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Well-rounded education Striving to live in a narrow world

When the competitive environment of education tempts the student to pursue his area of natural excellence in hopes of developing a particular distinction, he often forgets to diligently focus his pursuits on the most important aim of all: everything.

As intimidating as it might sound, an experience of the wide expanse of the world and human nature is precisely what is needed to bring us to fully use and appreciate our own gift of being human. If the world is, in fact, a gift of God lovingly granted that we might know Him better, coming to know and appreciate it in fullness will be a sincere endeavor in Christian education.

The human experience itself is the greatest education we can find and a well-rounded education pushes us towards loving it fully.

Education is not just an academic affair nor does it culminate in us thinking that education is the apex of human experience. True education is actually something of a paradox – it leads us to the understanding that what we can know is itself limited. Education educates us into the knowledge of its own limits.

A full education gains us the knowledge that the mind is a frail instrument in the grasping of truth. Montaigne, probably the best read man of his age, described the mind as a mouse in a pitch barrel. The more it turns about and struggles for knowledge, the more surely it works itself to exhaustion and its own destruction.

Dante portrayed Odysseus' journey towards exhaustive human knowledge as leading to his ship sinking in the vast unknown ocean. Similarly Einstein stated, “What is most incomprehensible about nature is the fact that anything is comprehensible.”

Galileo Galilei (1564–1642)

Education leads us to desire knowledge, but also to deeply feel its limitations and understand that reason is simply a reliable tool, neither our destiny nor our god. The beautiful palace of life is a reality we simply find ourselves within, to behold and be inspired by-- it cannot be constructed out of man’s reason and will never be small enough to be encompassed by its understanding.

How can education keep focused on being a well-rounded introduction to the wonderful life-long hobby of being human? A student who loves math should be stretched to learn to love a good story full of the observations about human character that come with good reading. When a student would love to spend his days tearing through novel after novel, he also needs to work through the world of mathematics and the careful world of analytic thought. The rhetorical puppy dog who only loves to debate politics or other easily controversial topics needs to learn to sing in harmony and experience the joy of dance with pleasant female companionship.

Life itself is an education, but often we tend to lock ourselves away in the safe house of our own personal preferences, or more presumptuously, our assumed strengths. Though those secure spaces are comforting, they rarely stretch us where we are most rigid. They often capture us in the prison of our narrow preferences and keep us watching the same life movies over and over again until we like nothing but what we know, and know nothing but what we like.

It is Christ that transforms man into what he is truly made to be; it is only in obedience to his will that man may find his true self—just as a violin may only fulfill its purpose as a violin by bringing forth melody and song. If a man does not learn to submit to another, he will never be a man, but a tyrant—a tyrant over, and to, himself. A man cannot be a true man, the man that God has created him to be, until he has learned to submit to the Lord of his life. Ashley Carr - GBT V Essay

An insecure teacher will seek students who have particular strengths and then will feed them tasks that reinforce their existing abilities. This approach will quickly produce very good verifiable testing results; however, a nobler path is to seek to stretch each student to embrace more of what he finds challenging in life.

As we seek to live well and gain wisdom, the whole counsel of life is often a wonderful guide and friend. Living life is an education itself, so a good teacher pushes the student to use the freedom of his scholarly youth to take the time to learn from a wide scope of experience and take advantage of the learning that can be found scattered about the playground of life.

God lovingly lays out for us a creation pressed down and crammed full with all that is sweet and pregnant with meaning.

By learning from and imbibing all that is good, we fortify ourselves from despair at the knowledge of our wounded condition and lay away visions for the day of discouragement when faced with the merciless brokenness of life.

When we understand that the full scope of life is the object of education, not only will we strive to become skilled and proficient in all the human faculties, mastering all their complexity, but we will also work to love and revere all that is simple and good.

Credits:

Created with images by Tatyana Gladskih - "Pantheons dome" • anghinet - "Ancient bronze navigation Sextant Astrolabe, isolate on white background" • Veronika Galkina - "Florence" • jorisvo - "Antique book racks in an old library in Vienna"

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