Monday, March 30, 2009

Facts Under Attack

Twice now, in the past week or so, I have had a conversation that has put my method and style of learning under fire. It's a profoundly uncomfortable place to be, and my apologies if I have ever derided your learning-style - I see now whence you are coming.

Today in class it was a "flip-flop," - we must move from semantic to experiential learning in our work with youth especially in the church. Prioritize experiential learning, start with it, and move then into semantic. Don't necessarily separate them, but remove the primacy that facts have heretofore held over our education of the young.

I would that I could tell you why this discomfits me so profoundly. Because, honestly, from a pedagogical perspective, I do not disagree. We should be emphasizing experiential learning. We should be giving our tactile, auditory, and kinesthetic learners a fair shake at what the church has to teach.

Maybe it's an incipient fear that we verbal learners will be left in the cold when the revolution's over. And maybe it's a hesitance - will we entirely lose the semantic content of our message? Will facts and truths become of secondary importance to experience? Will that last even be a bad thing?

But, mostly, I think, it is that I have never, EVER felt that semantic knowledge - facts and ideas, to my way of thinking - are disconnected from ME. I believe, to the level that I believe that God loves me, that all things are connected. My knowledge, the trees outside, the stars on the other side of the universe; everything is linked to everything else, by God's eternal will, if by no other string. When I read that Chuck Yeager was the first man to break the sound barrier, I connect it to Yuri Gagarin, and his first orbit, and to my deep and abiding love of space. I may not have a great deal of sports trivia on hand, but I know people who care deeply about this range of knowledge, and I care about them.

At bottom, then, it is this: intellego ut amam - I understand in order that I might love. And I love in order that I might understand. I love this universe in which God has placed me, and the people who surround me with their love. Why should I not understand more, know more, in order that I might love more? And I learn best, I find, when my newfound knowledge connects to something else I care about.

Thank God all things are connected.

My fear, then, is that we will spend so much time connecting our knowledge to our youth that we will forget - they are not the heart of the web. They are not the center of the universe - God is. And only through proximity to Him can we ever hope to perceive the whole structure of universal thought. Let us, by every rope of love we have, bind our young people to God - then, and only then, can they learn what binds them to every other thing in existence.

No comments: