How can we know whether we are really educating our students/children? What test can we use?
I have a possible response to these questions. First, we must have in mind what the goal of education is, and then we can evaluate whether our students/children are moving toward it. One articulation of our goal is this: We desire to educate your child’s “palate” such that they will know the “taste” of the truth, the good, and the beautiful. Moreover, in knowing and savoring this taste, we hope that they will not settle for anything less than the true, the good and the beautiful; they will not settle for the flavorless “fast food”—for what does not satisfy their hunger—which the culture presents to them. Now, I think we can gauge whether our students are acquiring this palate by looking at what they choose to do during their free time. To use the food analogy again, a good indicator of one’s palate can be seen in what one chooses to eat, when given the choice of anything whatsoever. What do our students choose to do in their free time, and does it reflect a love for what is true, good and beautiful? We cannot and should not control what they do at every moment of the day. This is the risk of education: at some point, they must exercise their freedom in action—they have to choose the good for themselves. And when they make mistakes, this can become a basis for a discussion about what really satisfies the heart. Nevertheless, I think we need to be very discerning about this because we cannot leave anything to chance. Within three years, many of them will be off at college and capable of choosing whatever they want to consume. If they do not acquire a taste for what is true, good and beautiful now, then they will undoubtedly gobble up what is most immediately appealing, that “fast food” which is so dangerous to the heath of one’s soul.
The culture which we build at the academy, and which you build in your homes is essential to this education insofar as it presents a compelling vision of human life animated by a desire for the true, good and beautiful. Let us continue to build a cultura vitae together so that we can all acquire a well-rounded palate.