Thinking about Education

comment.transparentlogoToday I had the opportunity to lead out in our school’s annual “faith issues” workshop.  One of the aims of the meeting, at least from my perspective, is to continue the conversation of faith integration.  The folks over at Comment Magazine recently posted an interesting piece on the role that faith-based institutions can play in a world where technology has made much of what makes the college experience obsolete.  From “Christian Higher Educational in an Exponential Age”:

Faith-based schools seek to educate the mind—but their ultimate aim is formational. That is, developing and orienting students toward character, moral excellence, acute spiritual sensibilities, and meaningful societal contributions. To be clear, these aren’t simply things that Christian schools do or attributes they have. This is who they are: ethos informs identity, and identity drives practice . . .

The formational ethos of Christian schools has embraced and supported both a social and a personal dimension. With respect to the latter, a faith-based educational climate is not merely concerned with what Parker Palmer and Arthur Zajonc refer to as “the self-authoring mind.” Rather, Christian education is animated by a more ancient orientation. Aristotle believed that education proper should be aimed toward rightly ordered affections, desires, and impulses. In an ironic twist, this approach to learning has less to do with what we know but rather with what we love. In this conception of education, ordinate affections are at the heart of a prosperous, virtuous life. “The good life”—write Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky—”is not simply one of satisfied desire; it indicates the proper goal of desire. Desire is to be cultivated, directed to the truly desirable. Moral education is an education of the sentiments.” For the faith-based institution, “educating the sentiments” is a holistic notion, inculcated across a variety of university dimensions through repetition, experience, and relationship.

While I like the whole article . . . and these two paragraphs, in particular, that last little list is a nice summation of something important.  Repetition, experience, and relationship.  I think many organizations and institutions have a strong sense of the last two.  For those who want to be on the “cutting edge,” though, the idea of repetition tends towards a negative kind of redundancy.  Which isn’t always the case.  I’ve come to think of those repetitive things as part of the actual framework for the experience and relationship.  The article, which you can read in its entirety here, also makes nice use of Aristotle, hints at You Are What You Love, and includes some thoughts on the place of the liberal arts.  Definitely worth your time.

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