Darrell Hershberger challenges Christian schools to consider the goal of education. Should we make each student’s personal success the ultimate end, or is there a higher vision for our work?
(In a devotional at the Conservative Anabaptist School Board Institute, Darrell reflected on how American education in the mid-20th century was shaped by the competition between the USA and the USSR.)
Education became something that had never happened before, and science, math, and engineering really did take off. And guess what? They did catch up.
So what is our big why? Are we trying to catch the Russians? I don’t think so. For our biggest why, look at the scriptures and what Jesus said the biggest why was. If you’re going to look at this, it’s in Mark 10:30. A Jewish lawyer asked Jesus, “What’s the most important command? What are we supposed to be doing here above all else?” And Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second commandment is just like it. Love your neighbor as yourself.”
That’s a big why in scripture. That’s the most important command. That’s what our mission is supposed to be. So is that our mission in schools? I think, too often, we state that might be our mission. In fact, that’s in our mission statement in school, is that we are preparing students to serve. But I think the unconscious and assumed purpose for school is often about preparing students for success for themselves. It’s so widely assumed in the educational world that questioning it seems almost bizarre. Why would you question that purpose for education?
But should the why of our education have a really close connection to the first and second commandments? “Love the Lord your God with everything” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I think it’s clear it should.
Ultimately, a servant education refocuses education from a self-centered activity—”How will this help me?”—to a God-centered endeavor: “How will this help me serve God and the church?” This refocusing of education is for every facet of education.
Just imagine what that would mean if we really, really take that to heart in our education. If this education for you, young man, is not about your success. It’s about you learning to serve. It is about their success in that they need skills and they need to be successful in order to serve, but the end of this is not your success and it’s not just equipping you to do whatever you want with your life. It’s about equipping you to love and serve God and your neighbor.
I think a classic indicator of where our priorities actually are is this question that students ask. They ask, “How will learning blank help me?” It reveals all of our assumed goals for education. That education is about helping me.
So I think once we change our purpose and that is rooted deeply into our schools and into our students’ mindset about school, the question will change. Not, “How will this help me?” But, “How is this going to help me serve my brother in church? How is this going to help me love and serve my neighbor? How is this going to help me be all I can be for God and for the people that need me?”
Pass it on: