead, consider your answer if someone were to ask you about the goal of education. Is your answer more about doing certain things, or is it more about being a certain way? The distinction here is crucial. One approach to the goal derives from the dignity of the person. The other perpetuates an undignified, utilitarian view of the person—a view that sees our children as objects to be used not subjects with intrinsic value. Our approach to education communicates to our children who and what we think they are. Sadly, it is far too easy today to communicate the wrong message. Here we find the importance of understanding the source of the goal of education.
The goal of education derives from our nature and dignity as images of God. Our value as persons comes from who we are, not what we can do. Likewise, the goal of education must reflect who we are over and above what we can do; the goal must be more about being than doing. The goal of education is to bring us into greater unity with our Creator and our reason for being. As the prologue to the Catechism points out, we are for knowing and loving God. Therefore, the goal of education is the cultivation of wisdom (life rooted in knowing God) and virtue (life rooted in loving God) by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, beauty, and unity by means of the seven liberal arts and four sciences, so that in Christ we may know, glorify, and enjoy God (adapted from CiRCE Institute of Classical Education).
We could dedicate a whole article to unpacking this statement (and perhaps we should). Our current purpose, however, is to take this goal as our point of departure for being more active in our roles as primary educators. In other words, translating this goal into action. The most important way to pursue this goal with our children is to see it as relevant to our own lives. Education is a life-long pursuit. The highest act of man is the contemplation of God (offering our highest faculties—intellect and will—in worship of the Almighty). Life in Christ invites us to form our intellect and will to Him. As primary educator, how can we convince our children of the importance of education without demonstrating its importance through our very lives?
Not everyone is called or has the desire to be a scholar, but all, by their very nature, have a very real desire to know truth. The pursuit of education, then, is a natural goal for all human beings. More importantly, education is a supernatural goal necessary for life in Christ. Christ, in his earthly ministry, was a model of life-long education in his contemplation of the Father. He is also the means and source of grace for restoring our nature such that we are capable of pursuing education with the aim of holiness (we worship through our natural longing for truth). But Christ is also the goal. Love begets understanding. Faith seeks reason. To what extent is our love for and faith in God calling us to form our intellect and will to know, love, and serve Him? In other words, how are we pursuing the goal of education in our own lives?