Wednesday, July 31, 2013

MLK on the Essential Role of Character for Education

I am reading The Abandoned Generation: Rethinking Higher Education (Willimon and Naylor, 1995), and the quote that begins the fourth chapter - entitled "Meaninglessness" - seems worth sharing here, especially in light of last week's post on The Value Added of Campus Ministry, which begins to get at, if indirectly, the larger question before the university: "What's the point of it all?"

Here's the quote, from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (emphasis mine):
The function of education, to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason but no morals. We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration but worthy objectives on which to concentrate. 
...We must work passionately and indefatigably to bridge the gulf between our scientific progress and our moral progress. One of the great problems of mankind is that we suffer from a poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially the poorer we have become morally and spiritually.
Echoing these words, Coach K (Duke Basketball) often talks about presenting his players with goals worthy of the efforts the goals will require. Such a determination necessarily entails moral judgments that require character to discern. When Christians remember that character is integral to education and, even more, that the character of Christians - that story and skill set belonging to Christians - is a character belonging to a people called Church, "created by a God who sets our way"(1), we begin to see, maybe, why Morning Prayer has everything to do with maximizing one's undergraduate education - indeed, with making such it possible to call the undergraduate experience education in the first place - and certainly with engaging questions about the point of it all.

That's right, meaning - even at a university.

(1) Hauerwas 2003, p582


  1. Yeah, it strikes me that my college experience was all about finding little communities for making meaning (including but not limited to the folks at St. Francis House). I was lucky—I imagine it's easy to get through four years without finding such a community.

    1. I appreciate your comment, Kyle. I'd be interested to hear about some of the ways you experienced those communities as shapers of character in life-giving (meaningful) ways.


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