As a homeschooling mom, sometimes I am overwhelmed with the amount of information still left to impart to our 13 and 15 year old daughters before they leave home.
Yet I forget how much information I learned as an adult. My girls will not cease to learn once they are no longer under our guidance. We've raised them to understand that education is not confined to formal circumstances, but is instead a lifelong process.
Recently a reader directed my attention to an article called A Culture in Regression. The opening paragraphs are eerie:
The night closes in. Read the surveys of what children know, what students in universities know. Approximately nothing. We have become wanton morons. As the intellectual shadows fall again, as literacy declines and minds grow dim in the new twilight, who will copy the parchments this time?
No longer are we a schooled people. Brash new peasants grin and peck at their iPods. Unknowing, incurious, they gaze at their screens and twiddle, twiddle. They will not preserve the works of five millennia. They cannot. They do not even know why.
Twilight really does come. Sales of books fall. Attention spans shorten. Music gives way to angry urban grunting. The young count on their fingers when they do not have a calculator, know less by the year...
That's a serious responsibility, don't you think? To preserve the work of five millennia?
To me, education isn't just cramming my kids' heads with algebra and chemistry. It's learning to appreciate the five thousand years of civilization preceding us that allows us to live the life of ease we live today. It's an appreciation of the incremental bits and pieces of information that are added to that General Body Of Knowledge from which we all draw. Like the slow building of a coral reef, this General Body of Knowledge can only grow through the contributions, large or small, of everyone.
I frequently lament how we've lost 5000 years of basic skills in only the last hundred years of easy living. Three generations ago, our forefathers collectively still knew much of the wisdom of five millennia. But do you think the texting monkeys you see hanging around malls know anything at all, except an intimate knowledge of their personal electronic devices? Maybe I'm wrong, but somehow I don't think so.
So education must be more than algebra and chemistry. It must be more than texting and social networking. It must include cooking, food preservation, carpentry, building, livestock care, gardening, basic medicine, and a zillion other things.
Do I know all those things? Of course not. But as the author of that column points out, older generations had "respect for learning whether one had it or not." Our young people have no respect, either for learning, or for their elders, or for societal norms, or any other gauge of civilization. All they can do, it seems, is text. Gaze at their little screens. Twiddle.
I may not be able to teach my girls everything I know. I may not have time, before they're old enough to leave the nest. But if I've taught them nothing else, I've taught them to be curious. We've filled our home with over 5000 books of every subject imaginable, from the light and frothy to the weighty and serious. Raising our kids in such an atmosphere, I hope we've done some good towards appreciating the work of five millennia.
My girls will leave the nest able to write clearly and distinctly; able to appreciate the birth of our nation and all the blood that went into it; able to dress appropriately and speak respectfully; able to work a job with diligence and high ethics; able to understand the sanctity of marriage; and able to recognize the blessings of God.
The rest is up to them. The work of five millennia will soon be resting on their shoulders, ready to impart to future generations.