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Why Latin, Pars Alia

It may be that what depresses me most about conventional education is the scandalous reduction of what educators see themselves doing. It is as though they have determined to grow a forest along the Amazon River but permit themselves to plant only three kinds of trees and demand that they import water from the Sahara desert.

English: Leaving traces on soft sand dunes in ...

The poisonous and limited vision of what an education can be corrupts our thinking at every level, for the simple reason that they start instilling (distilling) it when children are so very young.

I read this this morning in John 10:3 of the Latin New Testament (I’ll translate, but the Latin is necessary to see the point):

Huic ostiarius aperit (To him – the one who enters the sheepfold by the door – the door keeper opens)
et oves vocem eius audiunt (and the sheep hear his voice)
et proprias oves vocat nominatim et educit eas (and his own sheep he calls by name and “educit” them).

Educit is Latin for leads out. Perhaps you see the English word not very deeply hidden in it. I refer, of course, to “educate.”

To educate is to lead out. For the Christian, to educate is to enter the sheepfold by the door, where the doorkeeper opens to you and the sheep know your voice, and you call them by name, and you lead them out to pasture.

I know that this passage is specifically about our Lord, who is the Good Shepherd, and it is arrogant to seize it and devour it by reducing the educating/leading to something we can do.

But what did our Lord Jesus tell Peter to do three times in John 21? How deeply does Jesus identify Himself with His church, bride, body? Our teaching can be and must be in Christ.

To educate is to lead out. The only question is where the teacher is leading the sheep.

Like Jesus, do you come to the door, or do you climb in other ways (ascendit aliunde)? Does the doorkeeper open to you and entrust His sheep to you? What do you do with them? Where do you lead them? Do you think it is enough to teach them how to play with wolves, or do you lead them beside still waters where their souls can be restored?

My wife was given one of those (forgive me) silly pillows that every teacher seems to get that says, “To teach is to touch a life forever.”

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

This is true. So why don’t teachers tremble more at their task? Why do they worry so much about the temporary and not the forever?

There is a place in hell that Dante did not happen to pass. It is a vast open sea where many thousands of bobbers bob. Track the lines to the bottom of the sea, and you see twice as many feet sticking out of the murky bottom, kicking violently in the fury of infinite confusion. Following the line into the murk, you find bodies and, at their extremities, heads, buried deeply in the murk and the muck of the sea floor. Attached to their necks you see the fishing line and beneath their heads, holding them in place, you discover a large, round, irresistibly heavy millstone.

Or at least, that’s what you would find if something worse didn’t happen.

I tremble to think of how slightly so many of us teachers think of the children we are teaching, whom Christ loves. Why, when we have an opportunity to “educit eas” (lead them out) and to call them by name, do we reduce them to something so trivial that we feel free to starve and to condition them?

God sees.

Practically, one way this reduction is manifested is in the shallowness of the materials and the triviality of the demands we place on them. If we suffer with Christ, we will be glorified with Him. But we treat our children as though the mildest discomfort or the slightest demand is a threat to their tender selves.

Teach them Latin. That way the teacher will come to see that to educate is to lead out. He’ll see that he can’t both teach and shirk the duty of teaching at the same time. Meanwhile, the child will learn to be attentive and will have to work hard and endure for a long time so that he can gain an experience in which many years of labor pay off, often in ways they never realize. There’s something you don’t see much of in schools.

Jump down from that wall. Go to the door. Ask the keeper to let you in. And remember: they’re His sheep.

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