Among the many curses of this age—screen inundation, technological overload, constant busy-ness, etc.—one of the most cursed is pragmatism, at least from an educational perspective. One of the most disheartening questions a teacher or administrator can be asked is “What are we ever going to do with this?” as if all learning has to have a specific and direct correlation to some quantifiable, and preferably marketable, use.
It seems that in a fairly short period of time, historically speaking, we’ve completely lost the understanding that the process of learning is itself of great value! Not only that, but there is a vast body of accumulated knowledge and wisdom that is there for the taking (or learning) and which will enrich our lives immeasurably, if only we apply ourselves to it. But it’s so much easier to turn on the TV!
This reminds me of something I read by C.S. Lewis in an essay entitled “The Weight of Glory.” He says, “…we are like ignorant children who want to continue making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” As teachers, we have a passion for transferring to our young charges a small portion of the wealth of knowledge in the world, in the hope that they will develop a passion for learning. The sad thing is that the wisdom and knowledge of the ages can’t compete with Facebook.
Our children need to be taught, by parents who have taken the time to remember, that we are human beings, possessing the unique capacity for thought and reason and appreciation of beauty for its own sake. Education is not for training future workers—it’s for forming human beings. I pray we have the courage to allow our children the privilege of learning things that are totally “useless”—that we will not cultivate in them a disdain for anything that does not contribute to the bottom line.