If you ask me to help you design and build a house, it’s definitely going to come out crooked. Even though I loved drawing homes and cabins in beautiful landscapes when growing up, I never mastered basic geometry, and algebra, or gained a working knowledge of materials and the skills necessary to build things of substance.
My building skills climaxed at crummy paper airplane construction, a 3d cardboard house I once made in art class, and a few primitive tree forts built with my brothers. Sure, I attended the math classes that should have equipped me with a rudimentary understanding of angles, or shapes, and dimensions. I took the tests and passed them. But if you were to ask me to use the math I learned back in my school days to any creative task today, I couldn’t do it. And why is that?
Whose Fault is it?
“It’s because you’re a bonehead, Stephen. It’s your own fault that you didn’t learn anything,” you might say. Well, if that’s the case then why did my teachers let me graduate from school before I mastered the basics or acquired any marketable skills? And why was I able to finish high-school in 3.5 years, and graduate from university in only 2.5 years, with a double major, and a 3.75 GPA, and still come out feeling like I’m intellectually handicapped?
I think the main reason why I don’t remember much from my schooling days is because the content was useless, and because I never learned to do anything relevant or meaningful with the things that were being taught. The problems with modern education are legion, but for the moment I want to focus on these two:
1- The Content
2- The Methods
The most popular argument for why we should go to school goes something like this:
“Work hard at school so you can get into a nice university, to get a degree, to get a nice, well-paying job, so you can get the things you want, and support the lifestyle of your choice.” The focus is on the getting. That’s the final goal.
As a Christian, our reasons for education should be radically different. We should educate the next generation so that they may know God, and be equipped to glorify Him in their lives. The purpose is to make disciples of Christ, who love God and love their neighbors. The focus is on making God look great by becoming more like Christ.
These views on education are radically different- they are like two different destinations. If your child were attempting a 12+ year journey to anywhere, and you wanted them to succeed, you’d equip them with the proper training, tools, and provisions to get there.
So if your destination is “The Land of Success,” then the masses who’ve gone before you, and the current educational system would say that you need a ticket to enter, and that ticket is a degree.
If your destination is the Kingdom of God, then a degree and boat loads of money are not a requirement. Sure, getting a degree may be one small step along your journey, and yes, you might end up making a whole lot of money in your specific calling, but in no way are those the ticket to your goal of Christ-likeness.
Why Worldly Education is Foolish
Worldly education denies the fact that there is a God who rules over every sphere of the universe, and that in Him we live, and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
Without the binding truth that God holds all things together, the world is left to come up with their own understanding of why things are the way that they are. They see the marvels and treasures of God’s created universe but do not glorify Him, and as a result they become vain in their imaginations, their hearts are darkened, and they become fools (Rom. 1). They see the beauty and order of God’s universe but do not want to acknowledge Him. They are left to collecting random facts about the universe and reality, and scrambling to construct an alternative worldview, with matching values, and a man-centered purpose to life. They end up using God’s materials of logic, and reason, and science to build a crooked tower that attempts to glorify man. It’s the leaning tower of babble. They teach, but the content is sterilized from the truth, and reduced to random trivia.
The world’s exclusion of God from education naturally leads to a dumbed down, ineffective, and harmful learning experience for everyone who goes through it.
Against God’s Order
From the time children first enter the classroom they are bombarded with random facts, with an unnatural emphasis on the abstract over the physical, and a content that is not only absent of God’s existence, but in many cases directly contradicts the scriptures by promoting homosexuality, evolution, and other abominations. It is immoral, depressing, and irrelevant, and leads to the common question, “Why am I learning this?”
Not only is the content of our education lifeless, the methods are most unnatural.
There is a huge disconnect in modern day education between input and output; between the hearing and doing; between learning and applying.
We’ve adopted the ancient Greek view of education and elevated knowledge above all else. We teach for the sole purpose of filling minds with ideas, and not on equipping children to apply those ideas in any practical way. It’s more important to gorge ourselves on cold hard facts, than to do anything meaningful with those facts. It’s knowledge over action.
The educational goals of a school dictate what content can be taught.
It’s a combination of both (1) content requirements, and (2) environmental limitations that dictate the methods that teachers can use.
The modern day school environment resembles a factory or a jail more than it does anything else. With the students taking a yellow bus instead of a white one, to a large, sterilized place, void of their parents. Everyone is segregated by age; sitting in rows, and going through the monotony of listening to the teacher, reading textbooks, taking tests, waiting for the bell to ring, going home and doing homework, and hoping to pass and go on to the next level. It’s like a game. These patterns are drilled into us from youth, with over 15,000+ hours, and are supposed to somehow equip us for a successful life.
But this Makes Sense if We Remember…
- We need a ticket to enter the Land of Success, and…
- The holder of those tickets are universities, and…
- Universities place a higher premium on acquired knowledge over practical ability.
I know some of you might think I’m over-simplifying the problem. And maybe I am. Surely not all school methodology is limited to memorizing random facts and trivia void of any real-life application …. Then again, Most of it is…
And in Other News…
And this disconnect between knowledge and action has leached into other areas of our life. The news media we consume on a daily basis shows similar patterns. Neil Postman speaks of context-free information, and that “most of our daily news consists of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action.” He says that, “In both oral and typographic cultures, information derives it’s importance from the possibilities of action.” Please read that again.
Is it any wonder we have generations of students graduating with nothing more than the ability to talk about their opinions on social and world matters, and yet lack marketable skills, or the ability to do anything of real value? No wonder 30 year old Billy and Susie are moving back home to mom and dad’s house with a ton of opinions about how life should be, and a ton of school debt yet to be paid.
In our modern information world, knowledge is the new currency, and hearing about something takes precedence over doing anything about it. The next time you read, watch, or listen to the news, ask yourself, “What steps do I plan to take on such an issue? What action can I take on this right now?” If nothing, then maybe we should reconsider how important and relevant it really is.
T. David Gordon once did a talk about how modern technology affects our interaction with those in close proximity to us. He gave the example of watching the news about some random shark attack in Australia, and how although the surfer’s situation was serious, it might not be of the greatest importance to people half-way around the world. Might we consider the neighbor lady next door who has cancer and can’t get to the grocery store because of her sickness. Might we be more equipped to do something about this person’s situation, and thus bring about a real, and positive change in the world if only we learned to value information that leads to action.
A Better Way
Modern day education is a failure when it comes to content and methodology. If we follow the path that most take, we will be sending our children off in the wrong direction in life. There is a better way.
The content of what we learn and listen to really does matter. As Christian parents we should be concerned with the content of what our children are learning. We should aim to teach them the truth of God’s word and show them how it applies to every area of life. We must teach them the “why” of what they’re learning- Why it all makes sense, why it all works together, why it matters. We should be able to answer our children’s question of, “Why am I learning this?” Then when they learn about history, math, science, art, reading, writing, and all the other subjects there will be a cohesive bond that brings it all together. God created the universe, “and He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17)
Likewise, I think it’s crucial that our educational methods mirror Biblical discipleship- where there’s a healthy balance of hearing and doing. For instance, we should learn math by actually doing math: buying groceries, balancing budgets, designing clothes, building dog-houses, starting businesses, measuring ingredients, and other real-life activities. We should learn science from activities like taking walks, visiting the zoo, going camping, raising animals, doing projects, planting a garden, and cooking delicious meals. We should learn to work and improve our physical health and by managing the home, doing yard work, and caring for others. We should teach our children to learn from God and create things that are beautiful, functional, and reflecting of His glory.
Jesus Said it Best
One Bible verse that can be applied to the ideas of both “content and methods,” is Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Emphasis mine)Matt. 7
When building a strong foundation for our children’s education let us remember the two-fold importance of this scripture- it needs to be based on the truth of God’s word, and it needs to include an emphasis on learning that leads to action. If we give our children these things they’ll be able to stand, no matter what storms may come, or wherever they find themselves on the journey of life. May God help us in this great endeavor.
Question: Maybe it was different for you. Do you feel that school prepared you for the roles you now fill as an adult and helped you grow in Christlikeness? Why or why not?