Friday, January 2, 2015

Educating in STEM Towards the Transcendentals.

The Washington Post has an essay that considers the heavy emphasis on STEM in education and poses the following question:
"What was the purpose of everything if it all came down to mechanical interactions of particles and cells - what was the point of living, of doing anything at all?"
"Ah, my soul...Meaning, Existence and forming young shepherds of Being"
Eckart has gone right to the heart of it.

We go about breaking things down into mere quantities, jamming them into quantifiable categories and simultaneously we annihilate any sense of wholeness or holistic quality.  Under the terms of this sort of pseudo-scientific dogma, no one can say what anything is. She is right…why do science in the first place?
Modern science needs the humanities in order to recover itself. 

I would suggest three sources for recovering a sense in which education in STEM and otherwise is rooted in something truer and deeper.

1.) Move out from within the heart of the Church. Education of the whole person, inquiry, fullness of realization and revelation is of course, (and always has been), the objective of the Christian endeavor...helping to reveal the world and particularly, revealing man. We need to read and re-read Guadium et Spes.

"The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come,(20) namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown." - GS 22
Guadium et Spes is huge!!! We cannot read and re-read this one to much. Christ reveals man to himself. This is where education begins and where it aims.

2.) We need to educate so as to form people who are lovers of wisdom. This effort has been taken up elsewhere. New times call for new measures. We don't need to repeat or duplicate exactly what has come before. That would never work anyway. However, we can certainly glean some good ideas and recover some of the same sensibilities that have preceded us. Anthony Ensolen has a terrific essay on acollege program that taught the humanities with a sense of wonder and spurredyoung people to an untold number of vocations, (religious and otherwise). 

3.) We would do well to read Wendell Berry and his thoughts on modern education. He is sometimes a bit polemic but I think his clarity of vision and his ability to articulate a sense of love for the world, and education as oriented towards the beautiful, the true and the good is vital. His short book, "Life is a Miracle" is a great place to start.

None of this…I REPEAT…NONE OF THIS….IS TO REJECT SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY and MATH. What we want instead is to recover STEM, not as a means towards further consolidation of wealth, advancement of oligarchy and the reduction of vocation as a joyless existence of slogging it out in the technocracy. Instead we would want to elevate science as being the discovery of what is. Technology as properly oriented towards the common good of families and societies. Math as a pursuit of the great depths of being.

Hopefully, this provides at lease a brief insight into the Christian sense of how and why we educate and work in the world while living for the Kingdom of Heaven.