Education is the Raising of the Student’s Taste

My intent in this article is to start by piecing several short quotes from other authors together in a manner that proves my title above.  My point with that title is that man is happiest when pursuing God, which is the pursuit of the Greatest Good, which is by extension the raising of one’s taste from lesser to greater.  With several great authors saying is so much better than I, I hope you follow their (and my) logic.

“All men seek happiness; This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” Blaise Pascal, Pensees #425

“If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened?  A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire…

“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself…God alone is man’s true good, and since man abandoned him it is a strange fact that nothing in nature has been found to take his place…” Blaise Pascal, Pensees #428

Having strung this string of pearls, let me summarize what I am hoping is clear in these passages regarding education.  If we desire to truly educate children according to their whole nature, which is in the Image of God and fallen, then we have to lead the student toward that which is good, or to put it more concisely: Education is the raising of a student’s taste for what is True, Good, and Beautiful.  Further, if we understand a human’s desire rightly, we see that humans desire pleasure, which is best found in the greatest Good, which is God, but our fallen nature distracts us into lesser pleasures.  Therefore, no matter what else the nature of education, it must be seen as the proper raising of a student’s taste to the highest and the best, which is in the end, a full blown love for God.




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