Jerry Hopkins: Defining education | opinion

Education is a topic that many people are currently talking about, particularly the funding of public education in the State of Texas as the legislature gets underway. We need to consider the importance of education and what is involved in it. My greatest concern is for young people and adults to be well-educated and functional in society. Here are some issues that I think are significant in regards to education. Education is the best investment we can make as individuals and as a society. Billions of dollars are spent on education, directly and indirectly, to fund this important life element.

There are some general principles that are important for the work of educators and students.

First, I believe we were created as rational creatures, making our education foundational in developing our full potential as individuals and members of society. Education is essential for people to function efficiently and successfully in their workplaces, personal lives, political arenas and local communities. We should strive for excellence in reading, writing, mathematics and critical thinking.

Second, I believe that truth exists, and that the quest for truth should be basic in our education. While this involves the equipping of the mind to think, it also involves developing one’s ethical and moral understanding and world view. The existence of truth and how we view the world is directly related to the existence of God. Indeed, all truth is related to the Creator God, including how He brought things into being and how He keeps things going. A very important verse in the Bible is tucked away at the end of 2 Corinthians (13:8) where Paul says, “We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” Truth is real and finds power in the God who fashioned and framed all that is. Truth isn’t what an individual or group thinks it is. It is what is existent, communicated and confirmed by God, what is real.

Third, I believe that education is a lifelong process involving parents, family members, friends, teachers and trainers. We do not stop learning when we finish formal schooling. Education continues through our entire existence. Learning is foundational to who we are and to whatever we do in life. It was Solomon who emphasized the importance of education. He said, “To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion — a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles . The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools desire wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:2-7).

Fourth, I believe that everyone should have the opportunity and encouragement to learn and train for a productive and successful life. We should encourage people in their pursuit of knowledge, training and information. We should take advantage of every opportunity to improve ourselves and to gain more knowledge and wisdom. Education is a good investment of time and treasure.

Fifth, teaching is a noble and admirable calling. The teacher should strive for excellence in both the administration and delivery of classroom instruction. The teacher should be respected and supported as one of the most important members of society. The teacher should also be committed to lifelong learning, striving to improve and retraining to be the best possible instructor/educator. A major problem that exists today in education at all levels is the intrusion of administration into classroom instruction and testing apart from the teacher. I’m not suggesting that teachers should have unqualified freedom in the work of teaching, but I am saying that administrators should work with teachers to give them control and assurance in teaching their subject. Excessive visits and mandated testing by administrators and legislators have devastated our public and private education systems and university classrooms. In the public school system, top-heavy administration has cost an enormous amount of our tax funds and robbed teachers of better pay, not to speak of distractions and unnecessary intrusions into the teaching processes. Administration is essential, but it should not be as complicated and bureaucratic as most of our public and private education systems are today. The teacher is the single most important person in the education of students. Administrators should help the teacher in accomplishing his/her work, not distracting or discounting or dictating what the teacher is doing in the classroom.

These general principles are at the heart of what we should be doing as a society and educational institution. They form the basis for our classes and programs in any institution or educational setting. We must recognize that education, truth, learning, teaching and God fit together. We cannot separate these essentials from one another and engage the education of students without dealing with the existence of God and the intelligent ordering of the universe. I like what Gordon Clark wrote in his great book, A Christian Philosophy of Education, “Theism then is the philosophy that acknowledges God as its first principle. This bare statement does not define Christian theism, however. ‘God’ cannot be taken as an empty name. Christian theism has a very particular definition of God. Since Spinoza called nature God, Christianity can be said to be more interested in what God is, than in the bare existence of something with that name attached to it. The God of Christianity is the God described in the Bible, not the god of Islam, Unitarianism, or some other religion.”

Clark goes on to argue in the conclusion of his chapter on “The Christian World-View,” “It is better to say that the truth of the Bible is the basic axiom of Christian theism, for it is there alone that one learns what God is. It is there alone that one learns what man is. And what children are. And what college students are. And what education should be.” So we should devote ourselves to the task of knowing God, learning what He has said in His revelations (The Bible) and how He works in the world. The quest for truth certainly involves learning and knowing God our Creator and Sustainer. What an educationaladventure!

— You can send your thoughts to [email protected], or by snail mail to Dr. Jerry Hopkins, PO Box 1363, Marshall, Texas 75671. Dr. Jerry Hopkins is a historian and retired professor.

Tags: ,