It is a truism that all responsible parents want a good education for their children, but what exactly is a good education? Obviously it's to do with learning but learning what? Facts and figures? Clearly not that or not only that. How to think? Certainly but not, perhaps, primarily. First and foremost, I would say that it should be rooted in a proper understanding of the true nature of life, and the training of a person to correctly coordinate themselves to that. In the past this basic understanding formed a significant part of a child's upbringing, but now it is sorely lacking in a world in which truth is largely denied, and false beliefs about man and the cosmos are increasingly accepted as part of a received wisdom which cannot be challenged without betraying oneself as naive, ignorant, foolish or even mad. In fact, the materialistic and anti-spiritual assumptions of the day are so deeply entrenched in the modern mind that even religious people and those who become interested in various forms of spirituality are affected by them, their spiritual or religious views frequently influenced by or even subordinated to the prevailing ethos. But if your spirituality is seen through the prism of a predominantly materialistic worldview, and if it admits only what a humanistic outlook would accept, it is fairly useless. It is by the light of spiritual understanding that you should view everything else, and not vice versa as seems to be the case now (except, of course, amongst the fundamentalists of various religions, but then their spiritual understanding tends to the literalistic and be limited to externals only). For you don't adapt God to man. You adapt man to God.
So education, above all else, should be spiritual education, teaching a child what he is and giving him an understanding of his place in the world, of his duties to others and, most of all, to God. The form may vary according to different cultures' needs, conditions and points of awareness but in some form this is a basic requirement of any proper education. And it is the one thing completely neglected nowadays. At best lip service is paid to it but increasingly not even that. What a strange kind of world it is that insists on sex education for very young children but does nothing for spiritual education. I am not condemning instructing children on the nature of their bodies at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way, but they should be made aware of the reality of their whole being and see how the different parts that comprise it relate to each other; the place each part, body, mind and spirit, has in the overall scheme of things. Taking a part out of context cannot fail to give it disproportionate meaning and significance, and even give a totally false idea of it.
We may condemn the past as ignorant, and so it was in many ways, but it was wise in the most important way. It recognised a Creator and knew that this world was not man's true home. He was here for a purpose and that was not to make money or even live a nominally good and fulfilling life. It was to fit himself for eternity. Now we have the extraordinary situation in which the most educated people are frequently the most ignorant because they don't understand that basic truth, having been trained to regard it as outdated and foolish. They have been so educated on a purely intellectual level that their minds are closed to anything higher. No wonder the Masters in The Boy and the Brothers said that the system of modern education murdered souls, and defined it as producing people who live inside closed walls, hence have bad sight. They were certainly not denigrating education as such but a particular sort, prevalent today, that denied the reality of spirit. It's an irony that universities arose from monasteries but have now so severed their links with the spiritual that they have cut themselves off from the truth.
If you told anyone that modern education was narrower in scope that at any time in history they would laugh you out of court. How can that be the case when the range of subjects is greater than ever and the depth of knowledge, especially scientific, is such that it makes the understanding of previous generations look like the investigations of children? But there is really only one subject taught today and that is materialism. That is the assumed background to everything, even the arts (nearly all modern arts are blasphemy, say the Masters). Yes, contemporary knowledge is hugely impressive but it is, as the cliché goes, more and more about less and less. Soon we will know everything about nothing. I certainly do not decry this knowledge nor do I in any way reject worldly learning but it should be supplementary to the knowledge of God not a replacement for it because unless it is seen in the light of the knowledge of God it is not really knowledge at all. Rather it is sophisticated ignorance.
For ultimately all education should be the education of the soul, and if that is not given a central position in a child's education, or an adult's for that matter, the person remains uneducated and ignorant. Unfortunately this is the case with the majority of those who set the agenda today whether they be politicians, scientists, artists, teachers or leaders in almost any field you care to mention. Such people are usually highly educated but know nothing of what really matters. Consequently their influence is destructive and is inevitably leading to a society and culture that has divorced itself from reality which means, whatever the appearances, it is on the path to disintegration.
Now this insight, once admitted, might be seen as a cause for despair. If those holding the reins are riding in the wrong direction what's going to happen to the rest of us, pulled along with them? However despair indicates a lack of faith and trust in God so should be resisted. Besides, such a state of affairs was foreseen in the prophesies of numerous traditions, Christian, ancient Egyptian, Hindu and so on, and so was its eventual overturning. Thus we should never allow ourselves to fall into despondency, and always maintain the truth even when no one seems to be listening. Remember that no matter how thick the cloud cover the sun always shines brightly behind it, and eventually it disperses all darkness.