November 19, 2009

Observations On Education

People who know me well know that the decision to go begin seminary was done more out of necessity than out of my deep, longing desire to be enriched by the seminary experience. Don't get me wrong, I don't think seminary or furthering your learning is bad. I'm all for continuous learning, but I agree with what Albert Einstein said, "The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education." Deep huh? What else would you expect from the theory of relativity guy?

Now I've only been in seminary 1 semester, but I have to say that some of my suspicions have been totally confirmed. One of my concerns with seminary was that I would be instructed in arenas that have little to no bearing on my ministry. So far the two classes that should have tremendous impact on my ministry, Old Testament & New Testament, have spent more than half of the course time focusing on issues like textual criticism, form criticism, etc. While those are valuable pursuits, they are not exactly relevant issues in my ministry experience. I've been serving in church ministry for years & have never once had to fall back on my vast knowledge of scholars like Bultmann, Wrede, & Dodd. I'm not saying these topics should be abandoned; I'm simply saying that they shouldn't consume half of the course. Perhaps actually exploring the scriptures & working on our ability to understand & teach them should be of a little more concern.

Another one of my concerns with seminary & with education in general is that there isn't that much education actually occurring. Our education systems are very good at teaching people what to think, but they are not teaching people how to think. I know; it's easier to simply transfer facts & information, but that doesn't do much to actually develop students. When teachers & professors are more concerned with regurgitated facts than they are with a student who dares to display critical thinking skills, we have a serious problem. Fortunately in my experience with Liberty University this has yet to be the case. I experienced it in college on more than one occasion. If we our schools & universities simply teach students facts rather than teaching students how to learn, then they aren't doing their jobs.

I know there are no simple solutions to the problem with institutional education, but for me the best solution is for people to seek out new learning opportunities on their own. You don't have to pay tuition to learn. You don't have to have diplomas & degrees on your wall to be brilliant. My dad has a saying from his years working around engineers who can't even do basic geometry: "Some people are educated beyond their intelligence." I've learned that this is all too true.

I have lots of friends & family who are in the education world, so I'm sure they'll love this, but I stand by my own observations & experiences. As I've said there are no simple solutions. The best solution is for us to take back our own responsibility to learn & stop relying on a school or a teacher to do it for us. If you want to learn, take it upon yourself. Kids, put down your video games, turn off the laptop & read a book! Parents, invest in the education of your kids. Don't rely on the school, public or private. Real learning & understanding doesn't come simply from acquiring information. It comes from learning how to use it & apply it to a broader context.

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