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The Sin of Mediocrity

A few years ago, I heard one of the classical educators mention that one of the sins that our generation commits easily is the “sin of mediocrity.” That phrase was new to me, so it drew my attention to read more about it. The claim is that in general our generation has lowered the standards for our children and that parents and students are easily satisfied with those lower standards. My immediate gut reaction is: “really? I know a lot of people who are really educationally ambitious.” But then, as I read more, I found out what the educator is talking about. His claim is that what many parents think of as high standards are really low standards by biblical standards.

Here are two of those biblical standards:

1. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Dt 6:5).

2. Fathers, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4).

That is a very high standard. The word “discipline” (paideia) refers to a comprehensively Christ-centered enculturation. When people think of these biblical goals of education, many think of them as either 1) unrealistic goals, or 2) goals that have very little to do with academic training, goals that can co-exist with high levels of secular education. This is where parents tend to compromise, for several reasons. They will either not pursue the biblical standards, or compromise them with worldly standards, and come up with some kind of justification. That’s what that educator means by the “sin of mediocrity.” Intentional compromise of biblical standards, while clearly knowing what God requires.

God’s standards are impossible to reach by our own strength. That’s what God expects because he expects education to be one of learning to depend on God’s grace and God’s strength every step of the way. That has vast implications for the way we do education. Education is about discipleship. Education is about integration of personal faith in Jesus with every area of academics. Education is not about merely about personal achievements, but sanctification. Education is about learning to being molded into the image of Jesus Christ. It is one thing to fall short of God’s standards, but it is another to substitute worldly educational goals with God’s own.

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