We are always looking for experts to fix our problems – plumbers, mechanics, brain surgeons. We feel inadequate to meet the challenges of modern life with our limited abilities. And, as we have seen, nowhere is our sense of inadequacy more acute than in our role as parents. We welcome with open arms the apparent benevolence of the State to provide us with the expertise we need: teachers and a comprehensive public school system.
The public education system perpetuates the myth of the expert by its insistence on controlling the certification of teachers. Most parents are suitably intimidated, aware of their lack of qualifications for raising the children God entrusted to them.
But there is a profound irony here. The modern education system emerged as an expression of The Enlightenment project. Its great luminaries were spot-lighting the way forward into the advancement that resulted from following the experts. But note some of these leading experts:
- Adam Smith never took a course on Economics
- Karl Marx never took a course on Economics, or Political Science
- Charles Darwin never took a course on Biology, though he did have a degree in Theology
- John Dewey, widely regarded as a founding father of public education in North America, never took a course on Education. Which means that he would never have been qualified to teach in any of the public schools he pioneered!
Mark Twain took a different view. Rather than looking for accredited experts in education, all you need, he said, is a teacher at one end of a log and a student at the other. The educational experts who reject such simplicity have succeeded in raising a generation who largely do not know who Mark Twain is!
We suggest that the modern culture of the expert is unhelpful in the realm of education. The African proverb is right: “It takes a village to raise a child”; but a publicly certified fraternity of publicly trained teachers is not a village. Our philosophy of education must be built on the biblical foundation that God entrusted the responsibility of training children to parents; and he did not insist that they took some courses before they would be allowed to have any kids.
But Mark Twain was wrong too. While John Dewey’s views reflected the sophisticated secular humanism of his day, Mark Twain’s comments express the equally unbiblical philosophy of rugged individualism, which is how the west was won (or, perhaps, lost). It takes a village – not a man and a log.
Teaching is not a state-accredited profession; it is a spiritual gift. In relation to spiritual gifts, Paul tells us, “The eye cannot say to the hand ‘I have no need of you’” (1Cor 12:21). Rugged individualism is a log in the eye of many who want to remove the spectre of Statism from our culture. Parents can do it – but they need help. We were designed to need help. God intended that the task of raising and training children would take place in community. Teachers in the community of the Body of Christ are God’s gift to Christian parents. Together we can do it!