I'm traveling today — a wedding in the wilds of North Dakota! — but I've been saving this quote for just such an occasion. It's from controversial children's author Philip Pullman, and it came at the end of a long conversation about religion with the then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Pullman is an atheist, and Williams is — well, a one-time Archbishop of Canterbury! And someone from the audience asked Pullman how he would recommend children develop spirituality.
Again, Pullman is an atheist.
And he responded beautifully:
I don't use the word 'spiritual' myself, because I don't have a clear sense of what it means. But I think it depends on your view of education:
whether you think that the true end and purpose of education is to help children grow up, compete and face the economic challenges of a global environment that we're going to face in the 21st century, or whether you think it's to do with helping them see that they are the true heirs and inheritors of the riches — the philosophical, the artistic, the scientific, the literary riches — of the whole world.
If you believe in setting children's minds alive and ablaze with excitement and passion or whether it's a matter of filling them with facts and testing on them. It depends on your vision of education - and I know which one I'd go for.
To which Williams replied:
I think we're entirely at one on that, I must say.
"The true heirs and inheritors of the riches… of the whole world."
That's what this school is about.