Seeking Authentic Wisdom in an Age of Artificial Intelligence
~ by Joylynn Blake and Joelle Hodge ~
Generative AI (artificial intelligence) is a term for machine-learning algorithms used to generate new content that can include written text, images, audio, videos, and other content. ChatGPT, Bard, Midjourney, DALL-E, and DeepMind are examples of some readily available AI tools, and their use is increasing exponentially.
These are exciting times, but also fast-moving times. Scholé Academy and Classical Academic Press are communities that prize effective and engaging modes of learning, particularly through contemplation and virtue cultivation. As we consider how to respond to culture shifts, we want to proceed with wisdom and clarity—neither being hasty nor passively sitting by.
We have spent much of this year educating ourselves about the nature of AI and how its use would bolster or weaken the larger mission and vision we have here at Scholé Academy. While we have created a handbook policy to address potential academic abuses of AI within our community, the underlying issues surrounding AI are far more complex than a simple policy can explore. We hope what follows will be a dialogue between us that begins by remembering who Scholé Academy is and how its mission serves our community.
Scholé Academy’s deeper values
As a classical, online, homeschooling service, we have never wanted to assume the characteristics and mass values of progressive education. We are not trying to reinforce a “cram, pass, forget” cycle for our students. Students completing work quickly—without contemplation, without an honest consideration of complex questions, without the need for revision and conversation—is not our goal. An argument for AI based on efficiency is therefore baseless for us.
In contrast, the intent and practice of a scholé education is to create space and time for the formation of virtuous character. We do not sell a product; we cultivate a pursuit. These values do not mean that we are a community of luddites, opposed to progress, development, or technology in general. We are grateful for and, in part, exist on account of technological innovation. But when it comes to selecting which technological tools to adopt, we are disinclined to permit any innovation that is more likely to subvert virtue formation than foster it. So, where does that leave us in relation to AI?
At the crossroads of virtue and the virtual
Given AI’s current state of development , we believe students’ use of this tool is more likely than not to subvert virtue and swindle them of opportunities to truly be students. The word student is derived from the Latin; studere, which means “to be eager for” or “zealous.” If AI becomes a tool of efficiency that removes opportunities for students to eagerly and zealously grapple with their studies, then it becomes a barrier to our real purpose as an educating community.
Almost anyone can ask an AI bot to generate a compelling essay, with commas neatly and correctly placed, and sentences smoothly strung together. However, in taking this route, a student misses the opportunity to forge the skills that lead to knowledge, diligence, perseverance, patience and, ultimately, wisdom. What’s more, a student’s use of AI—even as a catalyst to get himself started – may easily encourage vices like laziness, impatience, recklessness, flippancy, and academic dishonesty.
There is virtue to be developed in every student who sits facing a blank page and a blinking cursor. Which virtue? Is it patience? Is it endurance? Is it the seeking of wise counsel? Is it the humility that comes from reaching out for help from an instructor or classmate? Is it the honesty that comes from admitting that the task has been challenging? Is it the habit of faith that is built as a student avoids the temptation to cut corners? Is it simply the peace and joy that accompanies a life of integrity?
Is virtue formation easy? No. Is there a lure to the conveniences of modernity? Of course. No good student wants to earn a bad grade, and no good teacher takes pleasure in recording them. But we also know that if you believed that education was only a means to getting good grades, you would have chosen a different path. At Scholé Academy, we believe in a mastery approach to education, not a grade-centric model that rewards the quickest and most efficient product. More often than not, mastery takes time, practice, failure, second attempts, and deep contemplation. This is the way of a leisurely education. This is the way of scholé.
You are a part of our community because, like us, you believe that education is formation. You believe that the pursuit of knowledge through academic endeavors is about shaping the loves of your children, so that they come to love what God loves. You believe that mastery comes through the diligent work of perseverance––the kind referred to in James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Mature and complete, wisely formed young men and women—that is the goal we share with you. Here at the crossroads of virtue and the virtual we shoulder this work together.
The critical partnership
It is easy for an institution to say that we disallow the use of AI. It is, of course, much more difficult to enforce. One of the practical difficulties is that AI can be nearly impossible to detect, even with sophisticated tools. When there is reasonable suspicion of AI, what constitutes “proof” is largely circumstantial.
We are thus expecting students and their parents to help us pursue honesty and integrity in the work they present. Celebrating, encouraging, and expecting virtuous acts is critical to our identity—and laboring in partnership with parents toward this end is one of our founding principles.
A final word
We are honored that you have invited us to partner with you in shaping the loves of your children through the pursuit of a scholé education. We encourage you, as parents, to explore and educate yourselves on this strange new world of AI.
As we face the challenges of this new era, we are reminded that Jesus charges us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” There is work for us to do, navigating the complexities of what’s to come with these new technologies. We will continue to pray for you and ask that you do the same for us. Amidst all the fast-paced changes, we know there is nothing new under the sun and that vices are always overcome by virtue and by the working of the Holy Spirit in the hearts, minds, and emotions of our students.
Joelle Hodge, MAT is the Vice President of Operations, Sales, and Marketing at Classical Academic Press. She is the co-author of The Discovery of Deduction, and The Art of Argument as well as a contributor to numerous other CAP publications.
Dr. Joylynn Blake is Director and Principal of Scholé Academy. She is the author of Classical Education for the Public Good: A Grounded Theory. A summary of her research findings appears in the Journal of K-12 Educational Research.