On Classical Education and Being a Classical Teacher

What Is Education?


            First, I’d like to discuss some common ideas that we hold today about education as a prelude to outlining the way I believe we should think about education.

(1) Education is the means to get a job and make money.  Few ideas make more sense to we living in this modern world of industrialization, mass production, mass consumption, and ever-increasing specialization of branches of knowledge than the idea we should get an education is so that we can get a job and make money.  The purpose of education is, we think, essentially job-training.  We all need money to get the things we need to survive in this world, and where else can we get the skills that we need to obtain and hold down a means of producing money for ourselves and our families if not from education?

Why do we learn to read and write?  Simple – we learn to read and write so that we can understand and fill out job applications, understand policy manuals, instructions, notices, and other signs at our jobs, maintain bank accounts, and, of course, so that we can “sign on the dotted line” of all manner of Really Important Paperwork continually foisted upon our consciousnesses by the ever more intrusive bureaucracies with which we are surrounded like a swarm of flies.

This way of thinking makes education a mere means to an end.  If the purpose of education is to get a job and the purpose of getting a job is to make money and the purpose of making money is to be able to get things, it follows logically that education is four steps down the hierarchy of things that we consider good.  Getting things is what we are about in this life, money is the means to get things, a job is the means to get money, and education is the means to get a job.  We see, then, that the highest good in this way of thinking about education is, in fact, getting things.  To borrow a line from an old theological document, we would have to say that “The chief end of man is to get things and enjoy them for as long as we can.”

This view is about 200 years old, and is a byproduct of the Industrial Revolution and its mechanistic vision of the purpose and meaning of human life in this world.  While its youth and cultural context do not automatically make this view false, I would like you to hold in your mind the possibility that this view ought to be required to defend itself rather than merely being taken for granted.

(2)  Education is the process of transferring correct information from external receptacles into the heads of students.  This idea is prevalent in contemporary thinking about education in several related forms.  One is the expectation by teachers, parents, and students that real comprehension, and perhaps even mastery, of the subject matter of the class is shown by the student’s ability to pass quizzes and tests.  This assumption seems to us merely to be “common sense,” for how else do you know whether a student knows something if he doesn’t successfully pass quizzes and tests and advance to the next level of quizzes and tests?

But, this also is a relatively new idea in the history of education.  In the year 1792, a man named William Farish at Cambridge College introduced for the first time ever the idea of attaching numerical values – that is, grades – to the academic work of his students.  From that point, we were all off and running on an increasing tangent of thinking of education in a mechanistic and technological manner.  For all previous generations, education had been a very personal matter based upon assumptions about love – both love of the teacher for the positive growth of the student’s soul and the student’s and teacher’s love for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.  But the viewpoint set into motion by William Farish has resulted in a view of education today that reduces it to a scientifically-analyzable and controllable process of transferring information from one receptacle (a book or the teacher’s brain) into another receptacle (the student’s brain).  “Getting good grades” is proof that the information transfer has been successful, while “not getting good grades” is proof that the transfer has gone awry.

Thus conceived, all parties involved in the course of a student’s education treat it primarily as a process governed by rational-scientific “laws” the same as any other “natural” process in the physical world.  But to say that education as a process is to say that it is the operation of a machine, and to say that education is the operation of a machine is to say that education is just the application of power through an instrument designed to create a product.

What is the product being created by education?  The product is  an “educated person” – that is, a person whose report cards, transcripts, and diplomas all have had the right marks put on them in the right places by the right people at the right times.  Such a person, properly stamped out of the mold, properly checked for “manufacturing defects” properly  packaged, and properly distributed, can engage the world in which he lives by properly fitting into a functional role at a job, which itself fulfills a functional role in maintaining some aspect of the larger machine known as the culture.

In other words, the years and years of successful information-transfers that is euphemistically called “education” has resulted in a human being who is essentially just a cog in a machine, cranking and clanking away in proper harmony with all the other “educated” cogs so that the machine can perform a mindless function aimed at a purely material and transitory goal.

(3)  Education is an instrument of cultural change.  Since about the middle of the 19th century, education – particularly public, non-religious education – has been thought of as a means to effect the positive transformation of society. This theory of education is governed by an excessively optimistic view of the nature of man in which man is naturally good and naturally perfectible, which assumption further entails that social ills are the result of ignorance and that ignorance is curable by exposure to correct information.

It is not a stretch to see this idea as connected to the previous one, the view of education as a mechanical process designed to transmit information from one receptacle into another.  To this way of thinking about education, the purpose of transmitting correct information into the heads of students is to alter their behavioral patterns, to make them conform to the expectations of their society, to “go with the flow,” to “be good citizens.”  However, what this view understands as the “society” it is teaching students to fit in with is the society imagined by the educators themselves within the halls of the school.  It is not the real world such educators are speaking of, but the world as they would like it to be.

To this end, education on all levels in today’s world tends to emphasize whatever ideology is presently in fashion with those who wield the power to regulate the educational process.  Public elementary schools increasingly push the ethical agendas of those in power, whether those agendas be to promote “tolerance” for all religions, permissiveness in sexual behavior, “creativity” in spelling, writing, and reading conventions, beliefs about the origin of the universe and mankind, and so on.  Universities push such agendas even more aggressively, on a higher level of cognition and rhetoric.

The result of this mode of education is that students are sent forth with exaggerated concepts of themselves as social reformers – not constructors of culture, but restructurers of culture.  Education is not a facilitator of culture, but instead is itself a transformer of culture.  It is, in other words, an essentially revolutionary enterprise aimed at creating restless discontent with the larger culture rather than an essentially conservative enterprise aimed at creating self-disciplined, self-critical members of the already existing culture.

 (4)  Education is a “product” or a “commodity” dispensed by manufacturing centers called “schools.”  If, as we talked about earlier, the purpose of an education is to get a job so you can make money, it follows that the value of education is directly proportional to the amount of money you can reasonably expect the education to gain for you once you have obtained it.  An education that gains for you a $50,000 a year salary is worth more than an education that only gains for you a $25,000 a year salary.  Hence we have the common disdainful remark about the traditional Liberal Arts education: “What are you going to do with that?  Flip burgers?”  In other words, you can expect a Liberal Arts education to get you a very paltry economic gain, unlike other sorts of education which you can expect to get you a more substantial economic gain.

On this view, education is essentially a commodity – a thing to be bought or sold just like clothes or food or cars or houses.  What is being bought and sold under the term “education” is a product called “knowledge” – specifically, a product the possession of which is required if oneself is to successfully function in the Modern economic situation where making money and accumulating things are the primary goals of life.  You cannot get a job if you do not have the knowledge and the skills that are required to hold it, and to our Modern way of thinking, the place to get this knowledge and skills is the institution of the school.  Schools are in the business of manufacturing, marketing, and dispensing the product of education, which is useful in direct proportion to the power it gives one to obtain other products, which are themselves considered to be the real point of the whole thing.  Thus, students are customers of schools.  They are consumers of education in the same way that they are consumers of clothes, food, cars, and houses.

But thinking about education in purely economic terms has a serious downside.  For as the economic ideology that we all have heard in terms of the phrase, “the customer is always right,” is pushed more and more towards its logical conclusion, the quality of the product being dispensed by the schools necessarily falls.  Modern customers, attuned mostly only to their own exaggerated and unregulated tastes, wants, and conveniences, do not want to learn Greek and Latin and read fat books full of big words written by men who have been dead for 3,000 years.  They want subjects that they feel are “relevant” to their lives.  They want techniques that enable them to “make friends and influence people.”  They want skills that help them to “make a living.”  Accordingly, the schools, as purveyors of the product, respond by giving the student-customers what they want – which is, as we shall shortly see, anything but real education.

To end this part of my talk, I’d like to present to you one final Modern view of education which is in a way the summation of the other four.

(5) Education, like all things related to the life and health of a commonwealth, is the responsibility of the Government, which must measure, manage, and maintain the well-being of all its citizens.  This understanding of education has some roots in ancient Greek ideas about man’s place in his larger social and political world.  That is, as part of a larger society, man, a social and political creature, must be taught to fit in with his larger society.  The values and goals of his larger society must somehow be transmitted to the individual man if the larger society is to propagate itself into the next generation.  Since an integral part of the larger society is the government, the government has a vested interest in seeing that its citizens are taught the values and goals of the larger society.

This makes sense on a certain level of thought – if we keep in mind that to speak of a “government” in Ancient Greece is a far different matter than to speak of “government” in a modern state.  In the agrarian, non-mechanized, non-bureaucratized world that the Ancient Greeks inhabited I would argue that “government” oversight of education was a good thing.  In our own world, however, which in numerous ways is the opposite of the one the Greeks inhabited, Government control of education has quite a different hue that is created by several important cultural factors.  First is the industrialization of the Western world, which has created a floodtide of technological progress that frequently blinds us to larger ethical concerns.  Second is the radical specialization of knowledge as rational-scientific methods have been applied with increasing rigor to every subject.  Third is the rise of nation-states as coherent political bodies tied externally and definitively to specific areas of land and united internally by the bonds of common language and common cultural heritage.

These powerful forces have combined slowly, but seemingly inexorably, to alienate men from the older sensibility that they and the world were interrelated parts of an organic whole aiming at, but usually tragically falling short of, a really knowable and objectively describable set of called the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.  As the world and human life in it became more specialized, more bureaucratized, and more mechanized, the idea that men were adrift in a cold, impersonal universe that cared not a whit for them took hold deep in the Modern psyche.

Whether in terms of a vague, unexamined unease of Rationalists at their own evolutionary concept of “nature red in tooth and claw” or the literary tirades of Romanticists against the Great Machine of “civilization” cramping the natural goodness and natural perfectibility of man, an instinctive reaction against the increasing sense of human alienation not just from the world but even from humanity itself set in.  For protection from the innately hostile world, men required the ability to manage the world, to bend it, shape it, and manipulate it for their good before it had the chance to bend, shape, and manipulate them instead.  One effect of all this abstract was the concrete transformation of government into an entity not instituted among men to serve the common good, but to protect its citizens and oversee the fulfillment of all their needs.

Thus was born what many conservative commentators today call “the Nanny State.”  Government began to grow by leaps and bounds, to invade more and more areas of human life, to subject more and more of what used to be self-governed spheres to external, artificial, manipulative, and supposedly “safety” and “health” oriented regulatory government.  Education was among the first victims of this bloat, and over the last century and a half it is easy to see the progressive swallowing up of all things educational by a way of thinking that holds that responsibility for, oversight of, and complete control of education belongs – whether proximately or ultimately – to the Government.

In many areas of the United States – supposedly the land of the free and home of the brave – even the mere words “school,” “college,” “university” are held in reserve by the Government as if by inviolable copyright.  To be able to affix words such as these to a sign on a building in which is to be offered any type of course of formal academic study requires one to obtain the Government’s special permission by way of a usually very expensive, very time-consuming bureaucratic process designed to ensure that all the boxes are checked on all the right forms in all the right places by all the right people for all the right reasons.  If all the boxes are not checked on all the right forms in all the right places by all the right people for all the right reasons, well, what is being offered inside the building is most certainly not education.

To this way of thinking, no one except the Government can declare what a “school” is, no one except the Government is able determine what standards must govern curriculum, no one except the Government can adequately ensure that all citizens get the product known as “an education,” and no one except the Government has the right to label any proposed formal course of study about any subject whatever by the sacred and very official term “an education.”  In short, only the Government can manage the horrendous complexities of individual initiations into and attempts to master the field of knowledge.

So widespread has this view of education become that religious groups have often had to legally fight the Government for the “right” (“rights” being just more commodities that the Government manages for us because we cannot manage them for ourselves) to educate their children according to their own views.  Even in states where homeschools and Christian schools are relatively tolerated by the Government, the Government still usually insists upon its own inviolable right to regulate at any time and for any reason it deems fit what is going on under the sacred banner of “education.”

So widespread has this view of education become that many Christians buy into it unreservedly.  At this moment, for instance, there are private Christian schools out there that struggle to keep the Christian integrity of their curriculum because the parents of many of the students believe that even Christian schools ought to be following the basic assumptions about and patterns of education laid down by the Government’s schools.  There are many Christian parents who, upon finding out that their local Christian school’s teachers are not “certified” by the Government feel an uneasiness within themselves about allowing their children to be taught by such people.  And there are many students within Christian schools whose classroom talk shows the deep influence of this Government-centered approach to education: the Government schools are better because they offer sports, the Government schools are better because they have more social functions, the Government schools are better because they aren’t so rigorous in their academic standards, the Government schools are better because they have more technology in the classrooms, and so forth.

At bottom, for this view, education is the means by which the Government as the all-seeing, all-managing Nanny sustains its cultural monopoly over the lives of  people whom it considers intellectual, ethical, political, religious, social, and economic incompetents in dire need of “services” and “management” that only It can provide.

Having described five typical ways of thinking about education in our Modern world, I turn now to explaining the problems with these views and setting forth alternatives that are more in keeping with the great and noble tradition of the Western world constructed by our Greek, Roman, and Christian forebears.


You may have noticed that in all the above Modern characterizations of education, the central point is that education is merely an instrument or a process that aims at a goal higher than itself.  In all of the above-stated views, education always serves a purpose that is exterior to itself, a purpose that, were it to be removed, would leave education with no foundation.

What, then, is education?  I would like you now to consider some positive points with me.

(1) Education is training the soul to be a self-disciplined seeker after the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.  It may in fact be a good thing to have a job and make money, but having a job and making money is at best one of many possible results of knowing the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.  Let me say that again: these things are possible results of knowing the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, not the True, the Good, and the Beautiful itself.  Knowing the True, the Good, and the Beautiful is primary to whatever results may or may not attach to such knowledge.

It is, of course, true that education conveys many facts to a student.  But facts are meaningless apart from a larger context, and so an education must also provide a larger context within which the student may set the facts he is learning.  Learning many hundreds of individual true statements (such as names, dates, places, math facts, spelling rules, and so forth) is not the same thing as learning the bigger True that lies behind all the smaller trues.  Learning about many individual good things is not the same thing as learning the bigger Good that lies behind all the smaller goods.  Learning how to draw or paint beautiful pictures is not the same thing as learning the bigger Beautiful that lies behind all the smaller beautifuls.

Learning to seek the bigger True, the bigger Good, and the bigger Beautiful that lie behind all the smaller instances of these things is every bit as much a goal of education as is teaching the smaller instances themselves.  In fact, again, it is only in the light of the bigger things that the smaller things begin to appear as what they are and to make sense.  Education is about the Big Picture, not just about the small ones.

However, to find the Big Picture amidst the welter of smaller pictures requires a self-disciplined soul.  A soul that is continually distracted by the smaller pictures, continually unable to focus and harness its energies on the task of finding the Big Picture is a soul that lacks self-discipline.  A soul that merely follows its own impulses and feelings, its own self-defined urges of “creativity,” will be a soul that is enslaved to its passions, enslaved to lower goods, rather than one that governs its passions for the sake of a higher Good.  An undisciplined soul, an ungoverned soul, is a soul that continually places obstacles in the way of its own education.

It follows, then, that as education teaches the smaller things it must also point the way, via disciplined and serious studiousness, to the larger things that make the smaller things truly meaningful.  Math facts and spelling rules and dates of battles and biographies of famous people and Bible verses and the difference between direct and indirect objects must all must be taught, yes, but self-discipline must be taught with them, lest they wind up being merely a collection of interesting, but ultimately useless, factoids floating around in a disorganized head that is itself constantly flitting from one ephemeral interest to another.

The only way to avoid being dominated by the things which have only ephemeral value is to learn to be focused on the things which have enduring value, and in this sense, education must be thought of as the inculcation of discipline into the soul, not just the stuffing of facts and figures into the head.

(2) Education is the passing down of a substantive cultural inheritance which gives the individual soul a place to stand as he or she faces and tries to make sense of the world.  Here an important distinction must be made in terms of the earlier stated view that the purpose of education is social transformation.  It is true that anything deserving of the name “education” will transmit to a student substantial understanding of the basic mores of his culture.  It is equally true that a student so informed is expected to demonstrate serious concern for and at least a good-faith general intent to live up to the standards he has been taught.  However, these are not the same as imagining, first, that merely pumping correct information into a student’s brain will result in correct behavior, and second, that it is the duty of educational institutions to transform society by their activity of successfully transmitting correct information into students’ brains.

Education can and should make students aware of correct information, but awareness is not the same thing as action, and education is much more than the transfer of correct information.  Education embraces not just the intellectual life of a student, but his whole social and moral life as well.  As such, information transfer alone is not the whole of education but only one of its many parts.  Teachers must model the correct behavior they wish their students to emulate, not merely talk about it.  Teachers must love the souls of their students, and teach their students by their own personal examples to love not just information, but wisdom.

The whole of the Western tradition of philosophy, ethics, theology, literature, politics, demonstrates that wisdom is a more slippery thing than mere information, and that it cannot be measured in terms of tests passed, awards received, and degrees conferred.  Graduating from the 4th Grade into the 5th Grade or from Junior to Senior in college or from a Master’s Degree to a Doctoral degree may not, in fact, say anything more about a person than that he has learned to jump through all the information-related hoops that have been placed before him.  Such things may not say anything about his soul’s grasp of the nature and meaning of the whole culture in which he lives.  Such things may not say anything about his ability to properly analyze his culture and formulate True, Good, and Beautiful responses to both its stabilities and its vagaries.

Education, by training the soul what to look for and to be diligent and disciplined in looking for it, gives a person a substantive cultural inheritance that gives him a place to stand as he faces the world and tries to make sense out of it.  No one ever stands literally nowhere, just passively viewing the world from a standpoint of disinterestedness.  Everyone always stands somewhere, and the various somewheres where we all stand are the cultural inheritances that we are given as a result of our educations.

Someone, I do not know who, has coined the word “traducation” to describe the real goal and effect of education – namely, being led into a tradition of inquiry, into traditional habits of mind, into traditional views, into traditional modes of behavior as one faces the world.

Being given a traditional place to stand is not, however, an excuse for just passively coasting through life, serenely confident that somebody else has already figured out all the answers to all the questions you could ever have, so why should you bother ever thinking about any of it yourself.

On the contrary, education as the conveyer of a substantial cultural inheritance is meant precisely and only to give you firm ground to stand on as you yourself actively engage the world, actively seek out Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, actively pursue knowledge and the wisdom to use knowledge correctly.  Education gives you a place to stand so that you can see where you are in relation to where you want to go.  Education shows you the ground under your feet; it does not do the walking for you.

(3) Education is a lifelong process of a soul that is free confronting its own limitations in order to continually spiral inward towards the goal of finding true wisdom.  Contrary to the Modern ways of viewing education that we discussed earlier, education is not a product dispensed by a manufacturer for the purpose of obtaining some other product that is of superior value.  Education is not merely the transfer of information that allows one to fit into a machine like a well-oiled cog.  More to the point, education is not something that takes place only between the ages of, say, 6 and 18 (for non-college students) or between 6 and 22 (for holders of Bachelor’s degrees) and so forth, terminating once one has obtained a purely temporal, material reward such as job.  Education is, rather, a lifelong affair, and it can only be had by a soul that is free – that is, a soul that is not in bondage to a vain seeking after lesser goods which it has falsely identified as the higher goods.

A true education will, as said earlier, give you a substantial place to stand as you face the world and try to make sense of it.  But giving you a place to stand is not the end of the story.  From that place you have been given to stand, from the limited number of things that education has taught you, you can look out at the world and see the many, many, many things that you remain ignorant of despite all your formal schooling.  Education is, to be blunt, not one hundred percent synonymous with formal schooling.  Formal schooling, on whatever level you achieve it, is only the beginning of education, not the whole of education.  The more that formal schooling helps you to know, it can, at best, serve only to make you increasingly aware of the things that you do not know.  And the more you see the things that you do not know, the more you realize that you will never be able to know it all.

Now some may want to accept this postulate and conclude that since you can never learn everything there is no point in continuing to learn once your formal schooling is over.  Get the diploma or the degree or the certification, hang it on your wall in a nice pretty frame, go get the job you were promised as the result of the education, and be done with education.  Having spent a good part of your life learning about living, now it’s time to spend the rest of your life just living.

On the contrary, to a person who has truly been educated, the need for education will never end.  Because education gives you a substantial place to stand as you face the world, and because the things it teaches you to know help you to see the things that you do not know,  you face the world with an open perspective, not a closed perspective.  You do not labor under the silly illusion that your pitiful little mind, wrapped up in wet gray matter inside your tiny skull, has mastered the world and so does not need to know anything else.  If you are truly educated, the one thing – really, the only thing – that you can know with absolute certainty is, as Socrates would have put it, that you do not know.

The Ancient Greeks thought that wisdom began with a profound sense of wonder, a profound sense of one’s nothingness in the face of the vastness and complexity of the world.  Without wonder, there would be no desire to know, and without knowledge there would be no consequent realization that whatever degree of wisdom one attains, one will always lack the depths of wisdom.  To borrow from Socrates again, no one ever sought for something that he already possessed, and this is just as true of knowledge and wisdom as of anything else.  If you want knowledge, if you want wisdom, it is logically inescapable to say that you do not have them.  And, not having them yet passionately wanting them, the only thing to do is to go searching for them.  Did not our Lord and Master Jesus Christ say, “Seek, and you will find.”?

Despite hearing the words of Christ, some Christians treat this exposition of our creaturely limitations of knowledge as a thinly-veiled form of disbelief in any kind of knowledge.  “How can you say that knowledge is possible,” they will ask, “If you also say that no matter how much you learn you can never be done with learning because you will never grasp the whole that is to be learned?”  This question betrays a false understanding of knowledge by imagining that knowledge is, and can only be, a comprehensive grasp of a thing, a grasp that has left no stone unturned, that has covered all the bases, that has dotted all the I’s and crossed all the t’s, that has left no room for any questioning of any kind, but only for absolute, bedrock, unshakeable certainty of mind.  If you have any questions, says this view, you do not yet know the truth.  Truth consists in knowing that you are right; not knowing that you are right is merely skepticism and is unworthy of a Christian.

On the contrary, the truly educated person, because he is not in bondage to false ideas about truth, knowledge, and wisdom, is  free to see what he does not know and free to seek after it.  He does not labor with a suppressed, yet still gnawing, fear inside his guts that someday someone will present him with some piece of information that he has never heard of before, to which he has no unbeatable answer, and against which he must shut the doors of his mind tight lest his whole “worldview” come crashing down in despair and skepticism of ever really “knowing” anything.  To think this way is simply to shut down the capacity of wonder inside oneself, to close oneself off to the complexities of God’s creation, to claim, pretentiously, that oneself has arrived and needs no further instruction.  Such an attitude is its own refutation.

To sum this point up, as long as there is breath in your body, you should be learning.  As a finite knower, you can never learn all that there is to know.  But contrary to superficial understandings of knowledge, truth, and wisdom, this realization should provoke in your soul not a sense of despairing skepticism but a sense of optimistic wonder, a sense of being free to seek and to find whatever pearls of great price the Lord sees fit to place in your path.

(4) Education is a basic, natural, and inescapable part of our lives as creatures made in the image of God.  At the bottom of the answer to the question What is Education? is found a fundamental, that is, foundational, idea about the nature of human beings.  As Christians, we believe that we are made in the image of God.  God is the supreme Knower, the one who knows all things.  As beings made in His image, we can therefore conclude that we are beings who are made to know.  While it is, of course, true that we cannot know in the same way that God does, it is also true that we can know and that therefore, we should want to know.

The early astronomer Johannes Kepler, himself a Christian, described his activities of measuring the motions of the stars in order to try to correct the prevailing and wrong cosmology of his day as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”   That’s a provocative phrase – “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”  Again, it does not mean that we can know in the same way that God does – immediately, comprehensively, infallibly – but it does mean that we can know truly, on our own level as creatures.  And we must not forget that by fulfilling our built-in capacity to know, even in a limited, creaturely way, we bring glory to the One who made us as knowing beings in the first place.

As creatures made in the image of God, we are not just made to know generically but made so that, by knowing the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, we can act in accord with the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.  While it is, of course, true that we are fallen and apart from Christ we cannot do spiritual and saving good, it is also true that we can do much good in our lives in the space and time world.  As creatures made in God’s image to know, we are also creatures who, despite our sin, can act rightly in a limited sense that brings about real positive goods in this world.  On our own level as creatures, and taking account of our fallenness and need for grace, we can know rightly and we can act rightly.  Therefore, I conclude, we should want to know rightly and to act rightly.

Education, the lifelong journey of learning to know God, His works, ourselves, our fellow creatures, and our proper places in this world, is thus a basic, natural, and inescapable part of our lives as God’s creatures.

(5) To sum all of these up, education is an end unto itself and not merely the means to reach other ends.  The Ancient philosophers teach us that there are things that we desire because they can get us other things, and there are things that we desire because they are in themselves worth it and not because they can get us other things.  Knowing the True, the Good, and the Beautiful is something intrinsically valuable, not something valuable because it can get you other things.  Having a substantial cultural inheritance on which to stand as you face the world and try to make sense of it is something intrinsically valuable, not something valuable because it can get you other things.  Continually confronting one’s own limitations with an unfearing, wonder-filled attitude at a world you cannot possibly hope ever to master, but only to fit in with, is something intrinsically valuable, not something valuable because it can get you other things.  Learning to “think God’s thoughts after Him” is something intrinsically valuable, not something valuable because it can get you other things.

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