What metaphor best expresses the education you received? Running a race? ‘Curriculum’ literally means the act of running around a track. Did you feel like a computer receiving a download? Or a widget being assembled on a conveyer belt? Why did you go to school and to what end?

David Smith, in his book Teaching and Christian Imagination, would challenge us to have better metaphors for education. Metaphors that instill what it is we are doing and why. Metaphors like “Undertaking a Pilgrimage for the LORD”, “Building the LORD’s cathedral”, or “tending the LORD’s Garden”. The garden, the cathedral and the pilgrimage (journey) are formative metaphors which better address the true purpose for humanity. My fear is that if we are not intentional about the kinds of metaphors that form our educational pursuits, that unintended inhumane metaphors will be our formative frame of reference, by default.

A walled garden is an environment of safety and beauty. Only after careful planning and design, followed by cultivation of the ground, planting weeding and pruning will we foster a feast for the senses as the Lord sustains a beautiful array of plant life which changes throughout the seasons.

Likewise, the construction of a cathedral takes planning, extensive resources and decades of sustained skilled craftsmanship and engineering to build a house of communal worship compelling our senses to look up and beyond to the transcendent.

A pilgrimage to the promised land involves an extended journey with peaks and valleys requiring planning and endurance, struggle and rest, strengthened bonds with fellow travelers driven by the hope of a glorious destination.

What formative metaphors do you want to shape your child’s education?