Any christian has an ambiguous attitude toward “the wisdom of this world.” He has no doubt about holy wisdom—Hagia Sophia—which, in a manner of speaking, may be thought of as a sort of daughter of God himself, and which was extolled by Solomon as being beyond price. It is something to be pursued at all costs. In the end it seems to stand close to charity, very near the throne.

But what is called the wisdom of this world is another matter. On the one hand, of course, there is “worldly” wisdom—all the calculating and self-seeking and power-mongering that stand starkly over against the wisdom that is from above. This wisdom is pure and peaceable and gentle, and comes, often, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings as well as of sages and saints. There is also the luminous rationality of Athens, which, despite its prowess and sublimity, breaks down into scandal in the face of absurdities like the preaching of the cross.

But there is also that elusive prize that stands at the far end of the enterprise we call education. No one will insist that the mere piling up of knowledge will yield this prize. But on the other hand, none of us can quite escape the feeling that there is some connection between the increase of information and the prize. We pay tens of thousands of dollars to schools and universities—for what? For good careers, of course! I want to be a marine biologist, we say. I want to be a surgeon. I want to go into politics. I want to teach. Well, you have to have an education for that. So we embark. Sheer career considerations probably supply 90 percent of the answer to the question as to what we want from our education.

But there is always that further notion at the edges of our imagination: Isn’t it really better to know ...

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