Archive for July, 2011

It’s 6:15a. I’m in my office and my tongue is ready; I’m already thinking about my lunch today at Swanky’s Taco Shop, where I’ll meet up with a friend. I’m pretty excited, because I’ve tasted it before, and the flavor can enchant my senses a month later…as can other foods.

At home, I think Christie and I do a good job of remembering that our children are not ours. They are God’s. We have them for a very limited time and that these 18 years with each of them are fleeing. It really hits home when we will take down the crib today or tomorrow. My Dad made it; we love it. After 5 kids, it’s in beautiful condition, and and we’re not expecting  to see it again until we set it up for our first grandson in 15-20 years [Karsten would be breaking a 7 generation (at least) streak if he has a girl first].

When I’m in school vision mode, I usually have enough gumption to mention how we are building this school not just for our kids but for our kid’s kids. People like the idea usually, but don’t know what I mean. I need to do a better job teaching them.

I love the story of New College Oxford’s oaken beams. The founders had a long-term (500 year plan) that I hope was on purpose. The stories are sketchy and inconsistent though.

Now Jeff Bezos (founder and CEO of Amazon.com) is part of a big project…a really big project. It’s a 10,000 year clock. Here’s a one-page website that shows the work being done: 10,000 Year Clock.

The clock should make us remember to stop wasting our life today dabbling in fleeting joys and inanity. Invest in eternal things: like schools, like kids, like missionaries, like big ideas. Yes, by all means play your video games, watch your baseball and hone your corn hole skills, as part of living today. But God and people live forever. Invest in them.

Apologia — At the same time, let’s be clear: you are not wasting your life if you don’t have a 500 year plan or aren’t involved in a 10,000 year project. But you must be remembering what things really last. Ecclesiastes gives us very simple instructions (set in a bigger context) for enjoying life: “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.”  Solomon says that these simple things are God’s gift to us. That which your hand is doing is what is best for today. Do it heartily as unto the Lord.

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To rear our kids to be learners and thinkers requires skills well-beyond information retrieval. We as moderns with our high-powered phones often feel well-educated because the facts we need are so close by; mere seconds of typing and waiting separate us from knowing all sorts of truths. I have more than once replied to an innocent fact-wondering family member or friend who asked a simple question, with a flick of my phone-filled wrist and a caustic,  “Is my Google better than yours?” From the Chronicle of Higher Ed yesterday,

When it comes to the materials of learning, we should impress upon students the importance of carrying these materials around in their own heads.  Facts about the Civil War, scientific laws, poems by Emily Dickinson . . . these are not just items to retrieve when a situation calls for them.  They are rightly part of a youth’s character and sensibility.  The Gettysburg Address isn’t just a text on the syllabus to be invoked at test time.  The cadences and assertions should be internalized forever.

The danger of Google is that it’s so convenient that it turns the materials of history, science, literature, art, and politics into information, not learning.  In a Google-ized classroom, we lose the practice of education-as-formation.  And the more we let search engines function in student work, the less we can expect that students will remember our instruction once the semester ends. — Google Memory 

We have already left the abacus, the cubit, the slide rule and the butter churn behind. We have found efficiency in new things, and that’s ok. Today we have hard talk about what we must perhaps give up tomorrow (paper books, cursive, multiplication tables, spelling lists, fossil fuels!) and to educators, it hurts to say too much.

Technology is coming, and that’s ok.  But tech is replacing our knowledge-level, utilitarian hardware. It cannot replace our logic or rhetoric skills that make us more fully human, or at least give us the opportunity to do so. Technology is primarily efficient, not beautiful (though it be shiny).  Technology cannot instill virtuous childhood. A search engine cannot cultivate a child’s mind; it can only deliver the seeds.

A water wheel cannot grow crops, make bread or even grind wheat. It’s sole job was to receive product and deposit product. In so doing, it moved other parts. The water wheel did a great job doing what it was supposed to do. It was a great technological feat that saved lots of labor (though there were probably purists who continued to sell hand-threshed or oxen-ground wheat in the specialty stores). It came and went.

Our knowledge retrieval systems will come and go. 150 lb. encyclopedia sets came and now they are long gone. Google is here and will be replaced tomorrow with something better.

But let us not confuse these methods of retrieval with what they are not. They are not education, and an education that concerns itself primarily with facts and fact objectives and pounds towards its testing deadlines is missing the great bulk of what education truly is.

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