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Chapter 8 - The Myth of Education
Here a distinction needs to be drawn between eduction (what is done to you) and learning (what you do). one can also see a distinction between facts presented in a classroom and what is integrated in one’s life with apprenticeship.
Aristotle put forth the idea of paideia (the instruction of the young) as necessary to insure the continuation of Greek culture and the stability of the “polis” (city). While the rich could hire private tutors for their children, most would attend a classroom of 10 to 20 boys who would listen to a teacher read a book and then recite back what they had heard. The idea of an external imprint on the minds of children to make them behave in certain ways took them out of the influence of their parents. That this was the duty of the state was a new idea.
This sort of education was seen as essential to advance in the social world For the Greeks proficiency in rhetoric and oratory was essential for a place of prominence in the polis. For regular people, children learned their parent’s trade or were apprenticed to a relative to learn a different trade. The implication of the impact a differentiation of classroom learning from life learning continues to us today.
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. - 1 Corinthians 11:1
Christianity began to be turned into classroom instruction with the catechetical schools established in Antioch and Alexandria early in the second century. Together with the collection of what would become the books of the bible, deference was given to men with intellectual skills that made their own writing on a par with scripture. Christianity started to shift away from relationships and how one lived life to what one knew and how well one spoke. Creeds were published that were intended to prevent error and often acted to repress inquiry and learning.
The mechanical conveyor-like processing of children through one classroom after another has a certain financial appeal in a degree of efficiency, an appeal for parents who feel they have better things to do, as well as those who desire that future generations are programmed with specific values.
The classroom disconnects children from the context of real life. It also disconnects them from dialog that one might foster in an apprenticeship. Often the classroom will dull an inquisitive nature as many do not have the perseverance to contend for the attention of the teacher.
A woman who has been “educated” might tell a friend who is struggling with her husband that she is co-dependant. This may be because the classes she took in psychology helped her classify, categorize, and label various behaviors. A woman who has learned about people from living life may instead offer sympathy, encouragement, or even suggestions for things to try. The “educated” woman may feel bad and be sincere in wanting to help, but may only be able to offer a referral to a counseling service.
I used to teach a bible study for boys in a juvenile detention facility. They would often ask what church they should go to when they got out. I told them it was sad because no matter what denomination they went to, they would be identified as “youth” and sent off to go bowling and have a pizza. They might ask what that had to do with Jesus or the bible and I said that would be a very good question. I suggested that whatever church they went to, they might keep an eye out for someone who clearly showed the light and love of Jesus and ask that person if they could help them learn more about Jesus and how to follow him.
When I first started I tried to use the classroom model of education for about five minutes.I could quickly see the eyes glazed over with boredom. I then shifted to an open question time and found that at the end of an hour question were fast and furious. I found a hint of this type of instruction in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. - 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
Some use these verses to charge Christianity with hating women. I think it is more an indictment of lazy husbands seeking to avoid their responsibility to be leading in the home. However, buried here is the word “ask”. To me this reveals a little insight into how their meetings were conducted. Chapter fourteen in general is a rebuke to the Corinthians for disorderly meetings. However, I see a dialog method used as opposed to the lecture format that most churches use today. Dialog is useful because it gears itself towards the interest of the learners and is usually in the context of what the learner would find useful.
Utility is an interesting aspect of the Christian life. Seminary students are taught an awful lot about doctrine and subsequently this is replicated in the sermon-lectures they usually give throughout their careers. A pew sitting Christian may have been told to love others a thousand times, but he might be more interested in how to do this with a son that has just told him that he hates him.
Most pastors are a little fearful of questions because they may not fit with the doctrinal dictums as answers that they were taught. Perhaps actual learning about the Christian life is hindered because seminaries never taught taught anyone how to do it.
I knew a seminary teacher once and asked him what percentage of the students were what might be called “squirrely”. He said about 25%. I thought the number should be closer to 50% at that particular seminary. I asked that since you have so many students so obviously in need of counsel why isn’t it provided if for no other reason than Christian charity. I was told that it was the responsibility of their home church to offer such counsel. It seemed to me an answer out of cowardice and convenience. However, on looking back it was more likely out of not having anything useful to offer. It is sad that a Christian seminary would be that impoverished.
Perhaps the best example of bible learning I have heard about is here;
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? - Luke 24:32
That my parents did not have such a passion for learning I attribute to both public schools as well as the instruction they received in their church.
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