If you read to your children, and you should (a lot), you have probably at sometime in their early years picked up the classic Margery Williams book, The Velveteen Rabbit. Just to make sure we are all familiar with its basic plot: a little boy receives a stuffed rabbit and the reader is then led into the inner life of the unreal animal who desires to become real. He has seen real bunnies playing in the garden and yearns to be more than a stuffed facsimile but actually be “real.” The old rocking horse in the closet informs him this happens bit by bit as the boy loves him. In the end, the rabbit becomes real and dances with delight. It is a wonderful story full of imagination and wonderful thoughts about human love, and even divine love, which centers on the question of ‘what is “real”?’
This is particularly important for our current generation of youngsters who are growing up in a culture devoid of a real view of reality. Movies, video games, and the like blur the line between real and unreal in our kid’s minds. The best of modern philosophy and cultural commentary view all reality as either purely material or completely an illusion. Neither view adheres to anything approaching what Christians would call “real.” Reality circles around the center of faith, hope, and love for and from a God Who has created all things. And all things He has created are real. If our children are to live well in this world, they must understand this reality.
We have been discussing the education offered here at Caldwell from various angles. So far I have led us through both the ends and the nature of a great education (one that could be called “classical”). I am now changing angles once again to approach great education from the principles we can derive from the nature of things. The first set of principles comes from the nature of a child. Educators must teach children as children, but as children who are becoming adults. The first such principle they must be taught is that there is a created reality and that they live in that reality.
As I stated above, most views of reality today involve at least some discussion of illusion. Modern man believes that any notion of God or any other “idea” beyond the material world is simply something we make up. This is fine for those who need such, but one should live with his feet firmly on the earth and his senses as his trusted guide. The many “isms” that flow out from this general view are the beliefs that make our modern world so confusing and immoral. Instilling the principle of real reality, of true truth, of “really” good goodness, and honest beauty is paramount to the cause of a Christian education.
And the reality that we are seeking to lead our students to is so much bigger than any of us can fully know (as it is rooted in an infinite God) that knowledge of this reality must bring us to a place of respect and humility. The reason the Apostle warns us about knowledge puffing up if it is not coupled with a love for God, is because it brings pride when we think we are starting to finally wrap our mind around things. The proper response of true learning is to grow in our understanding of how little we really know. This kind of humility makes education a place of seeking grace from God, not becoming masters of the universe.
The respect and humility I am describing must be embodied in the school’s teachers, and then must become embodied in the students. This is only possible when all “material” that is taught starts, ends, and works itself out through the Person of Christ, God Incarnate, the ultimate focus of reality. The biggest issue I have with current educational theory is its insistence that all knowledge be taught with no discussion or admission even of the source of the truths being learned. In the end, great education teaches the student to love and respect the Truth, for the Truth is nothing less than God Himself. Any education that comes short of this is no “real” education at all.