On Education

I woke up on the floor of the empty church office. The first thought the flew through my mind was, “Who gets to do this? This is incredible!!!” My sleeping bag has seen parking lots, forts made out of silver emergency blankets, a box in a warehouse, tents, and shelters made of tree branches. Sand, snow, wind, blistering cold, scorching heat.

I teach Global Studies class to undergraduates, preparing them to move to foreign countries for ministry and vocation as well as to stay home and be good neighbors to their international neighbors and colleagues.  But this sleeping arrangement wasn’t in the fine print of my teaching contract. Tents and bleary eyes. Midnight games, shelter building, and early Saturday breakfasts with coffee made in a sock.  A clean sock, but nevertheless. . .

John Milton commented on overseas travel in his sixteen-century letter now entitled On Education:

“If they [students] desire to see other Countries at three or four and twenty years of age, not to learn Principles, but to enlarge experience, and make wise observations, they will by that time have such as shall deserve the regard and honour of all men where they pass” (1931 version, p. 290).

But I want more students to care about more than just regard and honour.  There is a grander purpose to education–to know God and to make Him known.

Education is not just about the sage on the stage.  Big pitcher, little mug.  Learning involves tents and hikes and luggage restrictions.  It’s walking and talking, sitting and rising. Symbols AND words.

Deuteronomy 6:4-8 has informed my thinking on this.  Really, the whole book of  Deuteronomy, but I will leave that for another time.

Hear, O Israel!  The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (NASB)

The above passage describes cognitive, spiritual, affective, and even physical dimensions to instruction that leads to knowing God.  The basic content of this specific instruction (and the foundation for all Truth) is a knowledge of and love for God.  The passage calls for inductive instruction to take place alongside daily life.  The Hebrew verb used for the word teach means to repeat.  The Israelites were instructed to repeat their love of the Lord and His Law day by day to their children.  This repeating happened as the people dialogued about the character of God, about life, while they sat in their houses, and walked along the roads throughout the day.  Not only were they to talk of the Law of the Lord, but they were to wear symbols to provoke meditation.  They were to display the words of the Lord at the gates and doors of their house.

Parents and educators must see that their responsibility is not only to speak words of information, but also to model righteous living, to make the education of righteousness a constant practice, an intentional point of conversation, and a way of life in every-day experience.

Can I be frank?  Southern California is a hard place to do this. (Insert your homeland here.)  In my previous (Alaskan) world, daily living required community involvement:  smoking salmon, stripping bolts off an airplane, digging vehicles out of the mud-sand-snow.  Days of chopping and stacking wood with teens, with peers and with my elders led naturally to intentional conversations about the character of God and godly living.  But more often than not, schedules and fences and incessant soccer practice and iphones pull us from these conversations.

So, my curricula include cooking breakfasts and hiking and moving heavy objects.  I want to know how my students work together, what kind of creativity is lurking in my introverts, and what sort of questions flow when trekking these brown hills together.

For the King!

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