Education is a theme that doesn’t often get associated with Jesus, but He had a hand in changing it, also. Before Jesus, education tended to be reserved for the élite. In Israelite culture, around the age of 5, young boys spent a good part of their day in synagogue memorizing the Torah. Those who showed some aptitude for learning went on to learn the rest of the Hebrew scriptures and those who showed special promise moved on and chose a rabbi to follow. The rest of the young men went home and began to learn a trade, often their fathers. So, tell me. do you notice anything missing from this equation? That’s right, no girls. Education for women in the ancient world was considered superfluous. As long they could cook, clean, have and raise babies, that was that mattered. In essence, it was the 1st century version of barefoot and pregnant. The Romans and Greeks were even worse; only the wealthy got any education at all. Jesus changed all that.
Education owes a huge debt to monasteries established in the wake of Early Christianity. They maintained texts and kept the art of learning alive in a time when mere survival took precedence over everything else. Oh, a few royal personages could read and write, including Charlemagne, who placed a high priority on education and demanded that his children also be educated. But, that kind of thinking was pretty damn scarce in those days. It wasn’t until the Renaissance that learning was considered essential again. By the time the New World began to settled, education was highly touted. The Massachusetts Bay Colony even passed a series of laws to stating that God wanted no child to remain ignorant. That tied in with Jesus’ egalitarian outlook; if every one of equal worth. then the poor, women and minorities were just as deserving of an education as men of wealth. That was the plan, at least. It took a while for the idea to sink in. Young Jewish women didn’t begin to receive an education outside the home until the late 19th to early 20th century with the advent of universal public education. The same for African-Americans; in North Carolina, this effort for championed and pioneered by Governor Charles B. Aycock, who was also a leading white supremacist of the time. Go figure.
Today, education is in danger. There are elements in this world who have a vested interest in an uneducated populace. To quote the great philosopher, George Carlin:
” Governments don’t want a population capable of critical thinking. They want obedient workers, people just smart enough to run the machines and just dumb enough to passively accept their situation”
To that end, these people want to return education to the realm of the élite. I’ve often said that these people’s wet dream would a return to the feudal system, where they’re the lords and ladies of the manor and the rest of us are serfs who to dumb to do anything but work their land or, in this case, labor in their factories. Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind when he talked about the Kingdom of Heaven.