I’m sitting in an auto shop waiting on my car to be inspected and serviced, and I began thinking about Plato’s Republic, specifically the part where he discusses how each person has their part to play in a just society–cobblers make the shoes, bakers bake, and so on. As each person does his job well, the community can flourish. If, however, everyone tried to do everything for himself, not only would the work be of a lower quality (here I’m thinking of the damage I would do to my car!), but everyone would be overworked.
Yet this “I can do it myself” attitude pervades not only much of our culture but also our churches. Many “go to church” expecting the pastor and staff to do everything, from ministering to the body to administration to hospital visits to community involvement and evangelism. But the apostle Paul had a different model. In 1 Corinthians 12-14 (among other places) he tells the Corinthian church that they have each been given an important gift and that they are to use this gift in loving service to one another in the body. Paul and Plato, though unequally inspired, both understood the world that God had created and the best way for men and women to grow in a flourishing community.
I wonder, however–what might this look like in our schools? Is each student expected to “go it alone,” or is there a sense of responsibility amongst students, faculty, and administration alike to create a community of flourishing? I would argue the latter. But what would it look like for each student to use his or her gifts (in a Pauline sense) or specific skills (in a Platonic sense) to bring about community (school) flourishing?
I’ll be thinking more about this for a future post, but I’d love your thoughts in the comments. You can also reach me by email at email@example.com.