What do you read, my lord?

C. S. Lewis once said: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen.  Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

This illustrates well my faith and my perspective on most things in life; including my choice to become an educator.  I was raised in a church which taught that our purpose in this life is to “to serve Christ by serving others.”  And I believe to be an educator is truly that: to be a servant.

I’m pursuing my degree in English Education because I value the power that language has; it can build us up or it can tear us down.  Charlotte Brontë wrote; “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”  By learning more about language I believe we can train ourselves to be more constructive in our day to day lives.

I also value the power of the story.  We all have our own stories and we know them best, of course.  But when we study the stories of others, even in fiction, we begin to connect our story with theirs – grasping at that transcendent human-ness that marks our existence.  When we can identity with a character made of paper and ink, it becomes easier for us to identify with the flesh and blood characters around us today.  This has amazing implications for how we see others and ourselves.  And this is the power that stories have.

But, as we all learned from Spiderman; with great power comes great responsibility.

Teddy Roosevelt, our 26th President, once said: “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. echoed this sentiment when he said: “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

As did C. S. Lewis: “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

So while it is my responsibility to teach about the power of language and stories, it’s also my responsibility to instill in my students with the good character necessary to wield those powerful tools.  And I think this very well sums up the responsibilities of all educators.

William Butler Yeats said: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

But if we leave that fire unwatched to be abused, then we run the risk of Nero; only to watch Rome burn.

-Matt Cleland


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