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serving jesus christ the king

The Great god of Education

Its exam time—that means great weather for the rest of us, while students sit in sweltering exam halls in various stages of panic and angst. It means stress and pressure for many, students and parents alike—parents of stressed children, and parents who wish their children were a little more stressed about the whole thing. The rousing speeches made by teachers at the start of the year—“These are the most important exams of your life”—now seem a tad over the top as some students have worked themselves into a frenzy of forgetfulness.

And in the midst of it all we have become educational snobs—valuing qualifications over wisdom, over practical ability. It’s almost as if you are a nobody unless you have a gone to university. The reality is that there are many jobs which you learn far better by going in at the bottom and working your way up through gaining far more experience than hours sitting in lectures.

I remember Tony Blair stating that it was his aim to have half the population of the UK going to university. I thought it a bizarre goal, because you can’t legislate brains into existence; all you can do is drop the standards of universities to match the ability of the top half of the population.

And so it is that we have made a god out of education. Education is valuable without doubt. But when we continue to press our young people into the one mould, we end up disillusioning them when they fail. God has not made us all the same. And when we make a god out of anything other than God, in other words when we train people to think something like, “This exam/degree/success defines who I am”, it has a nasty tendency to turn around and bite us.

If we make a god out of success in study, what do you do when you fail? Success is a cruel taskmaster. It doesn’t forgive. It beats us up when we fail it. It writes us off. And when we succeed it gives us unrealistic opinions of itself and pushes us on for more—until we find that success doesn’t answer the deepest longings of the soul.

I’m not arguing for a return to the dark ages. Education is valuable. But not everyone needs it to the same level. It is not the be-all and end-all. We need to see that when we make anything other than God the centre of our lives we end up dysfunctioning as human beings. It is when we place things in their proper relation to God that we are free to do whatever we were made to do, and free to fail and not be defined by it.

The reason for that is ultimately that Jesus is the only god who, when we fail, forgives us, accepts us and gives us an identity that is not based on our achievements—an identity which, therefore, cannot be taken away.