Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Bible and the task of teaching, Preface





I said earlier that I planned to reread this book right away, only more slowly and thoughtfully. I'm only now getting around to implementing that plan by reading the preface. The authors state that:

Rather than offer an abstract account of how the Bible should influence teaching, we have sought to identify the varied ways in which it actually has influenced teaching. In the following chapters we explore a diverse collection of examples of educational thought and practice. The purpose in doing so is to learn about the educational import of biblical faith by watching it in action in the thoughts and deeds of teachers and educational thinkers.


They do not pretend that this book is comprehensive or authoritative. They have a specific concept in mind, narrowly defined. "This book examines one particular part of what the notion of Christian education might mean. It focuses specifically on the ways in which the Bible might inform or guide educational reflection and practice. This is only a part, not the whole of Christian educational enquiry."

Two words jump out at me here: reflection and enquiry. I think both of these words deserve a large place in the realm of education, and particularly Christian education.

Reflection implies time spent thinking and meditating on the subject, and that can only be a good thing, but I think "reflection" implies serious, thoughtful thinking as opposed to fretful, worried thinking. Even more important is inquiry (I prefer this spelling.) Inquiry is a word that I associate with classical education, with the Socratic method of questioning, and with the genuine desire to seek after wisdom. "Inquiry" implies the position of a learner asking questions, not a possesser of all the answers. Anyone who thinks they have all the answers isn't open to learning anything new.

"Christian educational inquiry" should be about finding answers to good questions such as "What are the goals of education?" "What means can be used to attain those goal?" "Are there some means that should be eschewed by Christians?" "Are all educational methods morally neutral? and if not, why not?" I think seeking answers to those questions will be far more productive than the questions that usually get asked, such as "what curriculum should I use for math?" or "can I substitute something else for this book?" The answers to the inquiry-style of questions will develop into a firm foundation upon which to build the answers to the "what curriclum?" questions. The answers to the "what phonics program?" kind of question develop only a rickety framework of means that may or may not have a firm foundation beneath it.

To borrow the method of Biblical metaphor discussed later in this book, "The wise man built his house upon a rock..."

3 Comments:

At 9:37 PM , Blogger Elinor Dashwood said...

Excellent thoughts. I look forward to some more posts on this book...

 
At 2:12 PM , Blogger Mama Squirrel said...

""What are the goals of education?" "What means can be used to attain those goal?" "Are there some means that should be eschewed by Christians?" "Are all educational methods morally neutral? and if not, why not?" I think seeking answers to those questions will be far more productive than the questions that usually get asked, such as "what curriculum should I use for math?" or "can I substitute something else for this book?""

Agreed. That's what we get for trying to make everything reassuring and easy for homeschoolers--you can do this, just open the book and teach. I'm not saying that even classroom teachers necessarily have a good understanding of this, just that I think it can be more of a tendency for homeschoolers to want to cut to the chase (I need to start teaching NOW!) and not want to discuss ideas that seem more abstract.

 
At 8:55 PM , Blogger Elinor Dashwood said...

Very true, Mama Squirrel. So often, we forget that good teaching can only come out of a sound educational philosophy. Our culture teaches us that understanding the philosophy, or the nature, of a subject is unnecessary, but an understanding (to some limited extent, as only humans can) of a subject is actually the only way to begin to do it correctly. In short, thought preceeds action. One of my favorite writers, Dallas Willard, writes a lot about this and how this neglect of understanding ideas has affected the church.

 

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