As the soul, so the education…

Five years ago I posted this quote and comments as part of a blog-along about the author. Today as I read it I am half terrified at the tone of Chesterton’s statement, how he makes education sound like the most natural and effortless, even unstoppable thing. The health of the sub-cultures we nurture is more critical than ever, so that the “soul” of these little societies may continue to nurture us and to educate our grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Education is simply the soul of a society
as it passes from one generation to another.

–G.K. Chesterton

People who aren’t used to thinking in a Chestertonian way may think this statement extravagant, or overly poetic and ephemeral. I forgive them, because they likely are recipients of a societal soul that lacks perspective and understanding. It takes time and tradition to build a healthy society, and the modernists who taught many of us have lost the moorings of our Christian past. Many people don’t have a concept of passing something on to their children; they just want them to have a college degree so they can get a Good Job.

I have done most of my growing up in the little society of the family my husband and I created many decades ago, and the culture and nourishment has been good. The word soul didn’t come to mind as a descriptor of what we were trying to impart to our children, while we were trying to give them the best nurturing, the best culture for healthy growth, but now that I have for so long been focused on cultivating life in my children and my self, Chesterton’s way of describing it seems perfect.

Of course, it’s frighteningly full of possibilities. How would you characterize the soul of American society? Or the society of your extended family? Are you in a church that is unified and close-knit enough to constitute a society, and is it one that you can feel good about the next generation continuing? The process that GKC hints at brings to mind images of some ghost-like being floating over the globe, and I wonder how much control I can have over that?

At any rate, this thought makes me gladder than ever that my husband and I were able to homeschool our children for many years, and pass on to them thousands of small bites of hearty soul food. We can’t even know for sure which were superfoods and which were maybe just as nourishing, but harder to digest, seeing how God redeems and uses even our failures. But we cooked up the recipe ourselves, in our home kitchen, so to speak, and after all this time, it is still tasting very good.


7 thoughts on “As the soul, so the education…

  1. Your example has taught me so much over the years. Thank You generous, gifted, teacher. Your husband was a great influence also. I would have made some very different decisions on my own. I am so grateful Our Father provides His mouth pieces to help just at the right moment.


  2. You are right about many seeing education merely as a commodity that will hopefully lead to a well-paying job. It brings to mind the question, ‘what constitutes good education’? Nurturing the young within a stable family provides a sound foundation for the stability of future generations; reading to one’s children – and later on reading with them; talking to one’s children and sharing opinions with them; being there to catch them when they fall and when they fail; encouragement in all things … you sound as if you have done a good job with yours 🙂


  3. Amen!  Thank you for your pondering and insights. They are helpful to my soul and my family.  Love, Christie


  4. Ah, yes, the college degree. Our oldest is a senior. The pressure from friends, teachers & some family members is on, but really, it’s not the best option, unless one is sure, because it will really put one in debt! To pass on meaningful lessons & be a hard worker in anything one does should be our goal.


  5. Charlotte Mason said that education is the science of relations. I’m sure you did everything as “right” as you possibly could. Almost all the children of my co-workers got degrees in subjects they couldn’t find work for, and all have had to struggle to find something they could do. The soul of American society is floundering, sinking fast. America does not even believe in a soul – God is unwelcome here. (I speak of our society as a whole, not individuals.)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a timely post in my stage of life, with beholding the souls of my four young children every day. I appreciate the food for thought and the slight discomfort the challenge gives me to not grow complacent and forget what a marvelous and fearful thing it is to create and to engage our own “family recipes.”

    Liked by 1 person

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