Friday, September 01, 2006

Musings on Education

(August 12, 2006)

Some online friends recently attended the CIRCE conference. One of the authors highly recommended there was Wendell Berry. I had read Jayber Crow a couple of years ago and enjoyed it but I've never read any of his non-fiction. And I'd like to go back and read Jayber Crow again too.

I requested Home Economics from the library - a series of fourteen essays that "discuss what it means to make oneself 'responsible' at home." (from the cover). I started reading the essays yesterday and I'm really enjoying them.

I just finished "Higher Education and Home Defense". The following is a quote that I believe is applicable not only to education and the secular world but also to that of the church. I apologize for the length of it - I just couldn't leave out bits of it!

"Education in the true sense, of course, is an enablement to serve - both the living human community in its natural household or neighbourhood and the precious cultural possessions that the living community inherits or should inherit. To educate is, literally, to "bring up," to bring young people to a responsible maturity, to help them to be good caretakers of what they have been given, to help them to be charitable toward fellow creatures. Such an education is obviously pleasant and useful to have; that a sizable number of humans should have it is probably also on e of the necessities of human life in this world. And if this education is to be used well, it is obvious that it must be used some where; it must be used where one lives, where one intends to continue to live; it must be brought home.

When educational institutions educate people to leave home, then they have redefined education as "career preparation." In doing so, they have made it a commodity - something to be bought in order to make money. The great wrong in this is that it obscures the fact that education - real education - is free. I am necessarily well aware that schools and books have a cost that must be paid, but I am sure nevertheless that what is taught and learned is free. None of us would be so foolish as to suppose that the worth of a good book is the same as the money value of its paper and ink or that the worth of good teaching could be computed in salaries. What is taught and learned is free - priceless but free. To make a commodity of it is to work its ruin, for, when we put a price on it, we both reduce its value and blind the recipient to the obligations that always accompany good gifts: namely, to use them well and to hand them on unimpaired. To make a commodity of education, then, is inevitably to make a kind of weapon of it because, when it is dissociated from the sense of obligation, it can be put directly at the service of greed." (p. 52)

Now, obviously, there is a lot to think about in this quote. I would like to ponder more the idea that real education is free and that is an "enablement to serve." But the application I immediately thought of regarding the link of education to a place is in the church and the relationship of churches to their pastors' and how those pastors are trained.

It seems as though the more people we talk to in the church in general, the more we are realizing that the current way that pastors are trained is not working. My husband is involved with the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists in Canada and their French Mission board, which oversees mission work in Quebec. The seminary in Quebec - SEMBEQ - is doing a much better job of training pastors than many other institutions. We heard a speaker a few years ago from the seminary - he quoted a statistic from Moody Bible Institute that (I hope this is correct) only 18% of their graduating students from the pastoral track continue in pastoral ministry. SEMBEQ's average is 82%. The reason it's working? They work closely with the churches and every single student is involved in their own local church. Not just as summer intern who has no ties to the church but as a working member of that local church. Those pastoral students have connections to a place and a people and it is working. It's not always a smooth ride but the church and the pastoral candidate learn together what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

So often Bible college students have little or no real contact with a church for the duration of Bible school. Then they are dropped into a pastoral situation and lo, and behold, they run into problems because they don't understand the dynamics of church ministry and no one in the church really knows the young man so he has no one to come alongside and give him some direction. Or if there are older men to give him direction, he's not interested in it because "he's been to Bible school".

I am convinced that if we in the Western world start to rethink our training of pastors, it will be one more step on the way to Biblical, disciplined churches that exist to the glory of God.


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