Humane Education

I’m tempted to write a diatribe in which I encourage us, as human beings, to take humane, as a term, back from the dogs. For now, I’ll more simply ask what is humane education?

If you are a parent, you might immediately think, “I should probably yell at my children less.” Parents can carry a lot of guilt about that these days, but I don’t think we should boil down the term, humane, to a few external treatments.

By all means, clothe, feed, and shelter your children. Those are a great base goal. As Christians, God calls us to add a few more layers to it, of course. Get your children where God offers His gifts of faith. Strive for a family of faith, admitting errors, seeking forgiveness, turning to God’s Word, and offering unconditional love. 

Obviously, Christian parenting isn’t a cakewalk with lots of explicit directions. At the same time, parenting does come with some pretty definite terms, and educating your children is one of them.

  • Instruct/ teach
  • Remind
  • Discipline
  • Yet do not provoke
  • Train
  • Model for them
  • Avoid folly
  • Avoid wickedness
  • Show compassion

In more general terms, we can say that parents should strive to manage their own households well. And part of that is that parents should work to raise children up into faithful, honest adults.

The expression “humane education” may not have made the list, but in another sense, didn’t it? Wouldn’t a humane education be both concrete (pertaining to the senses), and abstract (discernment), pertaining to wisdom, discernment, judgment, etc.? Wouldn’t a humane education train toward both the present time and skills and the vocations likely to come with maturity?

Humane education can elevate what is best about humanity while tempering what is worst. Which means it must be honest and open to correction on both sides.

I really respect classical education: learning from the past, incorporating beauty, and emphasizing language. I think the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy) offer a thorough, systematic opportunity for learning. But my educational choices don’t get to boil down to trusting a curriculum or school to raise my children: a humane education surely must be in accordance with both my vocations and my children’s.

Humane education address both perception and the limits of perception, thought and the limits of thought. And perhaps humane education can be humane toward both student and teacher! Learning together yet with understanding—even appreciation of—authority, order, and structure.

What do you think? What could be hallmarks for humane education?

Obviously this is not worked up into any sort of formal level for a presentation, but the expression “humane education” is a really, really good one: one well worth pondering and giving serious consideration.

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