By Chaplain (Maj.) Mark Beals
Special to GUIDON
By now, the shock of returning to school is dissipating; children have said goodbye to summer.
Those of us with school aged children are in the throes of “reading, writing and arithmetic.”
We are blessed in America that education is not only available to everyone, but it is mandatory. We must never lose sight of this blessing.
Yet if our children learn the alphabet, multiplication tables and history without learning what makes these valuable, then they have not truly learned anything at all. Reading, writing and arithmetic can make us smart, but without inspiration it is like dressing up to watch television at home.
Mark Twain said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” We do not learn to read just to finish the book the teacher assigned; we learn to read so we can spend a lifetime being convicted by Thomas Payne’s “Common Sense” or delighted by Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.”
We do not learn to write so we can finish an essay before taking it to the shredder. We learn to write so we can compose love letters or keep journals. We learn vocabulary to write shopping lists and poetry. Someday our children will inspire their generation with their own version of “Common Sense” or enlighten their children’s imagination with fantastic trips down rabbit holes.
Our children will learn how to count. In the military, we love to count, but someday our children must know how to make every person count.
We teach our children history, praying they won’t repeat it, knowing they will, and hoping they will at least do a better job than we did.
Being created human endows us with the ability to do good things while we do the great things. We have the obligation, along with the ability, to know the purpose of our education. We can use what we learn to reach for the numinous, to benefit one another, and to go about the work to which God has called us.
We never stop learning, and whatever the mission for which we train, we can do it for the highest of purposes. We can create, innovate and seek perfection.
We can most importantly honor God in whatever we do. This is why the Hebrew poet said, “The beginning of knowledge is the fear of the Lord, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
(Editor’s note: Beals is the Religious Support Office resource manager.)