great books

Hard Work and Dessert


As some of you know, Augustine Classical Preschool students have been learning about teeth and dentists this week.  Clyde, my three-year-old son, has taken to the subject admirably.

"This is junk food," he says contentedly, taking great bites out of a lollipop.

We teach our children the important habit of brushing their teeth regularly (circular motion, please), but at the same time it's a rare child who never has sweets.  That's because candy isn't exactly junk.  Used reasonably, it's more accurately a treat -- a gift -- for the special moments.  Sometimes, we tend to think of certain foods as "bad" (naughty food! moral failure!) and so campaigns are launched to kill them dead and blot their names from the Book of Life.  But "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof" (Ps. 24:1), and "for everything there is a season" (Eccl. 3:1).  We taste and see that the Lord is good, usually with the spinach, potatoes, and chicken, but sometimes with the sundaes.

Think of education the same way.  We don't ever want to use education to stomp students flat, as though they are insects to kill, and Scripture agrees: "You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk" (Deut. 14:21).  Education is food, not a cauldron.  It has life-giving beauty and should not be used as an instrument of death (like in a Dickens novel).  So education both in the classroom and at home needs an occasional dessert.

But this is a tough balance, and many schools with great mission statements serve up lamesauce standards in the actual classroom.  And in the home, some students do nothing but hammer the video games (after homework, of course), or perhaps worse, have no honest notion how to spend after-school time except by surfing their smartphones.  Bad, naughty video games?  Satan-spawned social media?  No, just too much dessert.

The good things of life are hard to master.  Great books, mathematics and science, logic, high music, abstract thinking, age-old stories -- these are the deep-magic gifts of God.  With faithful training comes love, and with love comes an appreciation of gifts in their unique places.  So have a lollipop.

Grace and Peace, Nate Ahern