Stephen Webb’s column at First Things today — titled “Sam Rocha’s Strange and Startling Philosophy of Education” — gives a generous (and even foreboding) theological review of my book, A Primer for Philosophy and Education.
The key sign of Webb’s insightful reading of my book shines in his clear description of my notion of education:
A Primer for Philosophy and Education, his brief introduction to the philosophy of education, is proof that educational heresy is what you get when you begin with theological orthodoxy. (Theology is a science, and education an art, but most educators get that exactly reversed by treating religion as a matter of opinion and education an application of pedagogical methods.) Rocha shows how education, the art of formation, is dependent on theology, which generates real knowledge about universal and lasting truths. His philosophical foundations are eclectic but his spiritual focus is simple and steady, never losing sight of the way in which love and knowledge must be joined together for education to be successful. This is one of the boldest treatises on education ever written by a professor of education, and one hopes that it does not derail this young scholar’s career.
Education for Rocha has little—perhaps very close to nothing, actually—to do with schools and classrooms. It is always going on, constantly and indiscriminately. Its ubiquity makes it hard to describe, which is where philosophy comes in. Rocha suggests that people typically know more about philosophy than education, which is an extremely counter-intuitive claim. If he is right, then his observation shows just how poorly most people are educated.
It is an excellent review for many reasons, more than I can name here. Two stand out: (1) it forces me to re-think the ideas and see them in a more explicitly theological light and (2) it makes me feel uneasy about the rather grim possibilities that may await it. We’ll see.