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The Purposes of Education

By Sam Blumenfeld
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #73, 2006.

The four-fold purpose of education.
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Sam Blumenfeld

The purposes of education, as understood by American educators until a generation ago, are four-fold: 1. To know God. 2. To know the world. 3. To know others. 4. To know ourselves.

Every homeschooling parent, Christian or otherwise, should plan a curriculum that embraces all four purposes. With such a guide, the parent will know what to teach and how to fulfill those four purposes.

Of course, there are parents who hold a more libertarian view about education. They will gladly give their children the greatest freedom to learn whatever they want whenever they want it. They believe that their children are quite capable of figuring out what they need to know with very little parental guidance. Generally, such parents have a low estimation of their own ability to guide their children, and believe that children are naturally imbued with this philosophical ability to guide themselves.

But if you believe that the goal of education is to pass on to the future generation the knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual values of the past generation, then it is the duty of parents to guide their children in the proper direction.

It is vitally important for children to know God and to love the God that created them. And that means studying the Word of God and becoming aware of what God expects from human beings. And He expects great things. Just read Genesis 1:27-28:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish in the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Quite a commission! Man is to create families, replenish the earth, that is to farm it and conserve it, and subdue it, that is, turn the wilderness into a productive garden so that it serves man's needs. Think of all the talents and abilities needed to do all of that. God goes even further in commanding what man must do. He says in Genesis 2:19:

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

So God commanded Adam to become an observer of nature, a scientist, and a lexicographer, an inventor of names - in short, the builder of a literate civilization. How can one not love a God who wants so much good for man, who is so benevolent toward Adam, the first human being?

Thus, knowledge and love of God must be the first purpose of education. The second purpose, knowledge of the world, requires the kind of knowledge that God outlined in Genesis 2-19, plus all the knowledge that has been accumulated by man since that auspicious beginning. Libraries, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and universities are the depositories of all that knowledge. A literate child will be able to have access to all of that knowledge and learning. So high literacy must be a goal of any educational program.

The third purpose - to know others - is important if we are to have a coherent society and be able to understand our fellow human beings. We read in Genesis 2:18-24:

And the Lord God said, It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him... And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Thus, in order for human beings to be able to live in harmony with one another, knowing how to understand and serve others is essential. Husbands must love their wives, and vice versa. Parents must love their children in order to be able to educate them. And we must all be able to love our friends... and our enemies.

The fourth purpose of education - to know oneself - is equally necessary, for introspection is an essential part in becoming a creative and loving human being.

It is quite amazing to what degree the Bible provides us with a philosophy of education that is both wise and productive. If you raise your children to know and love God, to understand how the world works and to excel in knowledge, to understand and care for other people, and to honestly examine themselves, your children will have received a true education.

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