What does it mean to educate?

What does it mean to educate?
Image for illustration purposes only
Jonathan Winch
Jonathan Winch Executive Director of Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
08 October, 2022 6 min read

The couple of hundred faces in front of me are hard to read: mostly women – grandmothers and mothers – some men in tow, tattoo-covered, here to do their bit. Babies are plentiful, and making their presence known. I begin to speak, grateful for the mic.

Thank you for sharing with us the education of your child. You have just made one of the biggest decisions in your life. Together we’re going to make it the right decision.

Are they unconvinced or just bored?

I’m here to tell you that your child is being lied to. The phone in their pocket is telling them hundreds of times a day that their worth depends on three things: looks, popularity, possessions; that without those things they’re worthless. And some of them believe the lie.

Someone towards the back shouts out, ‘Yes!’ I take it as a good sign and lean forward.

The truth is, no one can put a price on your child; they’re precious not because of what they look like, what they have, what they will one day do. Their worth lies in who they are, who God made them to be. Your child is uniquely gifted and in this world for a reason: no one can take their place.

Mentioning God was a risk, but no one interrupts. We’re talking about Imago Dei, of course, the Judaeo-Christian insight that ‘God created man in his own image, … male and female’. And the startling further revelation – in Genesis 9 and James 3 for instance – that men and women continue to bear God’s image after the Fall.

With the children themselves, once the term got underway, I would take a sledgehammer to a £1 coin to make the same point. When I was through, the image of Her Majesty a little the worse for wear, there were no shortage of takers when I offered to make a gift of it.

To educate is to communicate a worldview. As a secondary head in the state sector, I believed I owed it to parents to make mine explicit. To pretend neutrality is, after all, the first step towards indoctrination. And to recognise children as image-bearers of a loving, all-wise designer has profound implications for education.

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