In the Circe Institute’s latest Forma podcast, host Andrew Kern talks with classical education guru Susan Wise Bauer about her forthcoming latest book, “Rethinking School.” In that book, Bauer argues that the United States’ education system is a poor fit for many children and helps parents think through how to make schooling work for their children given the options they have.
In the podcast, Bauer and Kern veer into many subjects, including an interesting discussion at approximately minute 32 when Kern contrasts the prevalent “Prussian,” or “factory-style” education prevalent today with a style of education that looks more like apprenticeship and discipleship. He says there are essentially three broad types of education: “wisdom education,” focused on cultivating the whole person into maturity through careful and sustained discipleship; “patriotic education,” which focuses more on tradition but to the limits of the “tribe” itself; and an education in “pragmatism,” or “sophistry,” in which the key goal is to be “wealthy and comfortable,” and is thus oriented towards career prep.
We need all three types of education, Kern says, but only the “wisdom”-oriented education offers that. Teaching children cultural myths, fables, and fairy tales is their introduction to wisdom literature. The “patriotic” education encompasses the pragmatic style, while the pragmatic style is the lowest of the three and offers only that avenue of learning to students. Unfortunately, however, that is the style of schooling most prevalent inside the United States and most industrialized countries today. This kind of schooling deprives the human spirit of food and makes education ultimately a boring and meaningless endeavor for many.
Thus, Bauer says, because of our Christian faith, “We’ve got to be part of bringing a non-Prussianized education to more people.” A good education nourishes a human’s body, mind, and soul, and the spiritual starvation prevalent in our culture is a prime need that only Christianity can truly meet.
You can listen to the podcast here.