C. S. Lewis, in his great work on education, The Abolition of Man, noted that the problem of modern education is that it tries to separate the head from the heart, in trying to make education more “scientific” and objective. The underlying assumption in modern educators is that progress of mankind is hindered by subjectivity, whether religious or personal, and that the only way to make progress is to design an educational system which completely separates the head (intellectual content) from the heart (our response to that intellectual content). Another assumption is the separation of the public sphere from the private sphere, and that the goal of education is to train children in knowledge and skills to advance progress in the public sphere. Private sphere is not only seen as not important, but potentially dangerous to the progress in the public sphere. No one could have been more to the point on the greatest problem in education.
Lewis goes on to spell out the disastrous results of such an educational system. When the head is separated from the heart, we lose both. We create men who cannot think clearly, and we create “men without chests” (heart). We create men who are not only selfish, but men who justify their selfishness. We create Christians who are only Christians on weekends, and do not know how to make a difference in the world with their Christian faith.
So, as we set “Cultivating Our Affections” as the 2017-2018 theme of the year, we need to keep in mind that we are trying to reestablish the proper connection between what we believe and feel (heart) and what we think (head).
It is not enough that we emphasize both the training of the mind, and the training of the heart. Although this is slightly better than relativizing the training of the heart to the private sphere, it is essentially the same as separating the head and the heart. From my experience, most Christians are satisfied at merely training the mind and training the heart as two separate spheres of life. Most parents want their children to be academically strong and morally pure, and do not concern themselves about the integration of the head and the heart. Part of the problem is that the “heart” consists only of morality and not spirituality, only of not doing bad things, and not about a genuine relationship with God.
One of the most prevalent misconceptions among Christian parents is that academic contents of what their children learn is largely independent from the training of their children’s character and spirituality. Many people assume that what a non-Christian student learns and what a Christian student learns, in their academic content, is exactly the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. In order to illustrate my point, I would like to cite a specific example. We recently observed the solar eclipse. In the celebrated documentary, The Privileged Planet, we learn that two Christian astronomers, Jay Richards and Guillermo Gonzalez, struck upon a deep insight from observing the scientific phenomenon of the solar eclipse. They noticed that it cannot be an accident that we have a perfect solar eclipse, which requires the relative size between the sun and the moon to be exactly the same as the relative distance between sun-earth distance and the moon-earth distance—400 times. They deduce from this that God who provides us with the ability to observe the solar eclipse is the same God who made it observable. Why would God make the solar eclipse unless he wanted us to observe it, and why would God give us the gift of seeing, unless he wanted us to observe his truth, goodness, and beauty? An interesting question related to education comes up at this point: How did Richards and Gonzalez reach this conclusion? Does it have anything to do with their faith as Christians? Could atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins come to a similar conclusion? Should Richards and Gonzalez’ conclusion be considered a fact or a personal opinion? Was Richards and Gonzalez’ conclusion shaped by their commitment as scientists or as Christians, or both? Did their head knowledge influence their heart knowledge, or vice versa? Of course it is both! This example tells us that no piece of knowledge is neutral. We cannot assume that if we teach our children merely facts about the universe, they will figure out who God is and fall in love with God. The lesson that we need to learn is that if we do not teach our children how to integrate their faith with academic learning, they will not only not fall in love with God, but will be “darkened in their understanding,” like the atheists, “alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to the hardness of heart” (Eph 4:18).
In this Bible verse, God could not have put it more clearly that head and the heart influence each other all the time. God made our minds and hearts to influence each other all the time, especially because he expects us to love God with all our hearts and minds (Dt 6:11).
So, as we set out this year to be cultivated in our affections as parents and our children’s affections, let us not naively think that we are trying to emphasize the non-academic aspect of education, nor think that it is not as important as the academics, nor think that we will grow in our affections without integrating it with our studies. If we just cultivate the mind, we will dry up; if we cultivate the affections without the integration of the mind, we will blow up; only by integrating the two, we will grow up.