The Divine Image in Education

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

A recent visit to a school nearly four times smaller than my current one has made me felt acutely the importance of human face. Or in the words of a humanist, E M Forster, “personal relations”.

Undeniably, the business model of education establishments is increasingly more pervasive. Economic absolutism underscores many policies. Many large independent academies begin to take on the characteristics of corporate companies, metaphorically “chained” together. Coupled with the government’s obsession with league tables, the result is a target-driven culture that recognises only the imperative of data analysis and performance related pay.

A dog-eat-dog climate of everyone for him/herself is inevitable. Openness invites attack and close-door policy protect self-interest. This climate of fear no doubt has spread across many schools in the land. Stories of heart breaks repeat themselves on regular intervals. In many cases, teaching is no longer about education; it is a gladiatorial contest to sort the mighty from the meek. Under the pressure to meet targets, deviance and deceit become the norm. The suffering is human; the perpetrator a false Divine image:

Cruelty has a human heart,
And Jealousy a human face;
Terror the human form divine,
And secrecy the human dress.

Blake is by no means naïvely sentimental about human capacities. In recognising the transient nature of human experience, Blake personifies opposing human qualities to highlight their polar opposites. Blake’s double vision is clear: wherever mercy is present, cruelty is lurking round the corner – often both can be possessed by the same heart.

Many schools of today are torn between following the path to The Divine Image or A Divine Image. Individuals are also caught in the battle for self-preservation. It needn’t to be like this.

Seven years of swimming, many a time gasping for air, in the tumultuous torrent of educational tides have carried me to a critical point. I need to hang on to an overarching branch to steady myself, to survey my surroundings and to seek sanctuary where I can readdress the question of the two images.

My latest visit to this school has made me acutely aware of the value of The Divine Image.


About W. S. Lien

Tweed Wearer - Country Lover - Teacher Researching Professionalism and Identity@Clare College, Cambridge - Keen Amateur Photographer - Devotee to Poppy my Labrador
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