I think it would be pertinent to add exactly WHAT I think education and formal education look like in order to avoid confusion from part one of this topic, “Thoughts on the priority of Education.”
Simply put, I believe that education can be done well MANY ways and in many settings while still fulfilling the biblical commands of God. The Bible itself teaches a few of these ways.
- In Exodus and Leviticus the Lord teaches the nation of Israel, through Moses, with verbal and written instructions addressed to the “congregation”. This picture fits with what we think of as formal education today, a professor with a white board and a lecture hall. This technique is used frequently throughout scripture by other national leaders, prophets, judges and kings.
- The book of Proverbs gives us insight into education in the home, demonstrating clearly that the father and mother are speaking and writing, in this case to their son but daughters learned this way as well, to their children. The topics covered in Proverbs are vast and it is important to note that they were composed by more than three different authors of the period who, while they had different perspectives, came into agreement on the essentials.
- In Deuteronomy we have an entire book dedicated to teaching the covenant of God to the next generation of Israel, the generation which followed the disobedient people who left Egypt in the Exodus. Recall that they were not allowed to enter the promised land because they did not trust God or learn is commandments. This book contains the content that the average child was supposed to have memorized. The Shema, in chapter 6, is memorized by Jewish children today very early on. As to educational principles, this book refers to family members being a primary source of education for the Word of God to the children. This happened through every day instruction, writing exercises (covering stones with lime and inscribing the laws of God on them, and then erecting them on mountain tops and by the Jordan river), group classes (they lived in family units and would gather together to hear stories, typical of oral tradition) and individual mentor-ship.
- The tradition of mentors occurs throughout the Old Testament and on into the Jewish culture of the New Testament. A primary example would be the relationship between Elijah and Elisha in the books of Kings. In the New Testament the example is set by Christ himself, who had a number of disciples BEYOND the 12 (including women), whom he taught individually and privately in group, classroom settings. He also spoke publicly at regular intervals using practical examples, metaphor, poetry, logic and scripture to teach about life and the laws of God. (Sound like school?).
- Today we’ve adopted a kind of discipleship in our church fellowships but it typically doesn’t come ANYWHERE close to the rigorous education that the disciples of the Bible went through. For example, one of my proph’s has a good friend in Israel who is an Orthodox Rabbi. The rabbi asked him, “Do you know the Torah?” and he knew enough to say no. The rabbi went no to say, “My wife knows the Torah. Open to Jeremiah and start reading, she will finish.”
THAT, is about as formal as you can get! She didn’t just know the first five books of the Bible, she memorized the prophets! That’s heavy stuff! No. I have encountered VERY few church discipleship programs, internship programs or institute programs that take the study of the Bible this seriously. When was the last college course you took where they asked you to memorize an entire book?
Today, the beauty of technology has enhanced our learning abilities, providing access to vast amounts of information through the internet and videos and giving opportunities to young people beyond what we have yet experienced. There are some detriments to this, unreliable information, for example, the bottom line being that it is still essential to have the guidance of well educated teachers/parents to give instruction in wisdom and discernment.
On another note, our institutions of learning have contributed to a desire for “informal” education as well. In my opinion, EVERY instance of formal education and instruction SHOULD come with a healthy dose of the informal. It has too! Otherwise creativity and individuality get squelched.
Everyone learns differently, and as a teacher I uphold that we teachers need to learn about and adapt to these differences. But it is utterly ridiculous to me when someone says, “I can’t learn in a classroom.” We need to be teaching children to learn ANYWHERE and have the ability to learn IN and OUT of the classroom, or they will be missing vital aspects of their education.
Back to the big picture I’d like to combine Webster’s 1828 definition of Education with a beautiful Jewish tradition for children. When a Jewish child goes to school the first day, they teacher gives them a copy of the aleph-bet covered in honey, or sometimes even an elaborate cake is made in the shapes of the letters and then drizzled with honey for the children to eat! The lesson is that the Word of God is not just the completed instructions, it is the very letters themselves that comprise them, “Oh Lord your word is sweeter than honey.”
EDUCA’TION, n. [L. educatio.] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.