The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. (Copied from Goodreads.com)
I read this statement the other day, and it struck me on a number of levels and applications. First, what are the ‘jungles’ Lewis was writing about? What are the ‘deserts’? In thinking about this over the last couple of days, I think perhaps that the jungles are the entangling vines of ignorance, bureaucratic requirements, government interference. These are the things that inhibit true learning, because they do not impart a desire to know, to grow, to seek. All they do is establish arbitrary ‘standards’ that someone decides need to be met in order to…what? To pass a test, to move to the next level, to qualify for something. Useful skills to know, maybe, but not true learning.
The true learning comes when you recognize, on some level, that you don’t know but that you want to know. You want to find out something new, experience more, grow somehow. That is the desert – the wasteland of not knowing, of seeking the cool refreshment of the learning. A good teacher, nay, a great teacher, is the one that teaches the student where to find that refreshment – in the ability to think; to be able to learn; to know, not what the answer is, but HOW TO FIND/ DISCOVER/ LEARN where the answer may lie, what to do in order to either seek out someone else’s solution or develop your own.
Too often, both in education and in our Christian lives, we settle for rote learning of facts and figures; settle for being able to ‘pass the test;’ settle for just the bare minimum. We need to learn how to learn, how to seek the answer for our selves, how to test the so-called ‘facts’ we hear. We settle for accepting the ‘truth’ we see, on social media, the news, etc., instead of checking for ourselves whether what we see is indeed true, and not a fabrication, or worse, a semi-truth that has been deliberately twisted in order to deceive!
As Christians, we are called to test the words of man against what God’s inerrant word says. Is what that preacher saying contradicting God’s Word? If it is, run! Is someone preaching any gospel other than Jesus? Then Paul tells us “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
So, educators, both secular and Christian, water the deserts by teaching others how to learn, how to seek out their own answers, how to discern the difference truth and lies. Let us not succumb to ‘spin doctors’ of either secular knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Check your facts, check your sources, and check your bias!