Author: Brian Emmet, New Covenant School Chaplain
Does “education” have a goal, a purpose? Is it mainly focused on getting a job? Or is the end goal to become a particular kind of person? Is it more about identifying a student’s unique interests and passions; or is helping children fit into and function productively within an increasingly complex world the higher priority? Should a school focus more on equipping students with knowledge, skills and competencies, or on developing students as women and men of “character”?
I think we want both–we want the educational processes our children go through to equip them to be able to succeed and contribute in an ever-faster and more complex world—but not, in Jesus’ words, “at the cost of their souls.”
If schools are to play any role in “character development,” they will have to do so from a well-articulated position of what it means to be a human being. We can’t speak about “character,” using words like courage, integrity, grit, temperance, justice or prudence without operating within some kind of paradigm about human personhood: Do we bear the image of God, or are we mainly our rational brains, carried about on our physical bodies?
Character formation will happen: we will become a certain sort of being, both as individuals and as cultures, societies and civilizations. If you had to list the five character traits that you deem most important for your children, what would make the list? And once you have that list, ask yourself another question: what type of “education” (broadly defined) will serve to develop those character qualities in your children?