Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (11)


C.S. Lewis (cont'd)

In God in the Dock, where Lewis addresses modernity’s desire to put the existence of God on trial, states, “A society which is predominantly Christian will propagate Christianity through its schools: one which is not will not.”(1) This is a warning for church leaders and parents to not expect Christian culture to be the fruit of pagan education.

In “De Descriptione Temporum,” Lewis addresses the decline in education. “We have lived to see the second death of ancient learning. In our time something which was once the possession of all educated men has shrunk to being the technical accomplishment of a few specialists…If one were looking for a man who could not read Virgil though his father could, he might be found more easily in the twentieth century than in the fifth.”(2)

By 1955, Lewis saw that the previous generation was no longer passing down the ability to think universally. Specialization and professionalization would replace integrated education.

In Rehabilitations, Lewis explains both Milton’s and Aristotle’s educational purposes:
…to produce the good man and the good citizen, though it must be remembered that we are not here using the word ‘good’ in any narrowly ethical sense. The ‘good’ man’ here remains the man of good taste and good feeling, the interesting and interested man, and almost the happy man…Vocational training, on the other hand prepares the pupil not for leisure, but for work; it aims at making not a good man but a good banker, a good electrician, a good scavenger, or a good surgeon. You see at once that education is essentially for freemen and vocational training for slaves.(3)
So in 1939, Lewis is prophetically attacking the philosophy espoused in the 1996 book Teaching the New Basic Skills: Principles for Educating Children to Thrive in a Changing Economy by Murnane and Levy.(4) Their entire premise is that the main role of modern schools is to prepare students for employment: not to brain train, not to think critically, but to follow directions.

(1) C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 116.
(2) C. S. Lewis, Selected Literary Essays, ed. Walter Hooper (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 4.
(3) C.S. Lewis, Rehabilitations and Other Essays (London, UK: Oxford University Press, 1939), 81-5.
(4) Richard J. Murnane and Frank Levy, Teaching the New Basic Skills: Principles for Educating Children to Thrive in a Changing Economy (New York: Free Press, 1996).

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

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