The ‘moral and spiritual culture’ that elevates education

A Christian Science perspective: A response to revising American history curriculum.

With school in the U.S. and elsewhere in full swing, it’s a good time to remember there’s more to education than just learning core facts and developing basic skills.

The Monitor reported on the U.S. College Board’s rewrite of the 2015 Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History course, to pare down issues on slavery and give more emphasis to American “exceptionalism.” Arguments and protests about what some see as a politicization of the AP curriculum have raised questions about education.

One historian interviewed for the article said, “History needs to deal with unpleasant topics as much as high achievements. You can’t just ignore past injustices because you don’t like them” (“New guidelines for AP history: Are they still unpatriotic?”

Today’s scholars rapidly become the world’s thinkers and doers of tomorrow. Within a broad classroom experience of history, science, language, math, and the arts, they’re encouraged to explore not just the triumphs, but also the struggles, failures, and excesses of their nation. This is vital to charting their own course, as well as the collective course of society into the future.

Yet another form of education to shape society involves exploring and answering the even deeper needs that come from understanding who we are and what shapes us. The Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, “... it is not so much academic education, as a moral and spiritual culture, which lifts one higher” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 235).

To be clear, this isn’t advocating that public schools teach religion; rather, a deeper “spiritual culture” is an individual journey of thought that begins at home, and sets one on the path of progress toward right living through the development of right thinking. And right thinking certainly does complement and even enhance education.

The verb “to educate” comes from the Latin meaning “to lead out of.” To me, spiritual education is a lifelong journey out of conventional, mortal-based thinking into better conditions of thought and living through understanding the law of God. Knowing God better as the creator of all can greatly magnify a full academic experience by fueling more meaningful curiosity and engagement with the world around us. It enables us not only to discover our true, spiritual purpose, direction, and worth, but to help others discover theirs, as well.

Mrs. Eddy also wrote: “Academics of the right sort are requisite. 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” (Science and Health, p. 195). In my own experience as a Christian Scientist, I’ve found that as I grow in my understanding of God, I’m able to define knowledge and learning more effectively in spiritual terms.

Spiritual knowledge and learning empowers us to live and practice, here in today’s world, what Christ Jesus taught. As he said in his Sermon on the Mount: “Ye are the light of the world.... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16). For anyone actively seeking spiritual ideas that will lift their viewpoint above the superficial, there’s a wealth of spiritual wisdom in the Bible – vital lessons for living and learning that bless ourselves, as well as the world we all live in together.

The wisdom of spiritual truth leads humanity out of evil into good; from mistaken beliefs to spiritual understanding; from fear, lust, and greed, to divine Love – which magnifies only good. Christ-teaching educates us in what it means to be the child, man, or woman of God’s creating – forever developing in wisdom and incorruptibility; always embracing health, holiness, and life.

These lessons of true spiritual “exceptionalism” enable us to disarm fear and ignorance, to promote healing and make peace. The natural (and very practical) result of spiritually attuned learning is that we discover how to reach a higher level of thought that enables us to tangibly comfort a world that’s often hurting. By lifting up the standard of respect, compassion, and integrity, it helps us become better citizens, better friends and family members, and better healers.

As we bring this sort of clarity and Christly compassion into our daily lives individually, we’ll increase our ability to inspire tangible change – for the better – for our world.

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