American education is in trouble. I believe it to be serious trouble. We cannot seem to identify the goals of K-12 education any longer and want schools to educate our children in something or another and to make up for the dismantling of family structures.
What we’re discovering is that, trying to do too much, schools are accomplishing too little. Universities have been noting for some time that Sr Hi graduates are coming to college quite unprepared. They have mastered smart phones but not smart minds.
And employers have been telling us that college graduates are entering the workforce unprepared for actual work. They simply are not well educated.
All this is part of the major cultural shift taking place throughout the Western world in our day. Christianity provided a general cultural guideline for us from 1607 in Jamestown up until World War II. Since then we’ve been trying to repeat the experiment of the Garden of Eden and prove ourselves independent of our Creator. We’ve left ourselves aimless, wandering all over the face of life.
We are sure that science and technology can answer all our questions but we cannot seem to find the right questions.
All our emphasis upon STEM (science-technology-engineering-mathematics) has done serious damage to our understanding of education. For centuries the purpose of the university was to develop knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Now, under the influence of the greed in the world of business, we’ve jettisoned understanding and wisdom.
We have graduates who can solve a thousand problems in the context of a video game but very, very few who know how to articulate the problems of life. And if we can’t do that, if we don’t know just how to recognize what the heart of the problem is, all the problem-solvers in the world will be useless.
We need Chaucer and Shakespeare, Sophocles and Socrates. We need art and music, history and philosophy. We need economics and political science. We need broad educations! Yes, of course, we need science and math but if we feed our minds and souls nothing but STEM, we will wither and die from malnutrition of spirit.
Not everyone needs the same education, of course. We ought not to search for a one-size-fits-all image of education. What we do need is for wisdom and skills to be distributed throughout our society so that everyone has something specific to offer and some general understanding of who we are as a people.
Schools have lost their way. Can they recover? Not on their own. Churches have also lost their way. Can they recover? Yes! Returning to biblical roots, not just parroting a few verses but learning to think biblically, will make a huge difference. Regaining our sense of being a servant people rather than mere consumers like the rest of society will matter a great deal. Loving the way the Lord loves us will be transformative. And most of all, if we will again become attentive to the Spirit of our living and present Lord Jesus Christ, we will return to being the leaven in our cultural context.
The Spirit, if we will pay attention, will develop in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Does not America need such gifts?