When we talk about education today, we still talk in terms of ladders. However, the ladder metaphor now usually implies upward social mobility, getting ahead in life, reaching more power and a higher standard of living. For Christian educators in the past, the image of Jacob’s ladder served as a central metaphor for spiritual rather than social or economic advancement, for learning to draw close to God by leading a life of obedience, justice, humility, and piety. In the rule of St. Benedict we read: “We descend by haughtiness, pride and we ascend by humility. The ladder is our life on earth and if we humble our hearts the Lord will raise it to heaven. Our body and soul are the sides of the ladder, into which our diving vocation has inserted the various steps of humility and discipline as we ascend.” As we speak with students about the goals and challenges of learning, what kinds of ladders do we implicitly or explicitly invite them to climb?
David I. Smith and Susan Felch, Teaching and the Christian Imagination, 174.