Is Education a Hammer?

I don’t remember much of my schooling while at college. I remember meeting my wife for the first time. I remember the great friends I made and the fun we had. I remember the campus ministry I was involved in. I don’t remember much of what I was taught.

I do remember thinking, “The reason why I am here is to get an education to get a job. I can’t wait to be done here and get that job.” The further back I go the more I see a common theme. While I was in high school it was all about getting good grades so that I could get into a good college. Even as an elementary child I remember hearing that same line of thinking repeated.

Now as a headmaster of a school, I continue to hear the same line repeated. We come up with better names though like, “career readiness.” I get it. We want to save kids from a life time of working at Taco Bell (I’m not saying that, they are). But could it be possible that education is more than that?

My wife and I enjoy watching the Amazing Race. It’s silly, yes, but we do it anyway. There is often a kind of contestant who periodically shows up in a season. They are the “educated” person who sees their education as a strength over the other contestants. Many of these have Ph.Ds in some mechanical science. Yet, as you watch them throughout the race, they don’t have a cent of wisdom in them at all. They don’t know how to manage their resources. They don’t know how to work with their partner. They are ready and willing to cast off all ethics if it suits their advantage in the race. Pragmatism.

Will Roger’s famous quote fits nicely here:

There is nothing so stupid as an educated man, if you get him off the thing he was educated in.

This is education as a hammer. Hammers are good for hitting or pulling nails. They are not good much else.  We shouldn’t just use a hammer when we are building a house.

Yet, that is often how education is viewed in the west today, even among Christians.  One of the greatest insights progressive secular culture has understood is those who control the school control the culture.  They have sold the song of the “neutral school” and used it to shape the hearts and minds of generations.  They have realized that education shapes a person.

Why is it that according to variety research institutions 70-80% of students leave Christianity after college?  As a former youth pastor I always struggled with that statistic.  The truth is meeting for two hours every Wednesday and going to camp every summer can’t over come the institutional shaping of the public school system.  Could it be students “lose their faith” because they have spent their whole education being shaped to embrace progressive secularism?

Yet, we as Christian parents tell ourselves…

“He has good Christian friends.  He’ll be okay in high school.”

“She will learn to defend her faith!”

“It’s and opportunity for my kids to be salt and light.”

We don’t send missionaries into foreign countries to be salt and light without training and evidence of spiritual maturity.  Why would we think that our children would be an exception?

Education is not a hammer.  Education is always religious and it is always full person.  It is time that we as Christians began to treat it that way.