“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil”. – C.S Lewis

By Emily Lomax. Emily, 16, studies in the United Kingdom. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

It’s a fact: education is one of the foundations of financial or status success in life. It can be found other ways, but education opens doors – spiritual and social as well as financial. But Lewis here rejects the idea of systematic, conformist education – he wants important and relevant teachings and ideas woven through the fabric of a traditional education, or even providing a foundation on which this education can be built.

C.S. Lewis was a Christian apologist, so by ‘values’ he is probably referring to those taught in the Bible. Whether or not you are religious, many are important moral values: respecting your elders, loving your neighbours, not killing or stealing. So although an education which teaches you about history, geography, literature, biology, chemistry, physics, is important to deepen your knowledge and understanding of the world, alone – without values – it has the effect of making you a ‘more clever devil.’

So what could ‘a more clever devil’ mean? C.S. Lewis could be saying that the provision of education can enhance man’s capability for bettering himself; letting his selfishness have its way. It suggests that all men have devilish tendencies, or are dormant devils – ‘evil spirits’ – and being taught simply to become cleverer allows this evilness to grow. Education gives the devil within power.

Of course, this quote needn’t be taken too seriously. It could be a wry and cynical observation that we’re all baddies (marked by original sin) and education just makes us cleverer baddies. Or, as with many great writers, it could be a serious message disguised by its casual, unemphatic (‘seems rather’) nature.

The quote diminishes the importance of wealth and formal schooling – stripping us down to our cores, and realising that we’re all the same, some of us have just received a more formal or thorough education.

‘Clever’ is an interesting word. It definitely suggests a formal rather than liberal student. It doesn’t speak intelligence or intuition to me; it is further along the spectrum towards shrewdness and smartness – both of which could be seen to have slightly negative connotations.

I think that values are extremely important in education – some people are not taught them at home and they are a large part of being human, doing what is right by either God if you are religious, or what you feel to be morally right if you are not. By values, I mean respect and tolerance of everybody and the importance of patience and kindness. But they could mean something different to others… Everyone has their own idea of good values, so whose values would we follow as guidelines? England is a secular society so lots of people would be against religious values being taught (even though many are very good values). People would also be against the government having the power to decide the values children should be taught. For C.S. Lewis its simple: Christian value. But for non-religious people it is more complicated. Abortion, for example, should children be taught that it is wrong or acceptable? Who should decide?

I think that the teaching of values needs to be ‘abstract:’ they should not be taught as Latin verbs are, but encouraged, and children should be encouraged to develop their own values and morals – rather than following those of their parents or teachers, or of their religion.

Education is indeed useful – but not in the purely utilitarian way Lewis suggests. Values-based or not, it increases our awareness, understanding and appreciation of the past, our heritage and those of others, of the natural world, of the Earth and the universe.

But what is education without the crucial concept of what is important to you? What are you without your thoughts on everything, your beliefs and values? You’re just a textbook.

So, education ‘as useful as it is’ is lacking added value. Value in its most common sense is the worth of something, the regard that something is held to deserve; its importance or preciousness.

Education is then worth little (perhaps not in the job market or social circles) without values adding value to it. This would suggest that a person with a conformist, ‘factory’ education and no personal values – a ‘textbook-person’ – is worth less than one with strong values. Is this true or fair? What if we haven’t been brought up in an environment which allows, encourages and supports the development of values in a child? This is exactly why C.S. Lewis believes education and values should be interlinked, entwined. And I agree.

If we can, then we all go to school, which provides the perfect opportunity for values to be integrated throughout all lessons where possible, helping children develop an awareness of moral issues.

2 comments on ““Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil”. – C.S Lewis

  1. baggyk on

    I don’t think CS Lewis was an apologist at all, but I congratulate you on your ability to shock your readers so early in your article. That’s exactly how columnists get attention.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletter!