Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.
Often attributed to C.S. Lewis*
Those of us who work with the Deaf are constantly confronted with the educational and social realities of the Deaf world: the honest truth is that many Deaf people have gaps in their education, struggle to communicate effectively, and have endured life experiences which tend to erode trust in others and instill a sense of entitlement.
This is not an criticism of the Deaf, and it is certainly not an indictment of individual Deaf persons. Some of the most intelligent, capable, and educated men I know are Deaf. But we cannot deny the real educational needs and challenges of the Deaf.
In Peru, where I serve, many Deaf people don’t even know their first language – Peruvian Sign Language – well, let alone the language of the hearing world around them. This has led certain large-hearted, entrepreneurial and educated Deaf people to become sign language teachers, traveling to the provinces and teaching “low-verbal” Deaf people Sign Language.
All of this is wonderful and needful. It is good and right. However, as ministers with the Deaf, we cannot forget or disregard our primary imperative – reaching souls for Christ and teaching them to follow the Master. (See Matthew 28:19.) Our burden is not to educate the Deaf. Our burden is to bring them Christ. Education is vital in this process as a means to the glory of God and to His service. Education for its own sake is empty.
How many of you have met a highly intelligent, highly educated man who was at best apathetic and at worst hostile to the work of the Gospel? I have met many. Must we teach? Must we educate? Must we encourage excellence, critical thought, reflection and study? Must we commit the things we have learned “to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also?” (II Timothy 2:2) Yes to all of these.
We are to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 3:18). We are to study to show ourselves approved unto God. (II Timothy 2:15). We are to search out a matter. (Proverbs 25:2). And we must always be sensitive to the material and social needs of the Deaf. We want them to be blessed, satisfied, and successful. But without Christ? All becomes meaningless.
But we must not worship the material, and we must not worship knowledge. Let us not be in the business of making men high minded. In fact, let us not even be in the business of making men moral. Let us be in the business of making men like Christ.
* I have not been able to verify Lewis’s authorship of this quote. However, the sentiment it expresses is a major point of Lewis’s 1943 treatise, The Abolition of Man.