By Nathanael Check
It seems education in the United States is lacking, and to determine what it is lacking, one must decide what education’s purpose is.
To those in positions of political authority, education is intended to prepare the individual for civic engagement. To many parents and students, an education serves the individual pursuing a career.
Neither of these perspectives is wrong, but both are limited by the temporal demands of society and the job market respectively.
Today’s schools, at best, prepare students to make a living. How well schools accomplish this end is questionable, yet the bigger problem is that professional training is not the chief purpose of education.
Education must satisfy man’s desire to know the truth about himself, his fellow man, his Creator and how they relate to one another. The means to this end are both simple and complex: a heavier emphasis on the humanities and comprehensive instruction on objective truth.
A proper understanding of himself, his Author and those around him aligns man’s character with the moral good. Man can draw conclusions from his observations of the natural world, such as the existence of gravity, but this kind of knowledge does not necessarily form moral character.
The path to truth beyond the material world is made manifest in literature, art, music and poetry, the media through which man expresses his innate desire to imitate the perfection of his Creator.
Humanities give expression to abstractions such as irritability, affability, justice, anger, love and mercy, none of which can be measured by a barometer or examined under a microscope.
Without these abstractions, man cannot give expression to human experience, nor can he give expression to his relationship with God.
The fostering of man’s desire to be like his Creator is essential not only to individual perfection, but also to social harmony. Thus, education, particularly of the humanities, is the vessel by which a society may better itself.
Often scientific advancement is conflated with societal improvement. It is tempting to dedicate oneself to the material progress of a society, but culture is not chiefly defined by material progress.
Rather, the quality of a culture is measured by how closely it lives in the truth; the measure of a society is how well it preserves and passes on the truth. To achieve this goal, education requires a specific quality that will be difficult to restore to the humanities: objective truth.
Let objective truth be any immutable truth that accurately describes reality. Because the humanities are rooted in reason, objective truth and the humanities go hand in hand.
Relativism, the opposite of objective truth, is the greatest threat to the humanities. The belief that there are multiple truths is harmful to mankind because it offends reason.
The consequences of relativism can be found in any of the humanities, but relativism is most dangerous in regards to morality.
What is right and wrong cannot be defined by individual judgment because man is liable to err.
It cannot be defined by culture either; the American fast food culture cannot justify the gluttony it promotes.
Morality finds its origin in God. This is not to say that a man who denies the existence of God cannot arrive at any moral truth, but that without God, man cannot know the fullness of moral truth.
Fortunately, God has revealed the fullness of moral truth in the Ten Commandments.
If the humanities are to be a ladder by which man can reach out to his Creator, then a comprehensive instruction on the Decalogue – that is, instruction on human behavior given by the Creator – is necessary to the humane disciplines.
The humanities, properly taught, will convey not only objective truth, but also guide the human heart to mystery.
Only the humanities can express the unconditional love a mother has for her child, or man’s emotions when he admires a beautiful work of art, or the mirth a group of friends feel when reuniting after a long period of separation. Man is a creature with a soul.
If education is to make men, then it must be a humane education rooted in objective truth.