Sarah Coakley considers the origins, and the internal contradictions, of modern Western education.
Christianity has played an astonishingly important role in the development of Western views of education. But I think one thing that’s worth remembering here is that this was initially in the context of religious community, and mentoring often by monastic communities. And when you dislocate education from a sense of a common bond, a common set of transcendent goals, a common sense of responsibility to one another, then it begins to have a very different flavour. And wholly secularised education is a relatively modern phenomenon, and is still somewhat inchoately influenced by those deeper Christian traditions.
The question is, how can all those goods which are related to the specifically religious – and which you can find, for instance, encoded in the wisdom of something like Benedict’s Rule in the 6th century – how can you extend those in a world which tends to think of itself as simply individualistic and competitive?