Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Problem with Education

I remember a few things about high school. I remember being the guy who read the announcements over the school public address system many mornings, trying to liven up the proceedings.

"May I have your attention please. Please, may I have your attention. (dramatic pause) Thank you. I just love attention."

I remember sneaking into the darkened school auditorium with my girlfriend for a little kissing. (That was it. Honest.) I remember our high school tennis team practicing without a coach. Not knowing what to do, and not actually wanting to play tennis, we improvised a giant game of Gnip Gnop with the object of the game being to hit all the tennis balls we could find over the tall chainlink fence. And I remember being served mashed potatoes and turkey gravy in the lunchroom which stuck to the tray even when I held it upside down for over 15 minutes. Yum yum!

But you know what I don't remember? I don't remember that semester of Spanish I took as a freshman. I don't have any idea how to solve a quadratic equation. I am at a loss when it comes to diagramming sentences. That's what I don't remember -- the education. You know, the reason I went to school in the first place.

Now I realize that there are many school lessons that I have absorbed and are a big part of my life. I learned to type in high school, and I have never taken a more useful class. I played trombone in the band, and I still know the notes, although the tone of the horn just isn't the same. And I've always had an interest in history. I've learned more since high school, but it was there that the foundation for a love of history was laid. But so much of what I read, learned and was tested over has long since fallen from my memory banks.

As I think about the whole education process, I see two glaring problems. Maybe they are more like weaknesses, but they are two ideas we must keep in mind. First, let's be honest... we don't retain knowledge very well. For some reason, every year my age increases by one and my memory is cut in half. At least it seems that way as I remember it. But I'll often find myself midway through a chapter of a book only to realize that I have no idea what was in the last two paragraphs I supposedly just read moments earlier. It's really scary when it happens while driving. ("When did I get on highway 20?") Unless we actually try (gasp!) to pay attention and remember things, we likely will forget. This is how the folks who make the "Hello, my name is..." nametags make money -- we must be continually reminded what we are supposed to already know.

The second problem with education is that we often don't understand things to begin with. However, since we are supposed to impress people with our brain power or need to get a good grade on this exam, we fake it. You know it's true. You cram just enough into your short term memory so that you don't fall on your face. That's how I got through school. Was I really supposed to remember all that stuff? We consider most information virutally unimportant, except to get the promotion or the good grade or the good impression.

Since we are saddled by these two problems in education, we should be aware of this when discipling another believer. Foolishly, I have taught a discipleship class brimming with great information and instruction. Yet I know that much of what was taught has been forgotten -- even by the best students in the class. Even with the best of intentions, a student taking discipleship training is not going to pick up everything from a course. Yet that same information is really needed to get a new convert (or an old convert who has never spiritually matured) to the point of spiritual maturity -- or at least to the point of being able to recognize that the Jehovah's Witness at the door isn't really peddling Christianity.

Still, outside of my own church, I see churches large and small teaching discipleship classes -- many as qualification for membership. These classes certainly have to deal with the two problems or weaknesses I outlined above. So what's missing?

As much as I hate to say it, there's got to be more human interaction than a classroom setting can provide. There must be some sort of mentoring relationship with accountability through the process. Even though a class of twelve is a tall mentoring order for one person, this relationship must be built into the program. In my own classes, it's been a suggestion or a voluntary decision. But it fights against a person's desire for privacy, not to mention the demand on one's time. There is no way most people will follow through. Why do I hate to say this? Because it seems like an insurmountable task. Good thing I have a mighty God, huh?

Perhaps this is where some other churches have problems with immature believers living on milk instead of solid food, yet holding positions of responsibility within the church? I'd say that's happened in my church, although I'm not calling the character of anyone into question. They just don't see the benefits of anything more than a classroom setting.

Stuff for me to chew on...

No comments: