Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

Thinking About Education


Here are some fascinating thoughts on Education that I found through Signs of the Times.  (And I love the artwork!)

What do you Think?  Do you agree? Do you think it misses the mark? If it is true (in full or in part) what bearing might this have on how we approach such things as Sunday School, Bible Study, and Confirmation?


Author: kenmaher

When I'm not working I enjoy Astronomy, Camping, Comic Books, Epic Fantasy Novels, Games (both playing and designing), Hiking, Juggling, Sci-fi, and building strange things out of pvc pipe. I also enjoy being an honorary pre-schooler with my four great children ... much to their mother's dismay.

5 thoughts on “Thinking About Education

  1. This bears a lot of merit but it leaves God and the Christian family out. School does have it’s issues but there is sadly things, boring factual learning that’s necessary to get along in the world as we know it. If this world were all there were and this life it! , I would be more concerned. As a Christian family you are open to taking your child as a gift, sharing God’s love for them and their future is Heaven. This world and all that it entails means we as parents have a big job of helping our children realize they are special children of God with unique abilities and learning and growing needs and with the help of God we do our best.
    I believe you and your wife understand and are doing a good job of stimulating their Christian growth and helping them live in the limits our society lays on children’s education.

  2. Hmm… this video certainly has a lot of food for thought (and no doubt the animations are helpful in keeping the attention of anyone who might have ADHD (assuming it exists 😛 ).

    I’d certainly agree with the speaker’s contention that education today runs on a industrial-based standard. Just take a look at colleges and universities today; they heavily promote the “practical” disciplines (eg, accounting, business, engineering, etc) at the expense of traditional Arts and Sciences (you can see a more developed discussion of this trend in William M. Chace’s article “The Decline of the English Department”). Based on this, I think the speaker’s model of the current education system as supported on the two pillars of academic and intellectual needs an update: it’s supported on the pillars of professionalism (professional degrees) and economics (workers). Academics, as far as Arts and Sciences go (as the speaker himself notes) has really been removed and put somewhere in the back of the temple, out of sight.

    The metaphor of waking people up rather than anesthetizing them is a good on, and one I think that bears reflection upon. As Ruth says, we need to inform our children that they are children of God. Drawing on the video, we might say we need to wake them up that knowledge – knowledge which is often presented to children in a way which puts them to sleep (no doubt I have been guilty of this when I’ve taught Sunday School).

    Still, while I recognize the need to change, I’m not entirely sure how we would go about making those changes. I think the speaker’s suggestion that it’s not helpful to break kids into groups solely on the basis of age might be relevant to some extent. Perhaps one thing we could do is diversify our education approaches in the church. For example, we no doubt still need confirmation-courses (though perhaps beginning should be based on spiritual maturity rather than age). But we could expand their experience of that knowledge by giving each confirmand a mentor – a young person who is living the faith, who can help the confirmand see the relationship between the theology they’re studying and living it out in the real world.

    I’d also point out that while the traditional education model (teaching “boring things” as the video suggests) might not be great for some, it’s nevertheless great for others. A good system must learn to balance different approaches at the same time.

    Just a couple of thought. But as you asked the question, Ken, what implications do you see for Christian education?

  3. Ruth and Matthew, Thanks for the insights. You are right Ruth, this doesn’t say anything directly Christian, just about education in general, I’m just curious about how we as Christians approach the concept of education.

    I think that looking at Sunday School, Confirmation, and Adult Classes (as I have seen them in many congregations) there seems to be a very strong drawing upon this institutional model spoken of here. Children are brought to Sunday School even though the parents won’t come to Bible class or even church, confirmation is looked upon like some form of graduation, and people routinely say they are “too old” for Bible Study. (I’ve done my time, I’ve been through the ranks, I’ve paid my dues) Society has trouble keeping kids in school under this model, is it any wonder we have trouble keeping them in church using the same approach (and without the recourse of truancy!)

    Indeed, if I remember correctly Sunday School as a concept didn’t really come into being until William Booth, again not so long after the time of the industrial revolution. What did the church do for the 1800 years or so before that to educate their people in what it means to be Christian?

    I think you both hit upon something key in your observations Ruth with your link to family, and Matthew with your discussion of Mentoring.

    Christian growth finds it’s most natural expression in relationships, not classrooms. Parents teaching and modeling the Christian faith to/with their children. One Christian serving as a mentor/prayer partner/ father confessor to another. Our own catechism is very clear: “As the head of the family should teach it to his household”

    Again, Matthew, I think your comment on diversity in approach is keen. On a tangent to this, I am always amazed at what I see happen when diverse ages are taught at the same time. Young and old together and interacting, learning, modeling, encouraging.

    As a pastor I am always grateful for the trust that others place in me to teach the faith to their children, but what I must do in a classroom setting (it is nearly impossible to be the kind of mentor every one of my congregants needs) they can do in many ways even more effectively in their vocations as parents and sponsors.

  4. One more question for you Matthew. Do you think the decline of the traditional arts and sciences in favour of the professional and economic degrees is part of the sad lessening of critical thinking in our society?

    Is it something that our current system has just deemed unnecessary (if it works, or if it lets you work it is good, what more do you need to know) Or is it more about our post-modern notions of relative truth?

  5. I suspect it’s a combination of both. In the absence of Truth, practicality is really all that remains. If there isn’t a right or wrong, the best we can hope for is “what works for me”.

    The Sciences, by nature of the beast, prospered during during the Enlightenment and Modern eras: these were times that believed that everything could be explained rationally – which is, to some extent, what the Sciences attempt to do: explain rationally everything we perceive, certain that there are laws underlying every aspect of the universe. When that Enlightenment philosophy began to be questioned with the rise of postmodernism, the disciplines built upon it gave way as well. To a culture that doesn’t believe in absolutes, the idea of attempting to uncover even small “absolutes” in nature is laughable.

    The Arts, by contrast, are themselves somewhat responsible for their demise. Because they are concerned with human ideas and concepts, they moved quickly to entertain new theoretical approaches (including deconstructionism and postmodern philosophy). But in doing so, they began to validate ideas which in effect invalidated the very principles underlying the Arts. If truth cannot be communicated (a la deconstructionism) and if truth is relative (a la postmodernity), then what’s the point of talking about “capital T” truth at all? What’s the point of the human investigation into the human condition (the Arts), if human investigation is incapable of communicating truth or (worse) there is no truth to discover at all? The English department in particular fell into this trap; by the 1990s, the discipline had fractured into a number of competing theoretical schools, each arguing non-arguments about literature. With no real truth to be found in texts, everyone simply said whatever they felt – and generally in words that no one could understand (because really, what’s the point in attempting to communicate clearly if we can’t communicate at all?). The discipline has begun to reverse this trend, but perhaps too late to convince the wider society of its importance.

    The loss of confidence in the human ability to make sense of the world in its physical (Sciences) and human (Arts) senses drives our culture to simply ignore these questions. In other words, we don’t believe in either the brain (Science) or the mind (Arts).

    The abandonment of critical thinking is a natural next step. No point in trying to think about something we’re incapable of thinking about it. And when we have jettisoned everything that would suggest there are absolutes, all that remains is “what works for me” – in the philosophical sense (“my own truth, unquestioned and unquestionable, has gotten me this far just fine”) and in the practical sense (“a degree like business will get me a good job, and that’s all I want out of my education”).

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