Jessica Hooten Wilson is a Louise Cowan Scholar in Residence, Humanities and Classical Education at the University of Dallas.
“When I question students at my Christian college about how their faith affects their learning practices, they stare blankly at me or scribble a note about being motivated by the true, good, and beautiful. But studying (and education) for Christians should look different than a secular approach, though many students cannot articulate these differences.
To clarify the connections between their beliefs and education, I teach Simone Weil’s “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God” (1942), a great essay with an unwieldy title.
Weil, born in Paris in 1909, taught for a number of years in the 1930s in France, where she also participated in the French resistance to Nazi occupation. A series of mystical experiences led her to affirm the truth of Christianity. Her reflections on school studies are directed to the Dominican Father Joseph-Marie Perrin in Marseille, intended for the benefit of the Catholic students whom he served.
Considering the context of World War II, Weil’s comments echo C.S. Lewis’ 1939 admonition to Oxford students, “Learning in War-Time.” To a church filled with young men ready to leave their studies and join the fight, Lewis insisted on learning as “advancing to the vision of God” and cultivating humility in the student. Like Lewis, Weil directs students’ vision toward the higher ends of education. . . .”