Monday, December 05, 2005

Forgetting What We've Learned

In May 2001, the president of Ithaca College used one of my favorite quotes. I know nothing about Ithaca College, nor do I know or endorse the president of 2001. However, I am lifting a paragraph from her address in order to present this quote with a little bit of context and explanation because it is easy to misunderstand this pearl of wisdom. It is also very interesting to see that this quote was used in 1932.

In November 1932 then-president [Leonard B.] Job shared these words with Ithaca College students, and they ring true today: "Education is what you have left after you have forgotten all you have learned." In this fast-paced and radically changing world of today, the capacity to keep learning and to process new information and knowledge will make you all successful and effective professionals and citizens throughout your lifetimes.

“Education is what you have left after you have forgotten all you have learned.” When I first heard this (from Dr. Dressler at NBTC, 20 years ago), I laughed because I thought it reinforced my bias against the seeming futility of all the needless stuff I was expected to remember and work through. What did memorizing historical charts from the Ancient Near East and learning a buzillion figures of speech from the Old Testament have to do with being a pastor?

Dr. Dressler did not explain what this quote meant. He used to start the class with pithy sayings to get our gray matter engaged. This quote nagged at me. Dr. Dressler was let go from Northwest just as I was beginning to appreciate his wise approach to education. He didn’t fit in with the new NBTC (which, by the way, is no more).

It took me until my third year of Bible college to understand that the purpose of education is not to supply me with the information I need to do the work of ministry, but rather to teach me to research, think critically and discern effective ways of using my time. It grieves me to think of all the wasted time in my earlier school years (though another relevant quote is, “Youth is wasted on the young.” George Bernard Shaw). The wheels of maturity grind slowly. I’m still learning the truth of this advice. It certainly didn’t become fully formed when I was twenty.

The value of good education – not just skill learning – is that it will make you teachable, flexible and grounded in the main things. This does not just apply for ministry training.

Alberta is facing an employment crisis – good help is hard to find in our booming economy. If you talk to any employer, you’ll hear that what they long for are people who are quick thinkers, teachable and have integrity (punctuality, loyalty, honesty, etc.). The skills they can teach. It is the character and ability to think that is the most valuable commodity.

Christians, more than any others, must recover this valuable perspective on education. It is a critical way that we can shape the culture rather than simply follow it and react to the changes that are so prevalent.

In future posts, I will certainly revisit this topic and include links to articles and books that relate to this subject.

Right now, I have to get off my bottom and put the snow tires on the van and put up some Christmas lights. Monday is my day off. You know how that goes.

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