Education: The High Stakes Endeavor

Education: The High Stakes Endeavor
Howe Whitman, Jr.

Dr. Leonard Sax is a practicing family physician with over 30 yeas of clinical experience. He's an MIT graduate, who then earned an MD and PhD at Penn. He has written extensively in the last decade about this generation of children and their parents. His observations from a clinical research perspective are uncannily similar to the conclusions we have formed at Wilberforce, and with Christian teaching. Read this extended quote from his recent book:

"A regular contributor to the New York Times, Jennifer Finney Boylan, recently published a column in which she asked the question: What is school for? What does 'getting an education' actually mean? What should it mean? Boylan offers two contrasting ideals, on old and one new. The old ideal, as she describes it, is about 'handing down shared values of the community to the next generation.'This ideal she disparages. In its place, she promotes a new ideal, which she describes as: 'enlightening our children's minds with the uncensored scientific and artistic truth of the world.If that means making our own sons and daughters strangers to us, then so be it.'

"That may sound brave and noble to some. It is certainly vintage 21st century American. But the moment you begin to unpack it, questions arise. What precisely is the 'artistic truth of the world'? Is the music of Mozart and Beethoven and Brahms and Stravinsky and Copland closer to the 'artistic truth of the world' than the music of Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj and Lil' Wayne and Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus?Are the ethics of Lehman Brothers circa 2007 better or worse than the ethics of Mother Teresa circa 1977? Who gets to decide? If one simply sets kids loose in the chaos of 21st century culture in the hopes that they will discover the 'artistic truth of the world,' what those kids will discover is most likely the popular culture of the Internet, social media, online video games, and pornography. They will have no standard by which to judge Miley Cyrus or Nicki Minaj in comparison with Stravinksky or Copland, no standard by which to compare accounting gimmicks at Lehman Brother with the altruism of Mother Teresa, because no authoritative teacher will have instructed them in a scale of value. Self-control is not innate. Honesty is not innate. These virtues have to be taught.If you don't teach them, who will? You can't rely on schools to do this job. Not in the United States. Not in this era.

"... This peculiar notion – that the best schools are those that most completely sever the bonds between parent and child, that most completely undermine parents' values and traditions – is uniquely American.Reject the notion of virtue promoted by Boylan& Co. Think carefully about the virtues you want your children to possess, and teach them diligently.Inscribe them on your children.... The stakes are the highest imaginable: the health and happiness of your child.This matters." - The Collapse of Parenting, Leonard Sax, p. 136

Sometimes it's surprising when an outside observer's observations of the world describe biblical truths that we already know. But it's nice when it happens.

Sax's recommendations sound a lot like our guiding scripture at Wilberforce:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. - Deuteronomy 6:6-7

It is a privilege to partner with parents in this "high stakes" endeavor.