Archbishop of Canterbury notes ‘the Abolition of Man’ in schools
75 years after C.S. Lewis exposed the crisis in education the Church of England wakes up
In 1943, Oxford don C.S. Lewis wrote a little booklet decrying the utilitarian functionalism inculcated in Britain’s school system. Adhering to a scientism promoting itself as ‘rationality’, it had rid itself of the sense of an inherent moral order in the world to which every major religion had testified throughout human history.
With a few minor differences, it was precisely the same problem that had blighted the education system of Nazi Germany. Worst of all, it represented the position of the educational establishment in the United Kingdom, the progressive educators he derided as the ‘conditioners.’
In proposing that education return to the moral sense tradition, Lewis stood alongside a long tradition of thinkers who had realized that education ought not to be cultivating non-judgmentalism as its aim. In fact, as Aristotle noted, the “aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought.”
The reason for that is precisely because it allows a person the capacity to resist the sort of extremism which is becoming increasingly evident in Western societies.
To resist this, a return to the belief in the objective value of moral good is necessary. As Lewis put it, “A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.”
Modern education in Lewis’s day had not only failed to do that, it had spent its entire effort on getting rid of moral goodness. In Lewis’s words, it led to ‘men without chests’, i.e. people lacking in moral virtue, given over to their appetites but with no capacity for ordering them rightly in conformity to what was good, true, and beautiful:
“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
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