W. Lamar Stockton Dallas Baptist University Friday Symposium September 24, 2004
A Philosophy of the Idea of Christian Liberal Arts Education Why is it important? I think rather that the Christian college has not sufficiently articulated its educational philosophy, and has not sold the evangelical public or perhaps even its own students and teachers on what it is trying to do…Christian education should not blindfold the student’s eyes to all the world has to offer, but it should open them to truth wherever it may be found, truth that is ultimately unified in and derived from God. It should be a liberating experience that enlarges horizons, deepens insight, sharpens the mind, exposes new areas of inquiry, and sensitizes our ability to appreciate the good and the beautiful as well as the true 1 What is the purpose of higher education? Why should one attend a university and what should he or she hope to come away with when all is said and done? Sufficient answers to these questions and others like them are essential to the educational responsibility of students and teachers alike. For thousands of years, educators, academics and philosophers have wrestled with such inquiries, earnestly struggling to uncover the keys to securing a good education for themselves and those to follow. Some have met the challenge with great success and others to no avail. Unfortunately, in more recent times it seems that less and less thought is being given to the original purpose of education. Or maybe it is not that less thought is given to the matter, but rather that less is being done to help students obtain a good, well-rounded education and understand the purpose of their education. Many students finish high school and head straight to college with no idea where they are, why they are or what they are going to do with themselves. As V. James Mannoia Jr. puts it in Christian Liberal Arts: An Education That Goes Beyond, “Unfortunately for many Americans, college has become a rite of passage that obscures the deeper questions about the purposes and distinctives of educational institutions.”2 Even more tragic is the fact that many teachers have lost sight of the purpose of education as well. Our universities are full of professors who profess nothing at all or, worse yet, indoctrinators who offer neat and tidy answers to un-pondered questions. It seems we have traded well-rounded, intentional education for equal-opportunity vocationalism. We are robbing some of a good education in order to give everyone a mediocre education. Students today are simply fashioned into tools of production—a bureaucrat’s ideal. We go to high school in order to get out and go to college. We go to college in order to get out (as quickly as possible), get a job and start making money. Education has truly become “an appendage to the world of business.”3 Schools and universities today are not about the business of cultivating souls for the present, but of carving marionettes for the future. “In short,” writes Mannoia, “there is a crisis of identity in many educational institutions in the United States today.”4 They do not understand their mission—their purpose—thus they 1 2
Arthur F. Holmes, The Idea of a Christian College (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 10, 19. V. James Mannoia Jr., Christian Liberal Arts: An Education That Goes Beyond (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000), 1-2. 3 Christopher J. Lucas, Our Western Educational Heritage (New York: Macmillan, 1972), quoted in David Naugle, “The Greek Concept of Paideia.” An essay given in PCS 4390 Pietas et Doctrina I: Studies in Christian Scholarship at Dallas Baptist University, January 28, 2002. 4 Mannoia, 2.
fall short of what they could and should be. A need for clarification exists, and as Christians we have a duty to be involved in the reshaping—the redemption5, if you will—of education. The objective of this project is to clarify in my own mind the purpose of education, and to demonstrate how that...