Disciplined Learning: There Are No Shortcuts to a Good Education

We have the Internet, Instagram, Twitter, smart phones, and an array of assorted technologies giving us quick access to information, communication, and resources at a moments notice. We have online stores that deliver products within hours of ordering. Our lives are ordered by the ease of access we have to friends and family, entertainment, and the conveniences of first world wealth and pleasure. Yet, it is within this context that we must learn patience as we educate our children.

Most worthwhile things within this world take time and discipline to achieve. It takes time to cultivate a garden, to grow the food we eat. The skills to write a beautiful song or compose its accompaniment do not emerge by downloading an app on musical theory. One does not simply become a master painter by watching Bob Ross paint a forest with “happy trees.” It takes years of study, practice, making mistakes, and stumbling across the finish line that make great composers and artists. Great friendships and marriages also take patience and time. You don’t merely happen upon a beautiful marriage. It takes disciplined commitment to cultivate the trust and self-sacrifice that defines a truly good marriage.

What is so often true for so many other activities is also true for education. Today, many schools and families are looking to speed up the process of learning. They are looking for a new curriculum, a new technology, or a magic pill that will ease the burden of discipline and hard work. This is particularly true among homeschooling families. The burdens of running a household coupled with educating children at home, in a culture dominated by consumerism, make it particularly tempting for parents to buy into the lie that there will be an easy path to cultivating virtuous scholars. There are no short cuts. There are no easy paths to take and there is no special curriculum that will remove the challenges that accompany the work of teaching and learning.

Education is more than the teaching of stuff and to be educated is more that than the ability to regurgitate information. Dorothy Sayers once argued “that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils ‘subjects,’ we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning.” Learning is an art! To be a good learner, like any art, takes discipline, practice and a lot of time.

G.K. Chesterton once said that “Education is not a subject, nor does it deal in subjects. It is instead a transfer of a way of life.” We are educating our humanity! We should not expect moral and spiritual formation to happen simply by the reading of a book, answering questions at the end of a text, watching a video, or downloading the newest app on the computer, tablet, or phone.

Human education requires flesh and blood engagement and work. We have been tasked by God to cultivate a world suitable for his presence. Education equips our humanity to respond to God’s world appropriately and establish God’s kingdom on earth. It is not an easy path, and we must accept the hardships that accompany a truly good education.

As the Headmaster of a Classical Christian School, I am consistently reminding our families that that while many contemporary philosophies of education give in to the consumer ideals of immediacy, we must not give into that temptation and shortchange our children. Education is real work and comes at a real cost. We must count the costs and embrace our own responsibilities and commitments.

Michael Phillips

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