Dear Friends,

During this week thousands of teenagers will get their A-Level and GCSE examination results, including a number of our own church family. These are not ‘ordinary times’ as far as education is concerned. Over the last 18 months pupils of every age have had their learning interrupted by enforced school closures. In spite of the best efforts of teachers to provide materials and resources to support home learning, not everyone benefited to the same degree. And lost for ever were those opportunities for social interaction – formal and informal – essential aspects of school life. I cherish my memories of playing rugby and cricket, and of appearing in ‘My Fair Lady’, and ‘The Pirates of Penzance’.  And while the focus this week is on schools, we should not forget the disruption suffered by students in universities and colleges; again, being denied the ‘once in a life time’ experience that is being an undergraduate…There will be the usual outcry concerning the grades being awarded. No system is perfect – my own experience of marking examination papers taught me as much – and this year the method devised for the determining of results, school-based teacher assessment, is bound to raise a few eyebrows. But that should not detract from the efforts of the pupils themselves. They did their best and have been rewarded accordingly. They deserve nothing less than our whole hearted congratulations. But there is the more intriguing question, what is a ‘good’ education? We usually answer in terms of a ‘utilitarian’ framework: ‘to get good grades, to get into a good college, to get a good job, to make good money.’ Surely there is more to life than just learning to be useful, and if so there has to be more to education than just learning how to be useful. The Catholic theologian, Matt D’Antuono comments…’Aristotle writes, “There is a sort of education in which parents should train their children, not as being useful or necessary, but because it is liberal and noble.” The utilitarian view of education aims at developing useful human beings. We should be aiming at producing excellent human beings. Good skills are incidental to the human person. Being a good human is essential to the human person. As beings with free will, we participate in our own becoming. What we become depends on what we think, say or do.’ Education, if it is to be ‘education’ has to have as its primary goal not ‘usefulness’ but ‘excellence’. Paul introduces the 13th chapter of his 1st Letter to the Corinthians – the ‘hymn to love’ – thus, ‘and yet I show you a more excellent way’. And he concludes the chapter thus, ‘And now abide faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love’. A truly excellent education will cause each one of us to discover for ourselves the virtue of ‘love’. At its heart, education is all to do with ‘learning to love’ Who/what we love says a great deal about our character It is a defining characteristic of who we are. ‘Well- ordered affection takes time and effort and ought to be the main focus in education’. What does any of us remember from our days in school? What did we learn? The last word is with Sir Thomas More, writing in the 16th century: ‘One of the great problems of our time is that many are schooled but few are educated.’ As then, so now, perhaps?




What is a ‘good’ education?