The Secular and Spiritual in Education

Teachers and LaughingIn my religious upbringing the word secular was defined as a negative. In the worldview of my youth as an evangelical Christian, anything labeled secular was to be avoided. Baylor University scholar Barry Harvey shatters this misconception. Harvey observes that the root meaning of the word secular deals with time versus timeless. Have states, “Thus secular thinking should not be seen as the opposite of the sacred thinking. In fact, secular and sacred can be oddly complementary (Rosebrough & Leverett, 2011, p. 31).” Education has the power to blend the secular and spiritual into a powerful force for the student’s transformation.

A classic phrase often used in education is, “Students don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” We cannot show care or inspire if we ignore the spiritual life, which reflects the student’s deepest essence. The current anxiety in our culture about mixing religion with the public arena has created an unfortunate compartmentalization of education and the spiritual life. This is not just unfortunate, but unnatural. Religion is not static, but naturally evolves in understanding with the development of the person. While teachers should not propagate religion in a public education setting, they should have an appropriate level of freedom to walk with their students spiritually, because spiritual growth is part of the education process.


Rosebrough, T. R., & Leverett, R. G. (2011). Transformational teaching in the information age: Making why and how we teach relevant to students. Alexandria, Va: ASCD.

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