The Faithlessness of Public Education

In the wake of the dreadful massacre at the high school in Florida, I asked, via social media, what I thought was a question so obvious that everyone was bound to miss it, just as you do not notice the air you breathe. It was simply this. Why is no one surprised that a deranged young person would attack a high school? Why there? Plenty of other places are full of people—malls, stadiums, public squares, beaches. Why a high school?

I got a lot of searching and troubling answers to that question, and these persuaded me that, for all my suspicion of our large public institutions supposedly devoted to education, I had not come close to grasping how inhuman and soul-destroying they have become. They are places of neither faith, nor hope, nor love. Of course you do not seek faith, hope, and love at a shopping mall or those other places I have mentioned. But what if school, by its very nature, ought to be such a place? I do not seek nourishment from a stone, and yet I do not recoil in loathing from that stone; stones are not for eating. But what if the bread I have been given is not bread, but stone? That would be bad enough. We can make it worse. What if the egg I have been given is not an egg but a scorpion? At least the stone cannot sting or kill. The scorpion can. What if it is not simply the case that the school neglects to foster faith, hope, and love, but gives to young people either paltry imitations thereof, or poisonous impostors?

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