Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Reformed Irenicism

What Schools Are and What They’re For (Part 3)

Here is the last part of David Chytraeus’ answer to the question “For what reasons is it necessary that literary studies be cultivated in schools, and especially that the catechism be learned?” Education has practical benefits insofar as it enables one to provide for himself adequately and uprightly. To bring home the point, he refers to education as an ἐφόδιον, which refers to “supplies for traveling,” “money and provisions” and which I have translated with the (Kenneth)-Burkism “equipment for living.” The Greek quotation appears to be an adaptation of a remark attributed to Aristotle by Diogenes Laertius: “Education he declared to be the best provision for old age”; but the reader will notice that Chytraeus has significantly altered its point.

In the last analysis, though, the chief end of education is the knowledge and glory of God, and foundational to this is catechesis. One should note, because it is so different from modern assumptions about education, how closely catechetical teaching is interwoven with the general task of education: knowledge need not–and, for Chytraeus, cannot–be separated from the knowledge of God; and this is the ultimate goal of studia literarum in schools.

Quinto etiam, ut honestum locum in communi vita, victum, & necessaria ad vitam honeste sustinendam, consequamur: ἐφόδιον γὰρ ἡ παιδεία.

Sed principalis finis semper nobis in conspectu sit, videlicet, Vera Dei agnitio & celbratio, iuxta doctrinam ab ipso Deo per Christum patefactam. Ideoque prima cura omnium nostrum esse debet, ut Catechesin doctrinae Christi discamus. Matth. 6. Primum quaerite regnum Dei.

And furthermore, fifth, in order that we may obtain an honorable place in the common life, food, and things necessary for sustaining life honorably: for education [paideia] is equipment for living.

But we should always keep the chief end [of schooling] in view, namely, the true knowledge and honoring of God, according to the doctrine revealed by God himself through Christ. And for that reason the first concern of us all ought to be that we learn the Catechism of the doctrine of Christ. “First seek the Kingdom of God” (Matt. 6).

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.