I have heard or read a lot of commentary lately about how “education has failed Baltimore,” as if that somehow explains the recent lawlessness in the city. I beg to differ from those who make that statement. Education did not fail Baltimore; some Baltimoreans failed to educate themselves.
Please allow me to make a point from the Bible. Many people of Baltimore – especially those brought up within the church culture (and we know at least some of the looters and destroyers were) know the story of Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt after God had liberated them from slavery. It is an inspiring story, detailed in the chapters of Exodus.
However, fewer people pay attention to the equally-important details surrounding the liberation of these former slaves. Now please concentrate on the phrase I just said: former slaves. Although we can admire Israeli ingenuity today, with its life-enhancing technology made available throughout the world, we also can state that their ancestors did not emerge from Egypt a literate, culturally-advanced culture. Yes, they could make things – we know that the Tent of Meeting was an exquisite example of this – but this is in keeping with a people who had been forced to construct much of Egyptian infrastructure. Basically, though, when they emerged from captivity, they were not on the “World’s Most Desirable Culture” list.
Patience! We’ll soon come to my point.
These people knew something about the God they worshipped, but apart from that, they were as “ignorant” about Him as the Baltimorean thugs seem to be. They did not leave Egypt with “education”; what they left Egypt with was a man: Moses. Period. The defeater of Pharaoh – but it took 10 tries! The “articulate” prophet of Jehovah – except that Aaron had to substitute as his spokesman almost immediately!
Now, some Bible scholars insist that Moses probably represented the epitome of Egyptian culture. After all, he had been the adopted son of an Egyptian princess. He had to have had every advantage; why, he probably wrote the entire Mosaic Law as a young slip-of-a-thing… Oh, that’s right: He had to flee Egypt for having a murderous temper (seems even his prince-hood couldn’t save him from his family’s law!).
Anyway, forty years later (way beyond any benefit from that supposed “Egyptian education”), Moses the marginalized sheep-tender (do you have any idea of how stinky sheep can be?), the outcast of Egyptian society (remember, the Egyptians were the Head Honchos of that era!), the fearful felon (one never knew when the Strong Arm of the Law would reach out to the ghetto of Midian) – that very same man led 600,000 men (plus women and children) beyond the boundaries of Egypt. They went quietly and peacefully, with no riots, no stealing, and no destruction whatsoever. Egypt retained all of its pristine glory (except that God had conclusively demonstrated to one and all that Pharaoh was not His son!) – every brick, every pyramid, every temple was perfectly intact. Yes, and the former slaves asked (in other words, requested politely!) “the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing” (Exodus 12:35).
Note: the word translated “plunder” in verse 36 of Exodus chapter 12 does not mean what it does in Baltimore; no windows were smashed, no pharmacies set on fire. In fact, most Egyptians were “favorably disposed” to compensating their former slaves, because they had seen God’s displeasure with their own wickedness in subjugating them.
No one who left Egypt on Moses’ Wilderness Trek had ever attended high school, nor could any one of those Hebrews tell a textbook from a hand trowel. (The written Bible that we have today hadn’t even been started by their leader.) They had simply been told – like sheep – to follow the One God – by the one man, Moses. No teachers, no computers, no school supplies, no bells, no buildings, no principals. No “education.”
And also note this: No stones were thrown. No produce carts (the delivery vans of that day) were looted. No horses and chariots (think “police cars”) were burned. No Egyptians were attacked. No pyramids were destroyed (after all, they were the ultimate “symbols of oppression” in those days!). Moses did not urge his people to assassinate / jail / shame / retaliate against anyone of the Egyptian hierarchy. (He left that to God.) You see, the Hebrews’ education came from walking and listening and talking and worshipping and depending on the God who led them. They only had to hear “Thou shalt not steal” once, and they were instantly responsible from then on not to steal.
Before I close, I would like to ask this question: How did a ragtag cluster of frightened, complaining, disenfranchised, marginalized former slaves transform themselves into the fighting force that ushered them into the Promised Land 40 years later? Did they organize elementary schools, middle school, and high schools – even colleges and universities? Did they demand “equality” from the Amorites, the Jebusites, and all the more powerful forces of the Middle East of their day? Did they print books on religion and politics? Did they form societies and community action groups?
Or did they educate themselves – in the right way and with the right leader and with the right God?
Now, this must be said about the rioters and looters who have been “educated” – however marginally – who do the opposite of what the Hebrews did so long ago:
They are listening to the wrong Moses.
They are following the wrong “freedom path.”
And they are certainly following the wrong god(s).
And I say again: education has not failed them. The education has been there all along, in forms far beyond what the ancient Hebrews of the Bible had access to. Some Baltimoreans have simply failed to educate themselves.