By Arlyn & Margaret Ubben
“Why do I have to know where Italy is? I can just check Google earth.”
“Why do I need to learn my multiplication facts? I have a calculator on my phone. It will even divide for me.”
“Why do I need to read about all these old dead people?”
“Why do I have to read plays that are supposed to be in English, but I can’t understand a word of it?”
For generations, parents and teachers have had complaints similar to these from students. As parents and teachers, we realize the benefit of technology in our students’ education. However, a significant principle to understand is that proper training is not merely the accumulation of facts or even getting the “right” answer. Instead, one of the primary goals of education is to help our students learn to develop thinking skills that they will use for the rest of their lives.
Each time a teacher presents a lesson, he or she communicates information that will help their students learn skills, facts, or principles. The underlying thread of each lesson is to guide the learners to make connections between what they are experiencing now with what they have learned previously to move on to the next steps of learning. As they make these connections, they are expanding and improving their abilities to think beyond the immediate lesson to learn those “figuring-out skills” that they will use all of their lives. Getting the correct answer is important, but more important is the continued development of the ability to think through the proper steps and use right learning strategies to come up with that correct answer. This is the challenging part of learning, whether the student is a second grader struggling with double-digit addition, a fourth grader discovering how to write a good paragraph, or an eighth-grader grappling with the significance of the constitution of the United States.
From people of earlier generations – what can I learn from how they lived their lives in order to live my life in a profitable, godly manner? From lessons on geography – what do I need to know that will make me aware of the work of God around the world? From the interpretation of quality literature – what lessons can I learn which will help me interpret all literature – especially God’s Word? Those “pesky math facts” – what can I learn which will help me make my way through the math requirements of life?
Every fact, every concept, every discussion –if used correctly – builds a foundation for use later in life. A foundation of thinking skills, well laid, allows for the building of a great life structure which will support lifelong learning.
We do not want to do all of the work for our students. We want to guide them toward thinking skills which they can develop on their own. As the great and gifted educator and Bible teacher, Howard Hendricks said; “Never do anything for a student that he is capable of doing for himself. If you do you, you’ll make him an educational cripple…a pedagogical paraplegic.”
Perhaps this heartfelt prayer of a father gives us some direction: “My son, someday you will have a child who needs to know where Italy is and you will be there to guide her. Someday you will have a little girl who needs help with her math facts, and you will be prepared to teach. Someday you will be asked to stand before others and explain a passage of Scripture – you must lead your family in worship – and you will remember the rules of grammar and interpretation which will guide you into all truth. I will not be there to help you on that day. You must stand on your own. I partner with the best and brightest mentors I can find to help you navigate a path of wisdom and discretion. It is my prayer that you walk in this way all of your days.” This is the focus of developing thinking school which Grace Academy promotes.