What is true education?

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Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer wrote, "In our modern forms of specialized education there is a tendency to lose the whole in the parts, and in this sense we can say that our generation produces few truly educated people. True education means thinking by associating across the various disciplines, and not just being highly qualified in one field, as a technician might be" (The God Who is There, IVP 30th anniversary edition, p. 32).

The late American philosopher Mortimer Adler shared Schaeffer's concerns and referred to "the barbarism of specialization." Adler pointed out that the great books of the Western world were all written by generalists, not by specialists (The Great Conversation, p. 35).

But what did Adler and Schaeffer mean? After all, specialization is helpful to some extent. No one wants to have brain surgery performed by a physician who is not a specialist! Schaeffer and Adler didn't dispute this. Instead, they were concerned with the overall lack of knowledge in areas of great importance. What are these areas? Some include science, literature, philosophy, the fine arts, history, and religion.

At Sonlight we seek to provide well-rounded curricula, sometimes concentrating on areas of specialization, but often looking at educational topics broadly and across disciplines so we don't "lose the whole in the parts." We also want children to think across disciplines, not just viewing certain subjects in isolation.

To more fully integrate the Christian worldview into every area of our lives, we need a better understanding of the significant areas and intellectual contributions of many subject areas.

Do you agree with Schaeffer's definition of "true education"? If not, how would you define it? What steps are you taking to help your children strive to become truly educated? Let us know!

Robert Velarde
Product Development
Sonlight Curriculum

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About Robert

Robert Velarde serves as a curriculum creator with Sonlight's product development team. He’s author of The Wisdom of Pixar, A Visual Defense, Conversations with C.S. Lewis, The Golden Rules of Narnia, and more.
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2 Responses to What is true education?

  1. Paula says:

    I totally agree with this assessment. It wasn't until my first or second year of college that I finally understood that the various disciplines were interrelated. Those little historical and biographical introductions in my literature books hadn't helped me make those connections, and in fact, I hadn't understood the relevance of those boring introductions anyway (and got little, if anything, out of them). I believe the context of the bigger picture is absolutely necessary, or much of what is taught is meaningless.

    At the risk of sounding patronizing, I'll say that this is one of the big reasons I chose Sonlight when I decided to homeschool last year. I knew I didn't want my son to have to wait until college to understand that interrelation, and I liked the way Sonlight helps make those connections in the history and literature curricula.

  2. Robert Robert says:

    Thanks for your comments, Paula. I'm so glad to hear that Sonlight is working out for you!

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