Education = Instilling the Joy of Discovery in the Student

I am about two-thirds of the way through T. David Gordon’s book, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal, and came across a paragraph that really resonated with me. The book itself is not about education, but in his chapter on contemporaneity as a value, he touched on the unrelenting trumpeting of the latest technological “gadget de jour” which always is touted as the future of education. His comment, I believe, speaks to the key of all real teaching and learning:

Not one of these ingenious gewgaws addresses the fundamental reality that many educators since Socrates have recognized: namely, that the barrier to education is the student himself—his parochialism, his laziness, his resistance to disciplined intellectual effort, his complacent self-satisfaction with his present attainment and understanding. Nearly every capable educator in the history of the human race has realized that the least important thing we educators do is disseminate information, which is (especially now) widely available in less expensive formats. What capable educators have always attempted to do is to infect their students with a love of learning and a hatred of parochialism. The goal of every good educator is, and always has been, for our students to rediscover what they all knew intuitively as young children: the innocent and thrilling joy of discovery and understanding (a joy ordinarily crushed by compulsory education). At best, tools can assist those who already possess this love of learning, but no inanimate tool can or ever will infect a human with such love.

Other than reminding me once again that the answer to the educational dysfunction of our society is not to “throw more money at the problem,” it brought to my mind those teachers in my past who were able to “instill the joy of discovery” in me: Pinkie Reiss, my seventh grade Language Arts teacher who actually instilled a desire to use grammar correctly (those who read my blogs may say she failed miserably at her task, but I digress); Roy Parker, my ninth grade history teacher who fanned the dying embers of a love for history in a confused junior higher; Mr. Lambert, my world civilization and Russian history teacher at Lamar University who made me dig to understand “cause and effect” in history; Dr. Ralph Wooster, the nicest, classiest and most knowledgeable Civil War historian I have ever met (not that I have met a plethora of Civil War historians); and last, but not least, Dr. Winfred S. Emmons, the only literature professor since Mrs. Reiss that I both feared and respected. Sadly, as I think back on my seminary experience, other than Dr. Curtis Vaughn and Dr. Tom Nettles, none instilled that joy of learning in me (although I am sure that I was a difficult case).

I am grateful to God for those gifted teachers He providentially placed in my life down through the years, and I hope and pray, that as I teach God’s Word week in and week out, I can instill a love for the truth of the Scriptures in all of those who hear my voice. Thankfully, pastors have two advantages that school teachers do not have: the Spirit of God and the fact that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)


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