Some colleges continue to provide a Christian education (or affect to do so, at least), but how should Christians involve themselves in education, no matter where they are enrolled? That’s a different question and one that Professor Jessica Hooten Wilson of John Brown University tackles in her Martin Center article, “Simone Weil’s Christian Approach to Education.”
Weil wanted to move students away from a focus on success and self-interest in favor of the contemplative love of God. Students who practice an openness to their studies will receive more than those who vainly strive for trivial ends, such as a high grade on a disposable assignment. In Weil’s argument, education is not a right, an opportunity, or an advantage over others, but a gift. How this approach would change Christian students’ attitudes toward required courses!
For Weil, the thing that matters is for students to give their complete attention to whatever they’re learning. In itself, that is sanctifying. While this may very well lead to high grades and success, those are not truly the objectives Christian students should strive for. She acknowledges that students often have a hard time with that idea.
Students often see their college studies as a barrier between themselves and “the real world,” but Wilson counters that if Christian students read Weil:
. . . they may see and understand the right use of education. It is not for them to get ahead or to become well-rounded, but to discern the love of God. As Weil explains, the ‘barrier’ of academic work is, in reality, connecting students to the real world and, via their attention, to the transcendent.