The Root & The Fruit of Education

Russ Gregg, Head of School

The phrase “The Peaceful Fruit of Righteousness” comes from the book of Hebrews, and it describes the design of God’s discipline in our lives. Though his discipline seems unpleasant at the time, the Lord is always seeking our good, and for those who are trained by the pain, God’s discipline produces this amazingly important fruit of righteous character.

Paul Tough’s new book, How Children Succeed, persuasively makes the case that the qualities that matter most in determining why some children succeed while others fail have more to do with the hidden power of character than high IQ—they have more to do with virtues like perseverance, optimism, grit, conscientiousness, and self-control. Character—not cognition—is central to success.

However, these same researchers seem clueless about just how to develop these all important virtues in the lives of children today. The problem as I see it, is that these educators are expecting to harvest the fruit of virtuous character apart from the root of the knowledge of God.

We all know what you get when you cut a tree from its roots.

The Book of Galatians tells us that you get “the desires of the flesh,” which are contrary to the Spirit.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.

Sound familiar?

On the contrary, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

These are the very virtues researchers see as necessary for success.

Decades ago, C.S. Lewis foresaw the destructiveness of severing the fruit from the root, of separating the virtues we demand from the knowledge of God. In his treatise on education called The Abolition of Man, he wrote:

We continue to clamor for those very character qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a newspaper without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity, we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.

This fundamental disordering of our schools has indeed had disastrous effects on education, especially on the education of inner-city children.

Fourteen years ago, God led a small group of us to start a radically different kind of school for the children of our city. By God’s grace, and the help of people like you, we started a remarkable, Christ-centered school for inner-city children. And today, nearly 400 youth, from kindergarten through the 12th grade are receiving an amazing education that will prepare them to become the future servant leaders of our city.

Hope Academy has attacked the problem of urban education quite literally at its root — and day after day, we are seeing the same group of high-poverty, “at-risk” students beat all the odds and become successful beyond our wildest dreams.