Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Purpose of Education

For the past ten years, I have taught a faith development course in a Catholic high school. Due to the implementation of a new standardized religion curriculum mandated by the U.S. bishops, that course comes to an end with my last class this Friday. The looming demise of my course has prompted a good deal of reflection on the purpose of education in our society. What seems evident is that our goal is to create people who will be what our corporate systems want and need them to be, rather than helping them to discover who our Parent created them to be.

What prompted this post was a recent article in Time magazine about partnerships between public schools and corporations to ensure that students receive the skills necessary in today's job market. The author quotes one of the corporate executives, a former school administrator, responsible for this effort. "These kids have already gone past a $15-an-hour lifetime. They are reinventing what high school - and their future - is all about." Once again, it's all about the money.

Why does our future depend on what we can do for the economy? Why do we identify ourselves by our jobs? Why do we surrender our lives to our corporate masters rather than our Creator? Does the economy love us the way they do?

"We were created for so much more. There is more love in every atom, every molecule than in all the romances ever conceived. We are the song of life, of love, of a mother and father who made us by sheer force of will."

In the case I began with, the bishops are not making curriculum changes because the current religion courses fail to teach God's love. Their concern is about the exodus of people from the Church and a decline in orthodoxy among those who remain. Their analysis of this problem is that it stems from a failure to properly convey the corporate message. Hence the curriculum changes as part of the solution. What the bishops fail to consider is that perhaps the people get the message better than they do.

"Do not listen to the preachers and prophets because they tell you that you should ... If you believe the message to be true in your heart, then listen to the messenger. If not, reject him, whomever or whatever he may be. Trust yourself."

Both of these examples are about control. They are variations on the "Tiger Mom" phenomenon: adults attempting to create children in their image. In so doing, we fail to follow the wisdom of the one Parent who actually accomplished this feat, then gave their children the freedom to become whoever they felt called to be.

But not all of us are this way. Another news story that made the rounds recently was of a child who made an entire arcade out of cardboard boxes. Sandy Banks of the Los Angeles Times wrote a column about the boy's father:

"Here's the whole thing about parents," [George Monroy] said. "They want to create their kid into what they want it to do. And they force upon them sports, books… 'This book is good for you, read it. Play T-ball. Play soccer.' But he'll be so miserable on the soccer field if he doesn't want to play, you're wasting his time and your time too. You have to let the kid decide what he wants to do."

If God trusts us to figure it out, why can't we trust our children ... and ourselves.