The Histories of Herodotus relate a curious and revealing curriculum of ancient Persia. Writing in the fifth century before the birth of Christ, the man known as the Father of History described the education afforded the male population of Persia as consisting of three areas of study: horsemanship, archery, and honesty. In spite of the limited subject matter, it is interesting and, I should say, comforting to discover that their philosophy of education was concerned not only with the development of useful skills, but also with the formation of character.
Two and a half millennia later, the scope and complexity of a sound educational system would stun the ancient mind. Yet, these people of the past might inquire, correctly, about the presence of virtue as well as utility in the current system. The answer to their query depends on the answers to these questions: What are the sources of education? Who are the teachers? One may identify such diverse pedagogical entities as the Church, the family, the school, peer groups, the media, and the laws of society. In addition, one is subject to the ebb and flow of cultural trends. Speaking of such trends, there is a growing interest in spirituality among college-age students these days. Secular universities across the country are establishing Spiritual Life Centers and offering other resources for spiritual study. Even though the understanding of the term spiritual is given a wide berth, it is heartening to see a concern about spiritual awareness and growth. As may be expected, a number of administrators, faculty, and staff are terrified over this issue. However, student interest and expectations in the areas of spiritual truth and personal growth may motivate those among the university community who are anxious about Church and State issues and worried over possible proselytizing efforts by certain groups to enter into dialogue. All people want to attain deep truths regarding their existence. The task of education ought not be reduced to the mere accumulation and application of facts, but ought to provide a pathway toward heightening one's sense of wonder and awe before the universe.
When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer
When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room.
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
- Walt Whitman
The larger view of education encompasses one's totality, what one is, and what role one plays in creation. To that effect, Jesus calls each person to learn from him. A learning that educates the soul as well as the mind. He teaches a lesson of loving God through the love one can show to his or her neighbor, the dignity one maintains in thought, word, and deed by loving one's self, and grasping the spiritual truth and fulfillment in knowing that he or she is a child of God. In this knowledge, one may respond by bringing the consonance of self-awareness into the work of life. If one goal of a good education is becoming qualified for profitable employment, learning from Jesus and applying those lessons to the way we perform our work will be profitable to all. Indeed, much of what is called making a living consists in providing some service or product for the benefit of others. One's spiritual beliefs provide a quality control to the validity of one's efforts and the satisfaction one derives from it. The end of education must be the accomplishment of the formation of a whole person - one who successfully achieves a good living and one who realizes the value and purpose of being alive.
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