Education vs. Training, Being vs. Doing

It is not uncommon to hear a parent say to a child, “Go to school and make good grades so you can get a good job.” While obtaining skills for a future career is certainly a biblical objective, if the school years are reduced to mere training for labor, what kind of graduates — what kind of people — will that produce?

Historically, a man who was valued solely for what he could do rather than for who he was as a person, was known as…a slave. In general, slaves were regarded as property to be used and disposed of at will. It did not matter if the slave could think and communicate, or extend love and kindness to others. What mattered to the owner was what that slave could do for him. Slaves were trained, but free men were educated. This type of education was known as liberal arts, with liberal meaning “befitting free men.”

The liberal arts had a specific curriculum of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, (called the Trivium) and mathematics, geometry, music, and astronomy (the Quadrivium). Together, this curriculum formed the seven liberal arts, which served as the foundation of the classical educational system in the ancient world through early America.

The educational system of America used to be seen as one whole made of several parts: primary, secondary, undergraduate college, university, and technical school. The first three units of this educational whole utilized the liberal arts as a means of formative education.

The intention of formative education was to shape the character and personality of the child–in contrast to modern education–that focuses on developing skills for the workforce. Classical education produced scores of exemplary high achieving people, in particular, the founding fathers of our country. With the granting of the Spirit of Christ, a thoroughly and explicitly Christian classical education compels children not to attain their highest potentials, but attain to the glory of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:21).

After the formative education years, the twenty-year old graduate of the college would be prepared to enter a training school, either the university for training in one of the “learned” professions (theologian, doctor, lawyer) or the technical/science school for professions such as agriculture, architecture, and engineering. This system of education proved an excellent balance between education and training, between being and doing.

As parents, and thus your child’s primary educators, how are you at balancing “being” and “doing” in your child? For example, when designing a chore chart for your child, does it list only things to do, like make bed, clear dishes? How about emphasizing, “make bed thoroughly, clear dishes cheerfully.” Or, instead of always asking what they want to be when they grow up, ask them who they want to be. It matters to God not only what we do, but who we are.

In a shaky economy, it is tempting to give in to pragmatism, making decisions based merely on their obvious practical benefit. At Agape Christi Academy, we do not teach Latin so that students can make better scores on the SAT. We do not have challenging academics so that they can be accepted to top universities. Those are proven benefits, yes, but that is not what drives us to do them. As our vision states, we want to cultivate joyful young people whose lives reflect the truth in love. Our aim is that students live faithful Christian lives, equipped to lead and transform culture through the gospel to the glory of God.

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