On Education and the Integrated Life

From a funeral homily for an educator recently posted to First Things on education and “the integrated life”:

Genuine education promotes an integration of life in which the claims of the intellect find a complementary formation of virtue. When these are severed from each other, a couple of things happen. Knowledge is reduced to either sentiment or power, and the aim shifts from forming the good person to producing the well person. Then those entrusted with the hearts and minds of the young squander all their best energy on concerns of health and safety and regulatory compliance. Education deteriorates from the transformational to the transactional and the therapeutic.

But we are unimpressed by this reduction. We want to grasp the whole of reality, mind and will, and invite young and old into that same vision. And this vision is not something we make up; we find it woven in a thousand threads in the vast tapestry of Catholic [and hopefully a more broadly Christian] thought and culture. We learn from it, taking it in deeply, and then we pass it on.

This understanding of wisdom means addressing the whole of the person, and the whole of reality, in an integrated way. Here we are after not just technical training or barren knowledge, but the formation of the personality: mind, will, emotion, spirit, relationships. Anything less is not real education.

But when we try for real education we have in store a breathtaking adventure, not the dry and tedious round of classwork that is so common, but a way of seeing and knowing that opens up the deepest possibilities of existence and gives meaning and focus to all of life. And as the fog clears, we see His face: Christ the Teacher.

Here is the gaudium de veritate of St. Augustine, the joy in the truth. Here is the “stupor” or astonishment of mind that Dante speaks of in the Convivio. And how many here today can personally attest to the transformative power of the Christ-centered invitation to true wisdom, to the integrated life?

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