Ken Robinson’s recent TED talk on “How To Escape Education’s Death Valley” is absolutely brilliant. He addresses some key problems in American education, and more importantly has some great reminders about learning vs. teaching, and the diversity of students in the classroom today. When a standardized test becomes the measuring rod instead of a key diagnostic, we move towards conformity and forget that our children are different and diverse, and there is more than one learning style.
This is actually a problem in the church too. When we believe there is only one way to teach/preach, and we think that spiritual growth is about conformity and not maturity (and there is a vast difference between the two),we will continue to see people leave the church in search of a spiritual experience that better aligns with the way God created them.
In one chapter of my book, Sacred Space, I merge the thoughts of Gordon MacDonald and Gary Thomas who have written about sacred pathways, or leading instincts. These exist within all humanity and are demonstrative of various ways we best connect with God such as:
1. The Student: Loves to study, discuss, expand knowledge, a searcher of truth.
2. The Aesthetic: Loves formality and tradition. Learns best in an atmosphere that reflects beauty, symmetry and respect.
3. The Activist: Loves to learn while doing. Needs to transform information into action.
4. The Charismatic: Loves hands on, tactile experiences that united body, soul and spirit. Learning through all the senses.
5. The Contemplative: Loves to think and chew on process, knowledge and learning. Learning is multiplied through meditation and rumination.
6. The Relational: Loves group activities, group learning, group experience…Learns best in team environments.
It would seem education and the Church behave as if “The Student” is the only pathway that exists. This is not the only pathway and it isn’t the “right” pathway, it is simply one of the pathways that exist. However, those with this leading instinct/pathway seem to be the ones in charge, both in the Church and in the University.
If our endgame is learning and spiritual maturity, we need to leave behind a “No Child Left Behind” mentality that focuses on one type of person and measures success in such a “standardized test” way that ensures success will never happen in light of the diversity of people’s wiring. How do you best learn? Scan that abbreviated list, you will get an idea of the environment in which you best learn.
Let’s acknowledge that all children are different, and therefore one of the most important things we can do to raise the bar in education is to revisit the art of teaching and preaching. As we look at people and students as individuals, and equip teachers to become unleashers of learning, I believe we will see our educational system skyrocket, and people in churches better reflecting the beauty and love of God. Check out the TED Talk.