I am bewildered at the virtues attributed to education. Most people today, of all political and most religious stripes, hold the virtue of education as axiomatic. In fact, any “formal” education is regarded as a purifying moral agent. If we could just get everyone into school as early as possible and keep them there through high school and preferably college, we would have a just and kind society.
Enter James Holmes. Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 others in a shooting spree in an Aurora, Colorado theater. Holmes is also well educated. Until very recently, he was in a Ph.D. program in neuroscience, having graduated with honors from a baccalaureate program in the University of California system. He was one of six students admitted to the doctoral program and received a prestigious NIH grant that paid for his tuition and an additional $26,000 annual stipend.
Some pundits are trying to walk back the “brilliant” killer theory, especially those in academia. (See for example, http://www.ksdk.com/news/article/329808/3/James-Holmes-intelligence-called-into-question). However, Holmes’ intelligence or lack thereof is not germane. What is germane is that we have a highly educated person who received all of his education in our better schools. Holmes’ education, instead of making him a morally upright person, enabled him to be a diabolically sophisticated killer. The education of wicked people will only create more sophisticated wicked people. Here are some wise words from our 26th President on the subject of the value of education without a moral basis:
“A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” Theodore Roosevelt
“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” Theodore Roosevelt
Of course, teaching “morals” raises an important question—whose morals? Since the early 1960s, public education in America largely has abandoned the field of moral education. The reason is that moral education requires some authority higher than ourselves. So, at best, public education ought to do no harm to the moral education of young minds. However, since all moral tenets except those that flow from atheistic materialism are regarded as an “establishment of religion,” public education leaders have attempted to remove any vestige of absolute moral authority. This is, of course, every bit as much an “establishment of religion,” but our nation’s experts reason that education itself produces moral virtue. We must keep all mention of God or especially Jesus or the Bible as moral authorities as far away from impressionable minds as possible. . . at least until someone is shooting live ammo at us. Then, we can have our cries to God and even prayer vigils in the aftermath of massacre, until the media moves on to another story.
Martin Luther said, “I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.”
In the case of the well educated James Holmes, this was all too sadly true. And if Jeremiah 17:9 and Romans 3:9-20 are true (and they are!), it is sadly true of us all.
Have mercy upon us, O Lord.