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Speech at the Moscow International Education Fair 2016

The most important thing that distinguishes a person from the whole world around them is reason. In the creation of man, God likened him to Himself by putting reason into him and making it possible to use this reason freely. And since then, man lives on earth, perceiving everything around him, everything that happens to him, through his rationality.

In the explanatory dictionary of the Russian language by S.I. Ozhegov, the words “razum” (reason), “razumet'” (to understand), are explained as the ability to think logically and creatively, to generalise and analyse the results of knowledge. Human reason is the ability to be aware of oneself, to distinguish good from evil; it is an opportunity to accumulate life experience, to acquire knowledge and information that a person does not have at his birth. Therefore, the acquisition of knowledge, the transfer of this knowledge within human society is an integral part of human life. Thus it was established by God Himself.

The Bible says that man was created “in the image and likeness of God.” And the image of God manifests itself in man, in particular, through the development of his mental faculties. We know that the Lord attaches great importance to rationality, to the mental faculties of a person. Thus, immediately after the creation of Adam, God entrusted him with a very important task — to denote the names of all living organisms created before Adam. Adam, being the master of the world, cognised the essence of all the animals and gave them names. From this we see that intellectual activity initially distinguished man from the entire created world.

In addition, the main commandment about the relationship of man with God says that we must love the Lord “with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind”. It turns out that the mind is an important component of our relationship with God. The reason/mind imparted in us serves our union with God.

And besides that, there is another example in the Bible when God refers to our mental faculties. In the famous parable of the talents, the Saviour speaks of the duty of man to multiply and develop his talents. The development of rationality is the fulfilment of the commandment of God. Conversely, any underdevelopment, or burying of our abilities is a life blunder or a sin (in Greek, a sin is an error, a miss).

Thus, God has invested in us the ability to think, create, draw conclusions and acquire knowledge. And the acquisition of knowledge is one of the fundamental means of human life.

True wisdom, true knowledge have always been among people morally and spiritually sublime. All significant milestones in world history are associated with such manifestations of wisdom. True wisdom, true education have always been accompanied by freedom, the desire to preserve peace and respect for people.

Conversely, misanthropy, enslavement and the destruction of people were expressed together with attempts to limit the intellectual life of people, to lower its level. An example of this is the desire of the German Nazis to prevent the development of mental faculties among the peoples enslaved by them.

In accordance with this view of education, Christianity supports a person’s aspiration to knowledge.

And the most eloquent historical example of the attitude of Christianity to knowledge, to education, is the fact that modern science originated in Christian Europe. All the great scientists who actually created modern science were Christians. Newton wrote a treatise with commentaries on the Apocalypse and the Book of Daniel. Copernicus was a priest. The main work of the mathematician Leibniz was “The Theodicy” (meaning, The Justification of God). These people were very religious. Even the founder of the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin, considered himself a Christian.

Therefore, the conventional wisdom that Christianity and science are incompatible, that the Church once opposed knowledge, in no way corresponds to the actual picture.

Christianity has always tried to simply distinguish between the scope of faith and knowledge. And that which belongs to the field of serious scientific knowledge, confirmed by generally accepted scientific methods, Christianity has accepted. On the other hand, Christianity opposed false knowledge, attempts to mix faith and knowledge; it opposed occult methods of obtaining knowledge and all forms of astrology and alchemy.

The overwhelming majority of prominent Christian figures were highly educated, progressive-minded people. Therefore, the development of science and education was supported by the Christian Church.

But it should be noted that science itself and education itself was never perceived by Christianity as an end in itself, as the meaning of life, and this is very important to understand. Both knowledge and education, along with the ability to receive and convey them, are only a means, a way of knowing the image of God in a person. Without a higher goal, without directing their activity to the Creator, this mass of information has no positive meaning.

Therefore, the Church argues that the basis of any knowledge, of any intellectual activity, of any acquisition of knowledge, should promote a spiritual world view and moral orientation. In their desire to cognise, a person should see a higher meaning, they should perceive their focus towards the Creator, they should understand that there exists One, Who created this world, Who gave laws to this world, and knowledge of these laws is impossible without approaching their Creator.

Belief in the Creator of the whole world and the moral and spiritual principles of human life arising from it are the main conditions for successful human cognitive activity. The same approach applies to education. No matter how the influence of religion on the development of society, and its cultural activities, has been denied, no matter how the historical and enlightening role of the Church has been revised, the fact remains that where there was faith in God, the Creator of the entire Universe, a person realised their crowning achievements, and scientific and technical progress was made there. Where there was no such faith, humanity either wandered aimlessly, or ethically, or morally degraded.

Therefore, the basis of a quality education is the spiritual and moral foundation in the human soul.

Primarily, this concerns young boys and girls, who are determining their future path in life. It should be reported that at a young age a person cannot unambiguously determine for

themselves a profession or a field of professional interests in which they will be engaged for the rest of their life. Over the course of their life, a person sometimes has to radically change the field of their work and professional activity. Therefore, it cannot be said that with the choice of an educational institution after school, or with the choice of a field of education, we may unmistakably determine our life path. All this may change more than once.

But what clearly defines the future professional path is spiritual upbringing and in this issue, parents play a crucial role.

Despite the age-old, notorious problem of fathers and children, despite the apparent independence of young people and despite the difficult period of formation of young personalities, during children’s self-determination, a decisive role should be played by parents, their authority, their life experience and their guidance.

Therefore, the call for the formation of a spiritual basis for obtaining a quality education is primarily addressed to the parents. It is the parents who are responsible for raising their children; it is the parents who instil the system of moral and ethical standards in their souls; it is the parents who can first acquaint the child with God, with the Church, with the Bible, with prayer.

Proceeding from this, it is very important for parents to understand the extent of their responsibility for the upbringing and education of their own children.

What can parents do to educate their children?

Christianity claims that the family is a small Church. A family is the lawful union of two people, to whom in most cases God grants children. This small (or sometimes large) human collective is connected by mutual love, mutual responsibility and mutual respect. It is important to understand that mutual relations are the deciding factor in this union. Any one-sided manifestation of this relationship leads to a distortion of family life. Just as in a big Church, all members of a family – a small church – influence and complement each other. This influence can be both positive and constructive, and also extremely negative and destructive. Parents, through their own behaviour, shape the behaviour of their child. There is such a wonderful piece of folk wisdom: “No matter how much you raise a child, they will still be like their parents.” Therefore, parents first of all need to remember that raising a child in a family does not occur through some correct modern pedagogical methods, but primarily by direct life examples of the parents themselves.

It can be argued with a high degree of confidence that the behaviour of adolescents in society, including in educational institutions, is linked to the behaviour of their parents.

The quality of upbringing is determined by the lifestyle of the parents. Given this, parents should in no case lower their own bar of behaviour. A child should witness the life example of their parents, one in which there are no gross mortal sins (debauchery, drunkenness, foul language, physical abuse). They should see an example of an honest life, one without lies, bribery and ill-gotten earnings.

The holy Apostle Paul thus spoke of the vocational height of our life – “be like me, as I am to Christ.” No more, no less. Therefore, when assessing one’s own life, parents should be guided by generally accepted ideals, according to the paradigm of people who have embodied a holy life.

For the successful education of children, parents need to cultivate respect for education in the family. During the hard times of the perestroika period, a certain disregard for education emerged in our society, when it became apparent that large sums of money could be earned (and money became the measure of success in life) without any education at all. During this period, the prestige of education in general and the hard work of workers in this field in particular was seriously reduced in our country. In society, the authority of the teacher, the lecturer, which existed for ages, was shaken. All this has become a serious obstacle on the path to receiving a normal education.

Unfortunately, the peculiarity of our Russian approach to education is the desire to make the process of receiving an education as easy and calm as possible, and those paths, by which comparative ease is achieved, are often extremely unattainable. These refer to deception, theft of someone else’s intellectual property, bribery, corruption and nepotism.

Such a decision on issues of education is not only criminal, but also sinful. Parents should direct their children toward the honest acquisition of an education. You cannot get good grades by paying a bribe. You cannot seek academic rank by stealing someone else’s thesis. It is unacceptable for a teacher to prefer one student to another based on kinship and not on the quality of their academic achievements. The principle of discipline and earning an education can again only be instilled in students by their parents.

Intrafamilial relations have a significant impact on the educational process. “Progressive” Western society is attempting as soon as possible to pull a person out of their familial environment. Not so in traditional societies, which, even until now, includes our Russian society. According to the generally accepted norms of a traditional society, students, even after beginning their studies in higher educational institutions, do not sever household and familial ties with their parents.

The norms of intrafamilial relations are based on the mutual respect of all family members, on the respect for the personality of each. Parents should communicate with a teenager as much as possible and not allow them to withdraw into themselves. A good rule for parents is the obligation to communicate at least two hours a day with their children. God arranged our nature in such a way that it is communication and conversation that help establish contact with any person and form trusting relationships. This especially concerns the relationship between parents and children. Normal, well-organised relationships within the family help the young person to establish normal communication in new teams – in educational institutions.

Respect for the autonomy of an adolescent should in no case flow into indifference for their life. The studential period of life is associated with the onset of many unusual situations, together with the choice of one or another life position, and in this case, the parents must have healthy control over the behaviour of the teenager.

Unfortunately, the manipulation of public consciousness often negatively affects young people. Extremist propaganda, the activities of totalitarian sects have a serious impact on immature young souls. An example of such an influence is the tragic fate of a Russian girl from a prestigious university, Barbara Karaulova, who was recruited by Islamic terrorists. The same applies to drug and alcohol addiction. In these scenarios, the ones who can have the most beneficial impact on adolescents are the parents. It is they who can notice the first symptoms of such changes. It is the authority of parents that will help, in a timely manner, to influence the life of their child. For this reason, it would not be out of

place for parents to know what a teenager is reading, what their class schedule is and how they are achieving academically. Sound parental control is necessary.

When choosing a profession and a place of education, one should remember the moral side of our activity. There is a very interesting phrase in the Bible that explains many things happening around us: “And as they did not like to have God in their reason, God gave them over to a debased mind” (Rom. 1:28). Take heed – not in the heart, not in the soul, but in reason. Reason is a person’s ability to think, to know the world around them, to accumulate knowledge. Into this sphere of their nature, a person must voluntarily admit God. If a person lives without God, then God permits the person a perverse mind, that is, a mind that perverts the God-created world around it; a mind, which treats the world not as an owner, but as an enslaver, as a slave master, for whom the main goal is profit. Look at what is happening around us: man has dried up lakes, cut down almost half of the forests, exhausted mineral reserves, destroyed many species of animals and plants, poisoned the surrounding air and water, and this is the result of “reason without God”, of immoral education. Therefore, education, its purpose, its application must absolutely be moral.

As a consequence, not every profession, not every activity can be acceptable from the point of view of morals and morality. The church cannot in any way approve of professional activities that are directly tied to sin.

In this regard, a person must understand the upcoming path and the temptations associated with it. For example, no moral can agree with the commission of infanticide – abortions. But this is an integral part of the professional activity of a gynaecologist. Choosing this doubtlessly necessary profession, a person must realise how they can solve this moral problem for themselves.

In choosing the profession of a financier one needs to remember the sinfulness of deception and fraud. We have before our eyes a huge number of people living in poverty due to the professional activities of financial profiteers. The entire world crisis was played out because of the actions of people making money out of thin air. How many tears were shed as a result of this, how many suicides were committed! This field of professional activity is very questionable from a moral point of view.

A lawyer can be very tempted to blame the innocent and absolve the guilty. Today, the task of a lawyer often turns into deception. The subjectivity of legal work will always contain this temptation. People entering this path need to remember this and not lose their human dignity in pursuit of material well-being, with the desire to receive considerable sums of money.

Those who want to become actors should withdraw from the debauchery associated with this profession. Modern theatre has more and more become a service of the basest human senses and the profession of an actor becomes the main means for this. Moreover, the modern information machine is striving to illustrate to society the luxurious lifestyle of contemporary artists. And this image necessarily includes spousal infidelity, promiscuity, shamelessness on stage and immorality in life. I would like people thinking about this path to understand what the profession will force them into, which will be very difficult for them to resist.

This is far from a complete list of opinions and recommendations, which is based on the centuries-old experience of the Church and humanity. It would be desirable that all good plans ultimately bring a good result and to mitigate the pain of the aimlessly spent years.

And your task, dear parents, is to help your children find the meaning and purpose of their education, the meaning of their young life.

And you, dear students, remember that the Lord wants us to develop our reason and use it for the good of our neighbours. And if you like to study, if you have the abilities for this – do it; strive for it! Use all available opportunities in order to receive an education!

It is appropriate to finish this conversation with a quote from the Bible:

“Get wisdom, get understanding: forget [it] not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom [is] the principal thing; [therefore] get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee” (Prov. 4:5–9).