Monday, September 04, 2006

hollow pursuit of knowledge

Here's a recent story from an article by Erich Bridges:

Kareem Elnahal is a young man with brains and guts. He also has a grasp of life's most important questions – something his elders seem to lack.

Elnahal graduated in June as the top senior at Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, N.J., an institution ranked among America's best high schools by Newsweek magazine. He's headed for Princeton University in the fall. His future looks bright.

In his valedictorian's address at the commencement ceremony, however, Elnahal didn't exactly blow kisses to his teachers. Instead, he lambasted the school for offering an educational experience devoid of meaning.

"[T]he education we have received here is not only incomplete, it is entirely hollow," Elnahal told a stunned audience, according to a report by Cybercast News Service. "Ladies and gentlemen, the spirit of intellectual thought is lost. I know how highly this community values learning, and I urge you all to re-evaluate what it means to be educated ....

"Is there a creator? And if so, should we look to [him] for guidance? These are often dismissed as questions of religion, but religion is not something opposed to rationality. It simply seeks to answer such questions through faith."

School administrators were not amused, but many of his fellow graduates apparently agreed with Elnahal. They reportedly stood and applauded his words.

"I felt like the most important questions were not asked," Elnahal later told Cybercast News Service, reflecting on his high school years. "Things like ethics, things that defined who we are, were ignored. So in that way I thought it was hollow."

So the question:

Should public schools teach morality and religion? That makes me really uncomfortable. I'm not sure that we would like the result of teachers and administrations pushing a moral agenda (in some places that is probably happening too much already).

However, I think this student's speech makes a valid point. Far too often academia has devalued the legitimacy of religion. Students today are looking for answers that cannot be answered in a text book or a science class. Are we, as Christians, ready to engage with highly intelligent seekers as they ask these deeper questions?