We are living in a time of great cultural change that seems to have affected every institution—not least education. Like never before, parents have the sense that their children are academically unprepared and morally and spiritually unrooted. Christian parents know that they are called to raise their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), but until lately the educational implications of this call had not been clear. With this new sense of calling come important questions about why Christian education is essential, even what makes it Christian. A number of books and articles that address these important questions are available. The most compelling answers, however, are found in a children’s story—C.S. Lewis’ novel Prince Caspian. The narrative of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Prince Caspian’s childhood and his remarkable education offers us a profound vision of Christian education as education for the kingdom of God.
Prince Caspian was raised in the house of his uncle Miraz, a usurper who had murdered Caspian’s father, the rightful king of Narnia. Unaware of this, Caspian thinks his uncle has done him a great kindness by adopting him. Miraz had no love for Caspian, however. He spared his life only because he was childless and needed an heir. Moreover, Miraz was cruel and unjust, oppressing rather than serving his subjects. Raised in his household, Prince Caspian would doubtless have followed his wicked uncle’s example. Thankfully, Aslan had other plans for Caspian and for Narnia.
As readers of the Chronicles of Narnia know, Aslan’s plan for Narnia always included the rule of human kings. They were Aslan’s stewards and servants, however, exercising their rule not for gain but for the good of all. To set things right, Miraz must be overthrown and Caspian restored as the rightful king. Yet he must also exercise his rule differently than the usurper Miraz. Caspian needs a kingly education of both heart and mind, and this is precisely what Aslan provides.
Caspian’s education begins with his heart. As a child, he hears from his nurse wonderful stories of the old days of Narnia, feeding his imagination and kindling a longing in his heart to see those old days restored. Next, Caspian is put under the care of a tutor who does not tell tales so much as teach history. To Caspian’s surprise and delight, however, the history lessons satisfy the hunger awakened by the nurse’s stories. The tutor, in fact, provides Caspian with what we might call a thorough liberal arts education. Most importantly, he teaches Caspian to think for himself and provides him with a clear sense of his identity as a child of the king and his calling to restore Aslan’s gracious rule to Narnia.