Part of the dialogue today about educational reform concerns what should be taught to the rising generation. What will help them succeed? What will make them problem-solvers and contributors to the good of society?
Though methods and material have changed over the past 50 years, there is still a core of moral values that remains central to education that best serves its purpose. The development of honesty, unselfishness, integrity, courage, a love for others – this is what gives learners the moral and spiritual building blocks without which education would be hollow.
Are these qualities of character rarer now than in the past? An overview of society would indicate a grave deficiency in ethics. But some teachers are finding signs that children’s moral fiber survives even under harsh circumstances. These examples of goodness defying the conditions around it hint at the presence of a spiritual intuition that is innate in all children.
There is a recurring message throughout the Scriptures that wisdom and knowledge are God-given, not man-made. The book of Proverbs says: “The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous” (2:6, 7). The Bible intimates that righteousness is connected with wisdom – that as we learn of God, we increase in wisdom.
How much we learn would seem to be the responsibility of the family and school. Yet there is an education that neither family nor schools is responsible for. God instructs each one of us, in that He equips us with a moral and spiritual sense that enables us to discriminate between right and wrong. He makes us who we truly are – and who we are is much more than mortal appearances would suggest. The infinite God is infinite Mind, and His reflection, or spiritual creation, is man. As the idea of God, man reflects the breadth of Mind’s intelligence and the vastness of God’s love. Wasn’t Christ Jesus’ entire life an illustration of man’s real spiritual selfhood?
True education is an awakening process. Our moral and spiritual strengths are awakened through example and experience. Insofar as we are interested in spiritual development within society, we have a responsibility to practice in our own lives what we would have the younger citizens cultivate in theirs. It would be mistaken to think that values could be successfully taught in school if they aren’t important to society at large.
Christian Science educates the individual with spiritual truths that lift one out of narrow materialism. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, shows the depth of her knowledge of what forwards learning in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” She writes, for example, “Observation, invention, study, and original thought are expansive and should promote the growth of mortal mind out of itself, out of all that is mortal” (p. 195).
Education should make us better people. It should help us choose between good and evil so that civic, business, and family life are improved. When we start in our own lives to practice moral discernment, we are proving with small beginnings that man as God has made him is not deficient in any quality.
From a spiritual perspective, we discern that nothing is missing in us or our children. The qualities of righteousness – as the Bible calls being right with God – belong to His expression, man, which is our genuine identity. Education at its best includes the spiritual education that teaches us that striving for righteousness is the most successful and rewarding way to live. When morality is part of our learning, education can play a vital part in helping to uplift our families and communities.
Reprinted from the Sept. 25, 1991, issue of The Christian Science Monitor.