James K- A- Smith

Why value-free education is impossible


In How to Raise a Wild Child, Scott D. Sampson writes:

beauty, truth, and goodness are all essential aspects of learning and education. Value-free education is impossible.

It's occurred to me recently that I haven't done a good job explaining that what we're trying to do with our network of schools isn't just to teach kids more things. It's not just to make them smarter and more skilled, better prepared for the needs of the 21st century.

Our goal, rather, is to cultivate a certain kind of person

Though he comes from a very different tradition, the Protestant theologian James K. A. Smith (in his jaw-dropping book Desiring the Kingdom) writes something intriguingly similar:

I’ve been suggesting that education is not primarily a heady project concerned with providing information;

rather, education is most fundamentally a matter of formation, a task of shaping and creating a certain kind of people.

How do we "shape a certain kind of people"? By helping them think more wisely about the good life — and helping them experience pieces of the good life while they're at our schools. James K. A. Smith again:

What makes them a distinctive kind of people is what they love or desire — what they envision as “the good life” or the ideal picture of human flourishing.

So, to bring together this insight with our core values:

Our schools aren't merely trying to teach kids better. We're striving to cultivate a certain sort of people — Renaissance men and women, who find all aspects of the world fascinating, relish developing mastery in all manner of fields, and work to construct lives of purpose and meaning.