I am reading a very thought-provoking book, new to me but perhaps not to some of you. It’s titled Redeeming the Time, and author Russell Kirk (1918-1994) leaves me with no doubt that my time with him has thus far been well spent.
And while I wasn’t going to post much here while I’m working on my new blog (more on this soon), I cannot help but share with you some words that have me thinking deeply about not only the education of my children, but how my college students might benefit from resounding articulations such as these:
The primary purpose of a liberal education, then, is the cultivation of the person’s own intellect and imagination, for the person’s own sake. It ought not to be forgotten, in this mass-age when the state aspires to be all in all, that genuine education is something higher than an instrument of public policy. True education is meant to develop the individual human being, the person, rather than to sever the state. (p. 43)
You will have gathered already that I do not believe it to be the primary function of formal schooling to “prepare boys and girls for jobs.” If all schools, colleges and universities were abolished tomorrow, still most young people would find lucrative employment, and means would exist, or would be developed, for training them for their particular types of work. [Isn’t this now called ‘career-ready’ in high schools?] Rather, I believe it to be the conservative mission of liberal learning to develop right reason among young people. (p. 44)
By ‘conservative’ Kirk clearly spells out that “…whatever the private political prejudices of professors, the function of liberal education is to conserve a body of received knowledge and to impart an apprehension of order to the rising generation.” (p. 44; bold mine) When defining ‘liberal education,’ he means “an ordering and integrating of knowledge for the benefit of the free person.” (p. 41)
One final quote from Kirk – because, really, there’s so much to think about here:
When I say that we experience an increased need for truly liberal learning, I am recommending something to leaven the lump of modern civilization – something that would give us a tolerable number of people in different walks of life who would possess some share of right reason and moral imagination; who would not shout the price of everything, but would know the value of something; who would be schooled in wisdom and virtue.
I am suggesting that college and university ought not be degree-mills: they ought to be centers for genuinely humane and genuinely scientific studies, attended by young people of healthy intellectual curiosity who actually show some interest in mind and conscience. I am saying that the higher learning is meant to develop order in the soul, for the human person’s own sake. I am saying that the higher learning is meant to develop order in the commonwealth, for the republic’s sake. I am arguing that a system of higher education which has forgotten these ends is decadent; but that decay may be arrested, and that reform and renewal are still conceivable. I am declaring that the task of the liberal educator, in essence, is a conservative labor. (p. 46)
And so while I have thoughts of other writers, thinkers and doers running through my head (Charlotte Mason, anyone?), I keep returning to Jotham:
So Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God. 2 Chronicles 27:6