Education and Flourishing
On the first Sunday of March our churches will be celebrating education: the dedication of teachers and support staff, the achievements of our children and young people, and the great history of the Church’s role in education.
Many of our schools and colleges and the very first universities across Europe were established by Christians and the Church. Missionary work has always been strongly linked with education, along with agriculture and healthcare. It is far more effective and empowering to teach people how to feed and look after themselves than to maintain them in a state of dependency. Freedom start with the mind. Human flourishing requires minds that are educated.
Jesus himself was a teacher, and we have a record of some of what he taught in the accounts of his life found in the Bible, including the famous ‘sermon on the mount’. Unlike many people in his day, we know that Jesus was able to read and write (both are mentioned in the Gospels), and he welcomed and taught all ages and all social classes, both individually and in groups.
The writers of the Old Testament are keen that people use and develop their minds, urging people to mediate on the Law of the Lord. In the New Testament, St Paul is another advocate of exercising and honing the mind: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” he writes in his letter to the Roman Christians, “then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom 12:2).
Knowledge is power and can be used for good or ill. As the very opening chapters of the Bible warn us, knowledge can promote and be used for both good and evil, and we need to be concerned with more than just our ‘heads’; the ‘heart’ (which represents what motivates us) is fundamentally important. This is why education should be provided within the context of a moral framework; information and skills alongside the promotion of values and virtues. It is a legal requirement, and a consequence of our Christian heritage, that our schools do this, and this critical – though easily overlooked – moral dimension of education needs to be protected and supported.
Teaching has long been recognised as a vocation, a career to which someone is ‘called’, and it is right and good that the Church can and should celebrate the wonder and privilege of education and all those who – by God’s grace, and in the steps of Jesus – open the minds and shepherd the hearts of our children and young people, that they might truly flourish.
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell and Chilton