Confessions 1.xiii(22) – 1.xvi(26)
I found this section of book one in Augustine’s confessions to be particularly interesting. He speaks of the education that he received as a young boy. Looking back he realizes that he was taught the myths and stories of the Greeks and Romans as a means of teaching him to read and write. However, he explains that his main concern as a boy was not the development of a skill set but a fascination with the tales. But now, he laments his fascination, “Obviously I much prefer to forget the wanderings of Aeneas and all that stuff than to write and read” (Chadwick, ed. 16). Augustine sees the immense value of an education but expresses a distaste for the means.
The reason he loves the message but decries the means is “the words actually encourage the more confident committing of a disgraceful action. I bring no charge against the words which are like exquisite and precious vessels, but the wine of error is poured into them for us by drunken teachers. If we failed to drink, we were caned and could not appeal to any sober judge” (19). The words themselves are a wonderful testimony to the power and wonder of language. Unfortunately, the words contain a poison to the soul and conscience that weaken resolve and make immorality appear appropriate. To make matters worse, he was unable to plead to any court an excused absence from these studies. His only end is the cane.
The reason I found this section to be so intriguing is that it causes educators to be discerning in the means of their pedagogy. Certainly, this discernment has led to the rise of Christian schools. Uncritical dissemination of information through any means can lead to an unwise life – educated though they may be. Teaching the appreciation of literature through unnecessarily immoral works without the grid of a sound theological system will only fill the minds of students with folly. This provides my new position as a Pastor of Education with a renewed sense of purpose and meaning. I am not only teaching people the content of Scripture. I am teaching them to think biblically, understanding the world through a sound theological grid and that, in turn, will give them a foundation for understanding and assimilating the skills they use everyday.
The knowledge of God’s Word is the greatest achievement and highest calling of any student, teacher, pastor and parishioner.