Mark Twain once famously said, “I never let schooling interfere with my education.” He also added that, “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice, then he made the school board.” Twain’s humorous disdain for formal education might invite a chuckle or two, but it also affords an opportunity for educators to assess ourselves, to look in the mirror and consider whether we are being the benefit that we hope we might be or whether we are failing as miserably as those educators of which Twain spoke. Perhaps we are part of the problem. When he said that “nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits,” perhaps those other people to which he was facetiously referring was actually us. It is not enough to be driven to make a difference, we have to use the right tools, and we have to build on the right foundations.

Virginia Union University educator and dean, Matthew Lynch recently identified 18 reasons that he believed education in the U.S was failing. His reasons are thoughtworthy:

  1. Parents are not involved enough.
  2. Schools are closing left and right.
  3. Schools are overcrowded.
  4. Technology comes with its downsides.
  5. There is a lack of diversity in gifted education.
  6. School spending is stagnant.
  7. We are still using the teacher training methods of yesterday.
  8. There is a lack of teacher education innovation.
  9. Some students are lost to the school-to-prison pipeline.
  10. There is a nationwide college gender gap.
  11. We still do not know how to handle high school dropouts.
  12. We have not achieved educational equity.
  13. Technology brings a whole new dimension of cheating.
  14. We still struggle with making teacher tenure benefit both teacher and students.
  15. More of our schools need to consider year round schooling.
  16. We are still wrestling the achievement gap.
  17. We need to consider how school security measures affect students.
  18. We need to make assistive technology more available for students with disabilities.[1]

Lynch identifies some significant obstacles regarding access to education, funding, stakeholder involvement, student support, and teacher prep. His wish list is worthy of reflection and action. Still, it is notably not focused on the primary foundations of what education actually is. While secondary issues like those Lynch mentions are certainly important, I wonder if we as educators are guilty of mis-prioritization. We are attentive to plastering the cracks in the wall, adding a new coat of paint every now and then, replacing the carpet as it wears, and even keeping things well landscaped, but what attention are we paying to the foundation upon which the whole thing stands?

The following satirical essay from one student illustrates how what we prioritize as important in education is even sometimes laughable. It’s a long essay, but it is worth a moment here, as it offers the perspective of a student who sees contemporary secondary education as, less than worthy, and as filled with inexplicable ironies.


High School education is perfect in so many areas that in order to truly comprehend its greatness, one must understand each of the aspects that make it so fantastic. From the grading system to teacher salary and student eagerness to learn, there are a wide range of qualities that make the high school education system the well-oiled-machine that it is.

Even if one doesn’t love teaching it is a very rewarding job because of the salary. As a society we demonstrate that we value good competent teachers as we are willing to pay them well for their work. So even if a teacher doesn’t enjoy spending over six hours a day with generally disrespectful teenagers, he or she can at least be comforted by the fact that he or she has a secure, well paying job.

Teachers are also very lucky as they have very little work that they have to take home or stay after school for. Some jobs occasionally require employees to take work home, or work a little afterwards for overtime pay. But teachers almost never have to stay after school to help students with work or to make up tests. Another big benefit is the lunch break, when teachers can relax without being disturbed by students coming into their classrooms for help. The occasional test or homework assignment that teachers have to grade is pretty much the only thing that they need to take home, and those are very rare. Because they don’t have much, if any work after school, the teachers are always enthusiastic and ready to teach and this enthusiasm is reflected on to the students

While teachers do contribute to the invigorating knowledgeable atmosphere in the classrooms, the students are the ones that really make it happen. In all of the classes I have been in or visited, every student is always focused intently on the teacher, absorbing all of the knowledge being taught with a passion that is truly astounding. I constantly am challenging myself to find a student that does not give the teacher his or her undivided attention but to this day; I have yet to find even one student with his or her head down, texting, or even staring off into space. Also, I am amazed at how dedicated the students are, as they come to school so that they can learn every day. I have heard of many instances in which the parents attempt to convince their son or daughter to stay home from school so that the student can sleep in, but the student will insist on going because they have a test that day, or even just because their determination to learn is too strong to be held back.

The only classes that I sometimes am disappointed in are the honors classes. The regular classes, in which the students and teachers stick perfectly to the curriculum and consist entirely of the teacher imparting knowledge to the students, are flawless. But the honors and advanced placement classes, especially social studies, have students raising their hand and giving their opinion or even discussing parts of the topic, not directly in the curriculum. Each time this happens I expect some punishment from the teachers; however they not only allow this unacceptable behavior but even encourage it. But hopefully the correct approach that the other students and teachers are taking will rub off on and change the attitudes of the honors classes.

The grading system in which letters are given to students depending on their score in the class is phenomenal. Probably the best part is the way in which it trains students to remember material only as long as they have to, and then to release it from their brains after the test. This is the best way to learn because students don’t need to remember anything from previous years, as they already received a grade for that year and can now focus on their current year. This cycle of cramming knowledge right before the test and then forgetting it afterwards is by far the best way to learn, because the only thing that matters is their grade, not how much they still remember from the class.

Another one of my favorite parts of the grading system is extra credit, when a teacher offers free points for activities semi-related or unrelated to school. These activities include; bringing tissue boxes in and ensuring that their parents go to back-to-school night or open house night. This has formed into an escape option for students, which is good because they shouldn’t be expected to actually earn their grade. It can be tough actually learning the material and remembering a small portion of it for the final, so teacher also round grades up at the end of the semester. This is great because even with all of the extra credit, some students still aren’t quite there, and they showed that they are committed to learning by bringing in tissue boxes so they deserve an “A”.

I hope I have demonstrated how flawless the high school education system is in this restrictively short essay. The teachers are rewarded handsomely for their work with a well paying secure job but the students are the ones that bring it all together. With their passion for knowledge and ability to learn the required material and forget it completely, they deserve the most acknowledgement. Also, the grading system provides strong encouragement to retain knowledge only until the test so that the students will be able to solely rely on their instincts to survive life after education because they won’t remember anything they were taught in high school.[2]

While the essay is clever and witty, it is tragic in one sense, as it offers a probably all too common vantage point of could-be-learners who are simply not seeing the value in the processes that play out before them every day. There has to be a better way. There must be greater things yet to come than these. But before we imagine a brighter and more effective future, we must acknowledge that there is a problem and something has got to change.

In identifying one significant contemporary problem, San Diego State Professor of Psychology, Jean Twenge recounts the words of thirteen year-old Athena: “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”[3] Twenge observes that

Even when a seismic event—a war, a technological leap, a free concert in the mud—plays an outsize role in shaping a group of young people, no single factor ever defines a generation. Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy.[4]

Elsewhere Twenge quantifies startling levels of unhappiness and depression among teens, and makes this keen observation:

But what is causing these troubling trends? They lag the beginning of the Great Recession by about 5 years, so cyclical economic factors seem unlikely. The largest change in teens’ lives between 2011 and 2015 was the extremely rapid adoption of the smartphone. And sure enough, teens who spend more time on screens are more likely to have mental health issues. That suggests the advent of the smartphone might be one of the causes behind deteriorating mental health.[5]

There has always been a sizeable gap between generations, but that gap is accentuated today, as the youngest generation has grown up with an unprecedented rate of change, and an unparalleled dependence on and engagement with technology, to the extreme that other people and even personal independence are no longer priorities. All the information ever known to humanity is at their fingertips, a simple web search away, and yet this generation has no foundation. Educators, be certain of this: you are operating on a totally different planet today than the one that even the youngest generation of educators (millennials) grew up in. In uncertain and changing times, foundations become even more important.

Consider Jesus’ illustration in Matthew 7:24-27.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and 1acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the 1floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the 1floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell — and great was its fall.”

Observe that the one who built his house upon the sand was not proven to be a fool until the arrival of the rain, the floods, and the winds. For a time his building strategy might have seemed very utilitarian, very practical. Perhaps inexpensive. Maybe a beachfront with a gorgeous view. But the test would come. And when it did, the change was so pronounced from the conditions in which the house was built, that it would have been obvious to anyone observing the storm that building the house on a foundation of sand was a dumb idea. But those conditions weren’t present when the foundation was laid. It wasn’t obvious then. Today presents similar yet unprecedented difficulty for young people. Foundations matter today more than ever. Of course they have always mattered, but the more severe the test, the more apparent the need for a solid foundation.

Even in Christian education the challenges are evident. The areas in Christian higher education where Christian students are expressing great need include depression, suicidal thinking, gender identity confusion, pornography addictions, isolation, and uncertainty. These aren’t extreme or fringe cases. These are the regular people raised in Christian homes, many of whom have been taught in Christian schools.

Twenge prescribes moderating technology use for younger people as a means to resolving the unhappiness and unhealthiness that has become more prominent, and while there is some wisdom in that prescription, fixing the foundation would go quite a bit further in providing a more comprehensive and lasting solution. God’s word provides many examples and case studies that provide guidance, but there are three in particular for our discussion today that can aid us as educators in attending to the foundations of education: Solomon’s Worldview Model, Paul’s Model for Transformative Learning, and Elihu’s Is/Ought Model. If we grasp what these three models provide for us, then we can be better educators capable of meeting our students where they are, and of entrusting them with something that will truly be transformative and lasting.



Solomon’s Worldview Model

Solomon’s commentary on the foundations for learning is not insignificant. Solomon is lauded as the wisest person who would ever live,[6] and he formulates a very straightforward philosophy of education. He asserts that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,”[7] and adds that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”[8] Solomon is not limiting the scope of education here to religious education. Rather, he makes a much more profound and far reaching epistemological statement: wisdom, knowledge, and understanding all find their derivation in the fear of the Lord.

Arguably, there can be no education without the increasing of knowledge and understanding, nor any fruitful application of knowledge and understanding without wisdom. So, at least according to Solomon, we can not get far into the educational process without an awareness of how to foster wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Solomon’s formula directs the educator to focus on the fear of the Lord.


The Fear of the Lord

From examining the Biblical data on the fear of the Lord, it is evident that in each of the instances of the Hebrew yirah, the idea is truly fear, and not simply respect. This kind of yirah causes people “to tremble and be in anguish…”[9] Even in worship it is associated with trembling.[10] But when used in relation to God it is also closely associated with His lovingkindness. As David observes, “But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple I will bow in fear of You.”[11] Note the relationship of the love of God to the fear of the Lord. The two are not only not mutually exclusive, but they go together. The writer of Psalm 111 illustrates the connection:

Praise the Lord!

I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart,

In the company of the upright and in the assembly.

Great are the works of the Lord;

They are studied by all who delight in them.

Splendid and majestic is His work,

And His righteousness endures forever.

He has made His wonders to be remembered;

The Lord is gracious and compassionate.

He has given food to those who fear Him;

He will remember His covenant forever.

He has made known to His people the power of His works,

In giving them the heritage of the nations.

The works of His hands are truth and justice;

All His precepts are sure.

They are upheld forever and ever;

They are performed in truth and uprightness.

He has sent redemption to His people;

He has ordained His covenant forever;

Holy and awesome is His name.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;

A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;

His praise endures forever.

Notice that fearing the Lord is not an isolated activity. In this context, the one who fears the Lord is also praising the Lord, giving thanks, studying the works of the Lord, remembering His wonders, and having good understanding overall. It seems fair to say that the fear of the Lord is the proper perspective of and response to God.

In an education context it is notable that these five activities related to the proper perspective of and response to God are representative of major areas within education. (1) The arts and disciplines of expression are helpful in expressing praise of the Lord. (2) Character development and ethics come into play in developing thankfulness. (3a) The sciences are helpful in studying the works of the Lord revealed in creation, (3b) Biblical theology and philosophy are products of considering the works of the Lord revealed in Scripture. (4) Remembering His wonders is an enterprise of the humanities and history, and (5) having good understanding overall is expressed in critical thinking, logic, and math. The fear of the Lord undergirds all of these expressions of thought and action, and deserves our attention not just because we seek to be good educators, but because we seek to be good creatures of our God and King.

The Source of the Fear of the Lord

If the fear of the Lord is the critical first step undergirding learning, then we must know how to get it. It is noteworthy that Solomon doesn’t simply provide the key ingredient without telling us how to locate it. Solomon tells us where to source the fear of the Lord: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”[12] If wisdom, knowledge, and understanding come from His mouth, and the fear of the Lord is the source of those three commodities, then the equation is clear: we gain the fear of the Lord from His mouth – from His word. David echoes this sourcing in Psalm 34, charging his young readers to listen and he would teach them the fear of the Lord.[13] He emphasizes the benefits of avoiding evil and pursuing good. These two values can ultimately be understood through what God has revealed, as the Psalmist illustrates in Psalm 119 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.”[14] Each of the 176 verses of Psalm 119 emphasizes the superlative benefit of God’s revelation. That is our starting place, our guiding first principle.

The fear of the Lord comes from the word of the Lord. Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding ultimately come from the word of the Lord. Consequently in Solomon’s education model (as revealed in Proverbs, and as in agreement with David and other Psalmists), there is no worthwhile education without the word of God. In fact, if an educator is beginning without the fear of the Lord, that educator must begin with the first principle that God is not, and that we must work our way to God. David calls this foolishness, reminding the reader that “The fool says in his heart there is no God.”[15] Shall our educational pursuits begin with a posture of foolishness, or shall we endeavor to move toward wisdom, knowledge, and understanding by beginning with Him and with His word? Solomon’s worldview model answers that question resoundingly.

If the outcome is truth and certainty, what is the impact on happiness, mental health, and overall well being? David invites the reader to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”[16] Solomon encourages his son that, “Wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil…”[17] Solomon adds that wisdom will add length of days, years, and peace to one’s life.[18] The fear of the Lord will be healing to the body and refreshment to the bones.[19] Wisdom’s ways are pleasant and bring peace.[20] Wisdom and discretion are life to a soul and adornment to one’s neck.[21] Solomon’s prescriptions are foundational for resolving today’s unique challenges.


Paul’s Model for Transformative Learning

Paul recognizes that in order for us to understand how best to educate people, we must understand what a person actually is. These days he has competition, however, as five major contemporary theories of learning all make significant assumptions about what a person is and how they are best educated.

Behaviorism focuses on the learners’ response to stimuli, and postulates that if you can control the environment through operant conditioning, then you can create change in the behavior of the learner. B.F. Skinner was convinced that the person was essentially an active organism that was conditioned to behavior. Cognitivism focuses on “the representations and processes needed to give rise to activities ranging from pattern recognition, attention, categorization, memory, reasoning, decision making, problem solving, and language.”[22] Humanity is essentially a computing device, processing and acting based on schemas. As the educator assesses where the student is in Piaget’s four stages of development (sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational, or formal operational),[23] the educator determines what information and tasks are age-appropriate for the computer to handle next.

Constructivism is an empirical, Humean expansion of cognitivism that perceives that learners construct rather than acquire knowledge, not only through acquired schemas, but also through developed ones. Experientialism advances on constructivism, with Kolb’s version of learning as, “the process whereby knowledge is created by the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combinations of grasping and transforming the experience.”[24] Finally Social and Contextual learning understands learning as occurring “only when students process new information or knowledge in such a way that it makes sense to them in their own…inner worlds of memory, experience, and response.”[25]

Each of these five models emphasize either a mechanist, naturalistic human nature or an egocentric learning model where knowledge is formed by the individual. Perhaps these models can be summed up in Mark Twain’s remark that, “I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts.” If we hold to a Biblical worldview, then we recognize some elements of truth in each of these models, but also must recognize that each misses the mark of factually and accurately recognizing what people are and how they learn.

Paul’s approach to education is different, because his presuppositions about humanity are different. He identifies four different kinds of people, (1) the natural person, who is opposed to spiritual things, because they are foolishness to that person, (2) the infant, who is new to the spiritual things, (3) the fleshly person, who is behaving like an infant but doesn’t have the built in excuse that an infant has, and (4) the spiritual person, who is allowing the decision making process to be governed by God’s word, and thus by the Spirit of God.[26]

The natural person needs new birth, to become a new creation for whom old things have passed away.[27] The learning needs to be focused on the identity and work of Jesus Christ, as expressed in the gospel Paul proclaimed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: “…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures.” This is an education that is neither merely cognitive nor experiential. This knowledge must be personally applied in the act of faith – of personal belief or trust in Jesus Christ. Paul describes this as being saved by grace through faith.[28] John affirms that the outcome is indeed transformative: “the believing one in Him has eternal life.”[29] Paul admires the beauty of the new creation, noting that, “we are His workmanship – poema – His masterpieces, created in Christ Jesus for good works which He prepared beforehand that we would walk in them.”[30] The natural person has one primary responsibility before God, and that is to become an infant in Christ.

The responsibility of the infant is simply to grow. Peter challenges believers to long for the pure milk of the word as newborn babes.[31] Infants need milk to grow, and as they are growing from the milk, they are to move past the elementary principles[32] and press forward to maturity. There is a caution for those who aren’t growing as they should. If they aren’t accustomed to the word, then they will remain in infancy,[33] and while they should grow to be teachers, they are so immature that they are simply walking in the flesh – they may as well still be infants.[34] Paul illustrates the challenge in Romans 7, describing the internal battle that happens with every believer as the flesh and the mind seek different outcomes.[35]

How then is a person victorious over the flesh? The solution is found in being spiritual rather than fleshly. Paul explains that being spiritual is being filled or controlled by the Spirit,[36] is being transformed by the renewing of the mind,[37] and is walking by the Spirit or allowing the Spirit to control our walk.[38] Paul’s model for transformative learning is the model for sanctification – it is how we as believers grow more to be like Christ.

Paul’s priority is particularly important for education. He isn’t prescribing a behavioristic model – behavior isn’t the focus, but rather allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work. Good behavior is certainly a positive outcome, but it is not the central objective. Paul isn’t prescribing a cognitivist approach. The mind isn’t sufficient to resolve the problem. Only Christ can set us free from this battle.[39] Paul isn’t looking toward a constructivist approach. We aren’t capable of constructing our reality, or even an accurate understanding of it. We need the God-breathed word of God that is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, and that makes us adequate for every good work.[40] Paul isn’t advocating an experiential model, as his prescription is rooted in God’s revealed word. Learning is based in diligent study and rightly handling the word.[41] Finally, Paul is not offering learners a social contextual methodology, as we aren’t supposed to be conformed to the context in which we find ourselves,[42] but rather we are to shape our context and social interactions by purposeful engagement[43] and service[44] that is rooted in truth and love.[45]

Paul’s model for transformative learning demands a spiritual acknowledgment, that God has created us, that were are born again to a new life in which we are bought with a price, thus our lives are not our own, but they are His, and it is our job to allow Him to accomplish His purpose in us, to fulfill that purpose for which we were designed.[46] In short, Paul’s model for education is less about ourselves and the educators than it is about God and His truth which undergirds real and lasting growth and change.

Elihu’s Is/Ought Model

The final of the three Biblical models for our consideration here is what I call Elihu’s Is/Ought Model. David Hume once critiqued divine command moral systems on grounds that they didn’t earn the right to move from is (descriptions of reality) to ought (prescriptions for what we should do about reality). Hume’s critique is not entirely unfair, and quite a few moral systems crack under the weight of the Humean accusation. However, Elihu models a different approach, and one that transparently asserts an earned prescription for human ethics and understanding. We discover the wisdom of Elihu in Job 32-37, just before God’s case-closing response to Job. It is worth noting that Elihu’s and God’s arguments are so similar as to be indiscernible, if we weren’t told who was presenting the arguments in each case. As it turns out, there is further evidence for Elihu’s positive influence, even beyond his agreement with God’s own assertions. The only main character not rebuked in the book of Job is Elihu. Each of Job’s other friends stand guilty before God (though He would forgive them), and even Job himself is rebuked, though also ultimately forgiven. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were guilty of speaking wrongly of Job. Job was guilty of ignorance, but not for long, and Elihu helped with that.

In Job 32, Elihu addresses the seriousness of the situation, and his desire that one of the older and supposedly wiser friends of Job might accurately appraise the situation. But since none of them did, Elihu must speak up. In 33, Elihu explains how Job is speaking ignorantly, making himself out to be owed something by God, and why God allows tragedies to happen at times. Sometimes so that people will return to Him, pray, and be filled with joy,[47] and sometimes to bring back a person from the precipice of danger.[48] In 34, Elihu asserts the impeccable justice of God , and in 35, that the righteousness of God far exceeds that of humanity, and thus Job in his accusations that God owes him blessing is mistaken and speaking ignorantly. In 36 Elihu proclaims God’s power and asserts that He is a teacher like no other.[49] Because of His character, and His sovereignty over His creation (the is), humanity ought to keep from evil,[50] and ought to exalt His work.[51] Finally, in 37 Elihu illustrates God’s sovereignty over His creation and indicates three further reasons for His unfathomable activities. “Whether for correction, for His world, or for lovingkindness He causes it to happen.”[52] Because He works in such incredible ways and for His own purposes (the is), people ought to fear Him.[53] As we have seen elsewhere, that appropriate fear of the Lord guides us into wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, and introduces us to the associated benefits in life.

Elihu grounds the prescriptive ought in the description of reality that cannot be gleaned from our own thinking or experience. He represents God as He is, based not merely on experiential interactions, but based on how God has revealed Himself. Elihu helps us to see how we move from descriptions of reality to a proper understanding of how we should respond, and he leads us right back to where Solomon started the discussion: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.


As educators we are faced with unique challenges today, and the culture around us prescribes solutions that have some value here and there, but they don’t possess the empowerment to bring about essential and permanent life change. Solomon’s Worldview Model helps us to understand that real education must start with an understanding of who God is and what He expects from His creatures. Solomon’s approach reminds us that education of any worth must start with God’s word.

Paul’s Model for Transformative Learning helps us to understand what a person really is and how a person grows. If we begin with a materialistic or naturalistic theory of personhood, then we have no way of benefitting the learners with whom we are entrusted, except through the occasional accidental alignment with God’s pedagogical design. We work from the bases of humanistic worldviews, occasionally stumble on a profound truth of God that we borrow, and think we have come up with something grand. Like Mark Twain said, “Name the greatest of all inventors: Accidents.” These accidents ought to be our clues that His worldview is the right one, and only when we are aligned with it are we doing what we are designed to do. Likewise, only when we are teaching from His foundation is our teaching worthwhile.

Elihu’s Is/Ought Model encourages us to ground prescriptions in truth. How can we tell the next generation what they ought to do or ought to be if we cannot tell them with accuracy why those prescriptions are worthy? How can we tell them how to have peace and well-being if we can’t even tell them what they are, or who they are designed to be, and by Whom? Men and women, we have in God’s word plenty of material to undergird our educational objectives, methods, and content. In our educating, let us not treat the Bible simply as a classic. A wise man once said that a classic is simply a book which people praise but don’t read. This book is no mere classic, it is the foundation for everything we must pass on to the next generation, and if we fail to recognize that, we fail to be the educators God has designed us to be.

We may be sincere enough in our desire, but if we are not consistent in applying the Biblical foundation to our own lives and growth, then we will be rendered incapable of impacting our students as we might hope. They will see through our inconsistency, and will esteem His word as lowly as we are modeling for them to do. We will be no better than Mark Twain’s Sunday-school superintendent in ˆTom Sawyer. Note especially the final phrase of the description of this character.

In due course the superintendent stood up in front of the pulpit, with a closed hymn-book in his hand and his forefinger inserted between its leaves, and commanded attention. When a Sunday-school superintendent makes his customary little speech, a hymn-book in the hand is as necessary as is the inevitable sheet of music in the hand of a singer who stands forward on the platform and sings a solo at a concert – though why is a mystery: for neither the sheet of music nor the hymn-book is ever referred to by the sufferer. This superintendent was a slim creature of thirty-five, with a sandy goatee and short sandy hair; he wore a stiff standing-collar whose upper edge almost reached his ears and whose sharp points curved forward abreast the corners of his mouth – a fence that compelled a straight lookout ahead, and a turning of the whole body when a side view was required; his chin was propped on a spreading cravat which was as broad and as long as a bank note, and had fringed ends; his boot toes were turned sharply up, in the fashion of the day, like sleighrunners, and effect patiently and laboriously produced by the young men by sitting with their toes pressed against a wall for hours together. Mr. Walters was very earnest of mien, and very sincere and honest at heart, and he held sacred things and places in such reverence, and so separated them from worldly matters, that unconsciously to himself his Sunday-school voice had acquired a particular intonation which was wholly absent on weekdays.[54]

As an educator is your voice different on Sundays than the rest of the week? Or does your voice provide a consistency, that is rooted in Scripture, and that is able to guide young learners to understand the foundation for their lives that will enable them to build a house that will stand the challenges of these trying days? There are greater things yet to come, for certain, and make no mistake, those greater things will be built on that same foundation that Scripture has pointed us to from the very beginning.

[1] Matthew Lynch, “18 Reasons the U.S. Education System is Failing,” The Edvocate, April 3, 2017, viewed at https://www.theedadvocate.org/10-reasons-the-u-s-education-system-is-failing/.

[2] “Satire Essay on High School Education,” Letterpile.com, February 13, 2017, viewed at https://letterpile.com/humor/High-School-Education-Satire-Essay#.

[3]  Jean Twenge, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic, September 2017, viewed at https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Jean Twenge, “Making iGen’s Mental Health Issues Disappear” Psychology Today, August 31, 2017, viewed at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-changing-culture/201708/making-igens-mental-health-issues-disappear.

[6] 1 Kings 3:12.

[7] Proverbs 1:7.

[8] 9:10.

[9] Deuteronomy 2:25.

[10] Psalm 2:11, 55:5.

[11] 5:7.

[12] Proverbs 2:6

[13] Psalm 34:11.

[14] 119:9.

[15] 14:1.

[16] 34:8.

[17] Proverbs 2:10-12.

[18] 3:2.

[19] 3:8.

[20] 3:17.

[21] 3:22.

[22] E.E. Smith, Cognitive Psychology: History, in International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, (Oxford, UK: Elsevier Science, Ltd., 2001), 2141.

[23] See Jean Piaget and Barbel Inhelder, The Psychology of the Child (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1969).

[24] D.A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1983), 41.

[25] “What is Contextual Learning?”, Center for Occupational Research and Development website, 2016, viewed at http://cordonline.net/CTLtoolkit/downloads/What%20Is%20Contextual%20Learning.pdf.

[26] 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3.

[27] 2 Corinthians 5:17.

[28] Ephesians 2:8-9.

[29] John 6:47.

[30] Ephesians 2:10.

[31] 1 Peter 2:2.

[32] Hebrews 6:1.

[33] Hebrews 5:12-13.

[34] 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.

[35] Romans 7:21-25.

[36] Ephesians 5:18.

[37] Romans 12:1-2.

[38] Galatians 5:16-25.

[39] Romans 7:25.

[40] 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

[41] 2 Timothy 2:15.

[42] Romans 12:1-2.

[43] Hebrews 10:25.

[44] 1 Peter 4:10-11.

[45] Ephesians 4:15.

[46] Romans 8:28-31,

[47] Job 33:26.

[48] 33:30.

[49] 36:22.

[50] 36:21.

[51] 36:24.

[52] 37:13.

[53] 37:24.

[54] Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, electronic version (Atlantico Press, 2013), viewed at https://books.google.com/books?id=ZcBdAAAAQBAJ&pg.

Presented to the Association of Christian Teachers

and Christian School Regional Educators Convention,

Grandview Christian School, Grandview, Missouri

November, 2, 2018