A Quality Education: Knowledge + Morality

Providing a “Quality” Education

Every school in America owes its students a quality education. Our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, who wrote: “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” In other words, what is taught to our children today will be mirrored in tomorrow’s society. Based on what I see taking place within the modern educational systems,  as reflected in the social and intellectual interchanges of our youth, one should be greatly concerned about the future of both our nation and our world! This means that all schools should provide learning experiences that include both knowledge and sound values among our youth-the leaders of tomorrow. In an essay written in 1947, Dr. Martin L. King argued that we must not confuse “knowledge” with “education.” Asserting that a quality education should include critical thinking, as well as moral reasoning skills, Dr. King profoundly stated:

“Education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals…We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

Albert Einstein’s educational premise was:

“The school has always been the most important means of transferring the wealth of tradition from one generation to the next. This applies today in an even higher degree than in former times, for through modern development of the economic life, the family as bearer of tradition and education has been weakened. The continuance and health of human society is, therefore, in a still higher degree dependent on the school than formerly…It should develop in the young individuals those qualities and capabilities which are of value for the welfare of the commonwealth…the aim must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals, who, however, see in the service of the community their highest life problem.”

The key words in the quotation are “…develop in the young individuals those qualities and capabilities which are of valuein the service of the community…” In other words, teaching is a noble profession that demands commitment to transforming the minds and habits of young people that will, in turn, contribute to the good of society. The duty of an educator, then, is to motivate, induce, or mobilize students to seek meaning and purpose in life in order to guide them to become moral, productive, and independent citizens, with the ultimate aim of serving their community.

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato (428-348 BC), the earliest significant educational thinker, saw education as the key to creating and sustaining the state. Plato believed in a just society, and advocated that individual talents within children must be found among all classes, not just from those born among the aristocrats. Plato believed that for the sake of society, a teacher’s duty is to guide students in the direction of what is good, true, and beautiful by implementing lessons that will promote principled habits and dispositions.

Aristotle (384-322), a student of Plato, who, in turn was a student of Socrates, philosophized that “The purpose of the state is to educate the people – to make them virtuous. Virtue is the life principle of the state.” He went on to say that “Virtue is the perfection of reason.” (Retrieved from: http://www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Aristotle.html on June 25, 2011.) 

While we want our children to gain a quality education that will lead to their “happiness,” we must not forget that true happiness incorporates a measure of virtue, or moral excellence. To be successful and truly happy, one’s life must conform to certain moral laws and uprightness according to the general consensus of the society in which he or she lives. If teachers are to help guide students to proper decisions and behavior, then we must be able and willing to reference reliable sources that will aid in moral instruction. In Western culture, the Hebrew Bible, in addition to other timeless resources, has proved to be as an invaluable text that can be used to teach lessons on virtue and character building. Replete with practical “life skills” wisdom, the Hebrew Bible has been a reliable resource from one generation to another in Western culture.