Wise disciples or clever devils

"Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." Proverbs 22.6


When Pink Floyd sang "We don't need no education..." in 1979, a generation of schoolchildren cheered while parents and teachers winced. One assumes the band were referring to the intrusion of information into young minds rather than the process of acquiring knowledge, which is unavoidable. The question really is: to whom are we and our children listening - peers, parents, teachers, journalists, preachers? Among emerging generations social media speak loudest, closely followed by peers. Parents and grandparents cannot afford to be dismissive because, if we did not all create this state of affairs, we allowed it - albeit maybe unwittingly - to come about on our watch.


The trouble is that spontaneous education is selective, brittle and shallow. Selective because social media information is targeted to feed existing preferences, brittle because the assumptions we acquire become associated with our egos and so any challenge to them feels like a personal assault and shallow because rather than going deep into that which we are studying, we tend to flit around alighting on what grabs our attention and then, as quickly, moving on...


So what is the antidote? We might do worse than take inspiration from Anselm's example of intellectual rigour informed by vibrant spirituality and tempered by personal integrity. What does that look like? It means being open to engage with all-comers in an open and constructive way, taking care to listen to what they are really saying without jumping to premature conclusions, while remaining faithful to one's deeper convictions. In Anselm's case that meant negotiating from the anchor of faith in God as both Creator and Redeemer, source and embodiment of all that is good and worthwhile, and the ever-present guide and judge to whom we are accountable. Paradoxically such strong convictions allow for significant freedom of inquiry, for what is there to fear from a sincere pursuit of truth?

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