Grappling With Information
I read an article today about a teacher who spent a few days "shadowing" two high school students in order to have a better understanding of what challenges those students faced learning the material the school taught.
She noted students spent their days passively sitting and being told things without really being given a chance to exercise thought. She called it not grappling with the information being presented. Rather than wrestling with ideas and testing them and pounding out an understanding, students spent their days sitting and trying to stay awake. Sort of like the workplace conference that never ends – one of those nightmares that goes right up there with realizing you’re standing up to make a speech in your pajamas.
Worse than the sitting, though, was the sheer lack of interaction. Students were not valued for their own thoughts, nor were they encouraged to do anything but pay attention and not interrupt. Teachers have even gotten into the habit of constantly reminding their students to shut up and listen.
This attitude radiates out into our whole culture, though, doesn’t it? We emerge from childhood (school) conditioned to passively open our brains and let someone - pretty much anyone! - pour information in rather than seeking to gain understanding. We watch the news and whatever we see tends to be what we believe. People in conversations are adept at small talk but haven’t had a whole lot of practice “grappling” with any kind of deep thoughts. We go to church and listen to someone else do all the talking. Who stands up during service to ask questions? That’s just rude and disruptive!
It’s all about molding rather than learning. There are a lot of people interested in molding anyone they can get their hands on but not so interested in really training minds to think.When you make a mold, you create a pre-set shape for soft material to be poured into so it can harden and retain that form. We have several institutional bodies interested in being molders, popping out citizens who have been mind-numbed for the most part into being whatever the current political fad says they ought to be. And heaven help us, current political fashion is just plain stupid. No one in their right mind should even entertain half the notions getting spouted off day after day, but somehow we do. From believing global warming is our fault to declaring we should vote for someone simply because he appears "presidential", we the people - at least the majority of us - accept as fact things that we are told without ever testing them because we are trained from infancy to sit and absorb rather than to learn.
Even when it comes to things as fundamental as our religious beliefs, it’s not easy to get at the root of why we believe what we believe. It is not easy to think rather than to just spit out our opinion. I was asked the question recently “what is it that makes you sure Jesus is the Messiah?” and I basically had to sit with my mouth closed because I had no clue what proof I really had to back up this belief. I believed it because I did. I mean, I can point to Bible verses here and there which state categorically that Jesus is Messiah, but truthfully? What proof is that for someone seeking the truth of a claim? You have to first establish the validity of a witness before you can accept testimony from them.
Just like everyone else I accept what I believe to be true simply because I believe it. When my daughter looks up at me and says, “Mommy, why is Jesus the Messiah?” I’d have to essentially say, “Just believe it because it’s true and I told you so.”
That is NOT a good foundation to build a life upon! It would be no surprise with that kind of answer if eventually she went looking for a better one. Hey, it wouldn’t be a surprise if she went looking for any foundation: “because I’m Mom and I said so” is not going to last a lifetime or have any impact on my grandchildren.
I want my children to ask questions instead of just stuffing information into them. I want them to grapple with information and seek for the truth of everything they hear. I want them to never take what they’re told for granted, not even when I’m the one telling them something. I want them to have a love of discovery, a joy in gaining an understanding mind.
If I want them to do it, then I really better be doing it.
Only a very few of us discover. We often just take in what others say and adopt those things as our own. That's why you can have people seeming to fervently believe one thing and then as soon as they pick up a new circle of friends, they think something totally different. That's why we are so insistent on finding groups to belong to, boxes to put ourselves in, names to identify ourselves by: because we generally believe in absorbing and regurgitating information rather than testing, thinking, applying, and discovering what we ourselves REALLY think.
Which is, of course, why I was bound to answer the question about why I believe Jesus is Messiah. Because if I can’t set the example in questioning everything I think I know to make sure I’m really thinking, I certainly can’t expect Abigail to. If I can’t test what I believe, even if I’m successful in teaching my children to mimic me for a while in the end I’ll be just as guilty as our school system of turning out a molded person instead of an understanding one. And those kinds of beliefs can’t hold up.
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Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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