The topic of this article is actually part of a response I made to a question put to me a few weeks ago by a senior student. “What do you think about chat GPT sir?” At the time I feigned ignorance and promised to return to the topic at a more appropriate time. My search for an appropriate response to this question led me to consider not just Chat GPT but the broader changes occurring in society, particularly those driven by technology, and the increasingly important role of Christian education in raising a generation equipped to understand and respond to these changes.
In the end, the response I gave to the curious students was that chat GPT was a symbolic manifestation of the incredible creative power that technology bestows on all modern citizens. Abilities that once required years of dedication and mastery are now almost indiscriminately available to individuals, groups, and organisations at ever-increasing rates. The pros and cons of technology, the dangers and the opportunities, are the topic of copious volumes, but the gist of my answer to Chat GPT was around the now central importance of a couple of questions that I do feel are right within the purview of Christian education and are an essential consideration for all the young people in our care. What should we do, and why should we do it?
I know, I know! Quite a build-up for those simple questions but they trigger an interesting discussion about the responsibility inherent in being the holder of such incredible power. The first question speaks to our focus and our motivation. The word ‘should’ within the question marks it out as about our intention. What problems are worthy of our attention? How important is making money? We still only have 24 hours in our day, so how should it be spent? What needs to be said? What would Jesus do?
It also clearly spells out the idea that we ‘should’ do something. Most of the negative aspects of technology centre around its exclusive use for the passive consumption of content rather than its creation. This passivity is central to far more of the ills effecting young people than technology use alone, but it finds an observable manifestation in technology use.
In my own classroom experience, one of the keys to ‘selling’ the study of literature to students questioning its value lies in the fact that constructing and creating texts with explicit purpose represents the only real pathway to understanding the purposes found in the texts we consume every day. That creating leads not only to learning and intelligence, but to a more informed version of consuming.
One of the clear purposes of Christian education is to help students accept the Biblical responsibility to influence culture, to be ‘salt and light’ and this is, by extension, a call to purposefully decide what they ‘should’ do, and what they should produce. What we choose to do defines the mark we make on the world. It defines the influence we have. We can do so much more now than anyone could have imagined. We can do it so much more easily and with far more reach and teaching students the careful consideration of what they should do has never been more important.
Then, of course, comes the why! It is perhaps here, in the ethical space where the fear of what the power of technology might produce lives, that we find our most powerful purpose. In a simplified nutshell we are here, according to Christ, to love and serve others. This carries with it rich purpose-filled life, deep responsibility, and a call away from passivity. I don’t believe I’m understating the importance of imparting the values of sacrifice, integrity, and generosity into the young people we educate as the ever-increasing power of technology finds its most dangerous application in the hands of uncaring, dishonest, and self-serving individuals.
Why indeed, should we do what we do? In a world increasingly devoid of positive aspirational models, Christianity offers powerful principles that play a vital role in not only the health of the individual, but in the health of our communities and society. Christian education provides an incredible opportunity to harness all the power inherent in the modern world and raise up a generation with a genuine vision for what they will do with it, and a clear understanding of why that vision has never been more important.
Rob Maguire, Head of English