Socrates takes credit for a quote that says, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” He presents this idea that the process of learning cannot be completed. The bounds of education are not finite. A person cannot reach a certain point and declare himself wholly educated, completely filled up with knowledge. Education is alive and dynamic. It begins as a little fire, but it invites the student to cast kindling onto the flames. Once begun, the fire is not easily put out. It burns long and sustains itself. It can grow without fear of suffocation if placed in the right environment. The fire, by nature, promises warmth but also invites danger. Education holds the potential to grow into a roaring monster, consuming everything. However, the flame can be kindled beautifully; it can develop into something that gives light and life when entrusted to the right person. I know this, for I have inherited a flame.
I am so grateful for every person who has come alongside me on this journey and tended the flame inside me. To my parents, who laid the foundation, thank you. It pains me to think that not everyone gets parents like mine. Parents who have poured so much into my education, who care so deeply about shaping me into a godly young woman. They taught me that learning does not have to fit conventional standards to be effective. To my teachers here at WCA, who share with us their wisdom even on days when we don’t lend them our ears, thank you. Thank you for being patient, understanding, and kind. Thank you for not only teaching us how to recognize truth, beauty, and goodness, but also how to love them. And finally to my classmates, thank you. I’ve never met a group of people like you. I’ve never been around people who can take me from crying with laughter to rolling my eyes with annoyance quite so fast as you all. When I’m not my usual self, there’s always someone ready to step in with love, wisdom, or just a good joke.
But our time at Westside Christian Academy has been no joke. The unique education provided within these walls has enabled us to become not only smart but upright young men and women. You know what is good; don’t let the world change that. WCA has taught us not only to study the Great Books, but to cross-examine against our Biblical worldview the ideas found just inside their covers. You know the truth; don’t be afraid to share it. Our numbered days together have taught us to find joy in the mundane and to make joy ourselves when the days feel too long to find it. You know where to look for beauty; don’t stop looking.
One of our wise teachers here has told me many times that a piece of Scripture which has impacted her life greatly is Ecclesiastes 3:11, which says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” I didn’t fully understand what this was saying, each time it was brought up in discussion. Until one afternoon, when a combination of thesis preparation, drama at school, and my mother’s morning devotion came together into a perfect storm, and I was struck by a bolt of understanding. In our strivings here on Earth, we will always come up short. Each time we try to make things perfect, we are reminded of how imperfect we are. God designed us to long for paradise, not drag paradise down to us. Paradise will never be found within the pages of Shakespeare or Homer; eternal satisfaction doesn’t come by means of an ‘A’ on your report card. But, my fellow students, teachers, family, and friends, we are not without hope. This education has not been in vain. We find comfort in the second half of the verse: “no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” No one but Him. God knows what He is doing in our lives. As classically educated Christians, we can be lights in the world; we can point others towards wisdom. We have been taught to think differently; we have been taught to love learning. We can go out and become known as people who seek truth and push others to do the same, even if it sets us apart from societal norms. We can go out and ask questions that can only be answered with more questions. We can go out and pursue excellence and virtue and contemplate the meaning of life, for our education has prepared us for this. We can ultimately find true freedom in the fact that we do not have to go out into society and turn it into paradise. We need only to tend our own flames and with them light the path that leads to paradise.