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The Critical Need to Nurture a Heart for God in our Children

“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles,

but to irrigate deserts.” - C. S. Lewis

 

In this comment, Lewis was prescient about the problem and the solution of education in our times. “Cutting down jungles” signifies the task of the teachers or parents to teach the truth to the mind. “Irrigating deserts” signifies the task of teachers or parents to order the loves of our students, to enlarge their hearts to enjoy God’s truth, goodness, and beauty in all things.

 

By the above statement, Lewis was not trying to downplay the role of teaching the truth to the mind, or the importance of training the ability to reason in education. Lewis fell in love with classical education because the first thing he learned from Kirkpatrick, the tutor who changed the course of his life, was logic. When Lewis wrote his essays which deal with topics that require deep discernment, he used logic ruthlessly, as if he were “cutting down jungles,” which resulted in clear and convincing conclusions. An example of this is his essay “Why I am Not a Pacifist?” in The Weight of Glory. Lewis knows the importance of teaching logic and truth to children. 

 

The overriding concern of Lewis in the above statement is that educators and parents have the tendency to separate the education of the mind from the education of the heart ( The Abolition of Man), the mind for the secular life and the heart for the religious life. This is the deathtrap. 


Photograph by Yulhee Lee

In the essay “The Weight of Glory,” Lewis compares the Christian life with that of a student learning Greek poetry. The student cannot reach the point of enjoying reading Sophocles in Greek until he submits himself to the discipline of learning Greek grammar. But the all-important point is the goal of learning Greek grammar—to enjoy reading a classic like Sophocles in Greek. And enjoying Sophocles in Greek is a part of enjoying God’s truth, goodness, and beauty. That is the goal of life, and the goal of education. This is the first difference—enjoyment of the earthly things for its own sake versus enjoyment of the heavenly things on earth.    

 

Lewis describes the difference yet in another way, the difference between education that focuses on the mind only versus an education that aims to enjoy God. It is the difference between training a student to be “moral” or unselfish, and training a student to love. An education that only trains the mind will lead a child to become only unselfish, but not someone who knows how to love others and God.

 

The final difference is in the method of education. Those whose goal is to turn their children merely into unselfish individuals will adopt an evolutionary method of bringing up children, that is by slowly building up skills and “character” that will make them “better” human beings. Those whose goal is to turn their children into individuals who can love others and God with all their heart, mind, and strength will adopt a “weight of glory” method of bringing up children, which is the opposite of the evolutionary method. At its core, to experience the “weight of glory” of God, is to accept and believe in God’s approval. God’s forgiveness, God’s presence, God’s promise, God’s pleasure. So, throughout a child’s educational journey, it is necessary to place nurturing a child’s heart for God as the priority and the aim.  

 

In sum, this is the critical task of our teachers and parents: 1) Aim at leading a child to experience God’s truth, goodness, and beauty, even through all areas of academics, 2) Aim at training a child to love and serve others and transform the culture, and not to pursue after their own goal even in an “unselfish” way. 3) With every opportunity, in and out of class, at or outside of home, help the child to experience God’s manifold grace, and not to “become a better person” by humanistic methods. 

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