C.S. Lewis on education

C.S. Lewis’ The abolition of man is a fascinating read. Its subtitle is “Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools” but it is broader in scope than this, taking in science and morality and the post-modern’s confused ideas about truth as well. Reading it also left me confronted again with what is truly unique about Christianity – and therefore what is most important. Here starts a three-part mini-series on what I found and thought.

Though the academic/philosophical manner in which he makes his point can be hard to follow, Lewis concludes with this devastating critique of education in his day. It most certainly speaks also to our society’s obsession with rigid ‘measurable outcomes’ in teaching and learning.

Where the old [education] initiated, the new merely ‘conditions’. The old dealt with its pupils as grown birds deal with young birds when they teach them to fly; the new deals with them as the poultry-keeper deals with young birds – making them thus or thus for purposes of which the bird knows nothing. In a word, the old was a kind of propagation – men transmitting manhood to men; the new is merely propaganda.

Reading this as a preacher I found myself thinking: do I present doctrine as ‘You must believe this list of things because they’re true’ or do I show the Bible to be true and thus encourage belief? Perhaps I too often do the first in my eagerness to help people “know the truth” and for fear of drifting from declarative preaching to speculation.

In summary, I don’t want people to swallow the truth unthinkingly but chew on it and discover that it tastes good and does you good in a way nothing else can. “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good” – don’t just take someone else’s word for it.


The abolition of man is available to read online, or you buy it pretty cheaply second-hand.