“Why do I hafta go to school? Book learning won’t help me in the real world. Who needs to read literature? What good is algebra or physics? Why is grammar important? I hate school!”
Parents and teachers are about to be barraged by these and other statements of indignation from young people about to get on the school bus this fall. Arthur Holmes gave a good response in his book The Idea of a Christian College.
“The question to ask about education is not, ‘What can I do with it?’ The right question is rather, ‘What can it do to me?” (25)
Some students learn their view of education from culture. We live in a day of rampant individualistic-materialistic-pragmatism: translated that means we want what we want and will do what it takes to get it.
Some families have bought into the idea that education is good if it translates into good money. Recent reports that more education means more money promote the degree-equals-dollars mentality.
But remember the important question, “What can education do to me?”
Listen to what education did to Clif Cleaveland, a medical doctor. He writes in his book Sacred Space: Stories from a Life in Medicine,
I realize the incompleteness of medical education based solely upon science. Doctors live among stories. Imaginative literature has taught me more about my patients than any course or text in science. It is literature that permits us to feel our way into our patients’ experiences. (26)
Dr. Jill Peláez Baumgaertner tells her own story about the importance of education.
When I was a sophomore at a college in Georgia, I first read William Faulkner. I read Absalom! Absalom!, and the direction of my life was changed forever. The world I read about was magnetic, drawing me into it. The book forced me to vicariously experience the struggles of a family over several generations. I grappled with issues I had never considered before. Up to that point literature had been merely a diversion for me. However, with Faulkner I began to understand that well written fiction asked the big questions about human nature and God and our place in the world; it [called] me to a life in literature. I switched majors from chemistry to English. My father had apoplexy. (199)
Some may say a good job is the answer to “Why do I hafta go to school?”
But remember the question is not “What can I get out of education?” but rather “What can education do to me?”
50. That is how many years Mark has spent in school, one way or another. Dr. Mark Eckel is Vice President of Academic Affairs, Crossroads Bible College. This essay will be heard via Moody Radio in August, 2012.