Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Education: The Timothy Method

You know, I've never felt like I was prepared for life. I guess I kind of was, but I didn't feel like it. It seems like I got a crash course in life and was told, "Now, go get it." Sometimes I wonder if there was a better way to learn. Like apprenticeships.

Think about it. Way back in colonial times they couldn't go to schools to learn their trades. Smithing was taught by the smiths, sailing by the sailors, altering clothes by the tailors, etc. It was so simple then: you watched someone do what they did, practiced at it until you got good enough to sell what you made, then after a few years of working under them, you were told you were now a smithy or sailor or tailor. It required muscle memory. It was hands on. It was simple.

What have we done by institutionalizing education? Education is now a business taught by people who teach a general education because that's what they were taught to do. A child who wants to become a plumber doesn't get courses in plumbing, but they do get the periodic table of the elements. They memorize them and a lot of other things that they will promptly forget as soon as possible to make room for their next class or test. We are raising our children to become a generation of passive learners. They absorb, spit it back out, and never save a copy to their mental hard drives. It's no wonder that many college students still don't know how to use proper punctuation or spell. It's no wonder that we have to repeat instructions three or four times before they remember how to do something.

I'm not saying that they shouldn't learn the periodic table or other "nonessential" things, but I am saying that our detached, unemotional way of teaching doesn't seem to be getting the job done. Let's face it: many students don't want to learn and many teachers don't want to teach. Children leave school with the idea that the point of working is to make enough money that they no longer have to work. And that's wrong. We need people who want to work because they enjoy what they are doing and want to contribute to their community. We need people who would work at their chosen occupation even if they only made $8.00 an hour because they love it. (Even if it's plumbing.)

Maybe our society is too far gone. Maybe we have too many rules and regulations to do things differently. I don't know. But I hope that maybe someday soon things will change. Maybe someday we will raise up a generation of Timothy's.

Young Timothy's education was a pretty thorough one. In Acts chapter sixteen alone we see many ways in which Paul prepared his little disciple to go out into the mission field. Take a look at Paul's steps in Timothy's apprenticeship:
  • Interest and invitation (Acts 16:1-3)
  • Instruction in wisdom (v. 3)
  • Hands on work (v.4-5)
  • Lesson in listening to the Spirit (v.6-9)
  • Demonstration of obedience to the Spirit (v. 10-12)
  • Lesson in dealing with differing demographics (v.13-14)
  • Demonstration of God's/Jesus' power (v.16-18, 25-26)
  • Demonstration of suffering for the sake of Christ (v. 22-24)
Notice how Paul took him under his wing. Notice how sometimes Timothy was involved in the lessons/work and sometimes he was just to sit back and watch the demonstration. Notice how detailed and involved the preparation for his "work" was.

Now, obviously, Timothy still felt a little insecure/ill prepared by the time Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, otherwise he wouldn't have said things like "Let no one despise you for your youth" (4:12). But I bet he was a whole lot more prepared than most kids of this generation will be.

So what can we do to improve education today? Did you have a "Paul" in your life to help guide you along? Do you think the current "generalized" system of learning is effective? 

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