Ideal Man

I shared some of this at our co-op's Family Night this year and since then, I've been thinking about and expanding the ideas. I thought I'd share them here.

Education is training students (children or adults) to live in the society. (When we have immigrants moving here, they also must be educated to participate well in our society at large: to learn the customs, the daily expectations, and the common language in order to try to help dispel future confusions.) The ancients came up with the idea that if we could just teach our students to be ideal citizens, we could have the ideal city. Of course, this makes sense. Ideal men don't murder or rob or commit adultery, they don't cheat, lie, or cause discord. They love peace, they work hard, they are faithful, generous, strong, and brave. An ideal city is a safe, prosperous city.

The citizen should be molded to suit the form of government under which he lives. For each government has a peculiar character which originally formed and which continues to preserve it. The character of democracy creates democracy, and the character of oligarchy creates oligarchy; and always the better the charcter, the better the government.  -Aristotle

So the Greeks understood what we do not. That the government should (and does) have a very real interest in the education of our students/children because the outcome determines what kind of country we will have. Will it be peaceful and prosperous? Will it be violent and destructive? Will it be free? Will it be controlled?

  • Quick aside: I'm not going to say that our current American government has the end in mind for the students that it is educating, because it really does not seem to know what the heck it's doing. Everything is experimental as if they really have no idea what the consequences will be. And also seem genuinely surprised at what is happening. But that's not to say that there aren't other leaders in this world that don't know exactly what they are doing.

Back to the Greeks; they cultivated their curriculum to inspire the students to become the ideal men. Ideal men make an ideal city. But Ideal men also are free men because they don't do the things that make a need for law and order. They don't need a controlling government, one that has to keep in check the bad behaviors of its citizens. The city will prosper, the citizens will be happy and healthy. Everyone will be free. It's like in Galatians 5:27: "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." The Ideal Man doesn't need a law to govern him! We are free to be good. We are free to love. We are not free to murder. Murderers need the law to control them.

Unfortunately for the Greeks and for the rest of us, they came to understand that becoming the Ideal is much too difficult for us bent humans. Even when we don't outright murder someone, we still act rashly at times and unwisely provoke discord. Discord leads to more problems and does not make for an ideal city. Education couldn't save men.

Then one day a Man showed up in history. He was the Ideal, in every way. He fixed broken things around Him. He made things right. He loved and protected. He was brave and didn't back down from His right standing. He didn't put up with falseness in any man and called all to live better. He had power, without taking it, without fighting for it, without even acknowledging it. People flocked to Him and couldn't get enough of Him. The governing authorities didn't like His natural power; they wanted that power for themselves. So they had Him killed.

But then He woke up. He was dead for three days, but then He came back to life. Because He was the Ideal Man and God in flesh, death could not keep Him. Now, this is the ultimate Ideal for humans! Death is not natural to us, we hate and avoid and try to fight it with every breath. We don't want death for any other humans, we mourn all deaths. But this Ideal Man passed through death back to life. He spoke with many people after His death, but as an Immortal now, He had to go live with His Father and "prepare a place for us." He promised, though, to send a Helper for us. One that would not be confined by geography, but could fill the whole world and touch many people. This Helper would help us become our Ideal selves.

This changed everything, including education. Now Classical Christian Education could teach its students that yes, there is an Ideal Man, yes, you should try to become like Him, no, you won't be able to, but He sent a Helper to help you!

This goes back to my own lesson in Classical Ed at the beginning of the year. Such beauty and peace! Now we know that education won't save our children, our students; that it won't, in fact, create the ideal city. Because we are a broken, bent humanity. So does this mean that we can leave off and quit all this hard work? Again Paul helps here, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!" (Romans 6:1) Education now teaches us how to live here and how we are going to live when Christ comes back. (Well, Classical Christian education can and should.)

Classical Christian education can teach us how to be better humans. (That doesn't necessarily mean we will be better humans; the will of each student still has to decide where he's going and what he's doing.) This education gives dignity to man and calls him out of himself. It sets us on the ancient paths and asks us to walk in it. It is a way of living out the Christian life. It will fill our lives, if we let it, with good things, noble things, lovely things that are all good to contemplate. It gives us the human experience so that wisdom can come without the heavy price of consequence. It teaches us to consider the consequences of each action or word; that wisdom is cautious in sharing. It teaches a balance between will, emotions, and soul, and between work, amusements, and leisure.

It ultimately teaches us how to bow the knee to the One who is coming. It makes us pliable, yet strong and not brittle. Because one day, when Christ does come back, every knee will bow no matter what that knee wants to do. A knee that has already learned to bow will not break as it bends.

No comments