As I reflected on my previous post about traditional schooling I realized that there is such a contradiction between how God has designed us to be able to learn and comprehend things in such a variety of ways and the way this industrial style of educating only draws on one single form of intelligence.
The more I explore alternative ways of schooling, the more parallels I’ve encountered between the best learning environment and the way God has designed us to live. Let me explain…
One of the most proven ways to learn something is to experience it in a variety of ways, through different senses or intelligences. It was fitting that the devotional from Jesus Calling that I read this morning said this, “I (God) speak to you continually: through sights, sounds, thoughts, impressions, scriptures. There is no limit to the variety of ways I can communicate with you.” Amazingly I still manage to misinterpret or miss completely what He is trying to communicate to me. So, imagine how difficult it is for some students to understand concepts that they only experience in one way, offered to them using one sense, one form of intelligence. I wonder if God is disappointed when he has blessed us with such an intricate, unique human body, and we put constraints on what it can do. Do you know that we have over a dozen senses? Often we only give our body credit for five. Pretty incredible to think about!
Just observe the numerous ways we could appreciate a setting like the one pictured to the right.
Over time I think the industrial teaching strategies can numb the awareness we have of our surroundings.
Scary to think of an educational system that could actually diminish the range of our abilities.
There is another major aspect of learning missing from the traditional, industrial model of teaching and it happens to be the most accessible resource we have: The tool of collaboration and the strategy of learning and growing with and through those around us.
It appears God agrees because Proverbs 27:17 states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” In many places in the Bible we’re warned for the dangers of living in isolation, apart from guidance or support. We must allow students the opportunity to interact with and explore the world around them while sharing purposeful dialogue and conversation with peers. How can our children become a “city on a hill” or a lightbearer for the world if they don’t have an accurate understanding of the world around them?
Ryan Hershey see my blog at
For those of us who had an adequate experience in a public traditional school, we might think “it didn’t seem so bad, it did the job for me.” Well, what is the job of the traditional educational process? You got your diploma, maybe a college degree, and hopefully a job. Could it have been better? Would you want more for the future of our children?
Here are a few video clips I mashed together. I think each bring up good points about traditional schooling.
After doing some reading and research about the original purpose and goals of schooling, I see a couple that are still way too powerful in today’s schools.
1. Conformity: There is still an initiative to make all students alike. Unfortunately I think many teachers fulfill this unknowingly (me included). Too often I have robbed students of having a choice and have at times told them what to think and insisted the best way of doing things.
2. The Selective Function (Darwin’s natural selection): Students are closely compared and judged. Are we basing our assessments on how the individual student is developing or are we blinded by how they compare to others? Do we look at the whole student’s broad range of intelligences and abilities or are we narrowly focusing in on their ability to take multiple choice tests?
Some teachers still believe that they hold all the information the students need to know for the year and it is there job to simply transfer it to them. This practice usually leads to every student learning a preset, universal curriculum, all the same way. In this classroom, would you be engaged, inspired, reaching your full potential? This is an absurd way of teaching in today’s informational technology age with complete connectedness.
It’s like telling an ambitious fisherman that he is only allowed to fish in a small stocked pond while the ocean is 100 yards away. Don’t get me wrong; there are some foundational skills the fisherman should learn at the pond before taking on the ocean. Even when given access to the abundant waters, there is still a need for guidance, support, and encouragement regardless how skilled the student is.
I think this final quote sums up the traditional approach quite well. Seth Godin cautions modern leaders with this: “Trying to lead everyone will result in leading no one in particular.” Most public schools are achieving this, leaving students disconnected, disengaged, lost, and at-risk.
There IS a way for EVERY individual to be passionate about their learning with a curiosity to inquire, determination to discover, and an eagerness to apply! Traditional education is not it.
Ryan Hershey see my blog at
My intentions through this blog are simply to refine my views on education and faith that hopefully lead to building a solution. Refining and constructing involves those of you that read and relate to my thoughts. I would encourage you to share what you envision to be the ideal school for this world (even if it doesn’t blend obviously with my thoughts).
This video describes where I’m at with my dreams for education and the purpose of this blog.
The purpose of my ideal education: Nurture and equip self-regulated learners who can recognize, evaluate, and develop the tools/skills they have and adequately utilize them to inquiry, discover and apply them in authentic opportunities. The students realize the talents and interests they have been blessed with from God and utilize them in becoming the uniquely designed light bearer He has called them to be!
“Chance favors the connected mind.” I would adjust Johnson’s phrase from the video just a bit. “God favors the heart and mind that connect to His will.” I believe this favor includes orchestrating connections that can collaborate and construct something much bigger and better than I could come up with on my own.
Let’s get to Eureka! Can your ideas, dreams, and visions meld with mine to make something better?
I’ve recently (the past year or so) felt that God is trying to equip me to fulfill His plans. I wish I could be more specific in describing those plans but they remain quite mysterious at this point. Although, time after time the perfect resource has been placed in front of me, constructing a foundation of thoughts and ideas in me about the perfect educational environment. I’ve been blessed with a passion and desire to research this path.
2 stumbling blocks in this journey of God driven enlightenment I’ve encountered:
Desiring the glory for myself: The holy spirit was adamant that this must turn into a passion for bringing glory to God before anything would move forward. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).
Anticipating God’s plan: I think I’ve minimized the capability of the Holy Spirit by thinking I know what God wants to do. When our personal desires take priority we are again bound to our personal abilities separate from God. Galatians 5 describes this freedom we have in Christ, “the only thing that counts is a faith expressing itself through love.”
We can find the following point stated in many different words by many different people but The Purpose Driven Life makes it quite clear. “He (God) says, ‘My thoughts and my ways are higher than yours,’(Isaiah 55:9) so he often acts in ways that are the exact opposite of what we expect.”
So if we go back to Seth Godin’s precept: “Lean in, back off, but don’t do nothing,” I think God can be quite successful with us when we intently seek his will (Lean In), but don’t anticipate or limit his power (Back Off)!
We can live free in Christ when we don’t trap his Spirit in the confines of the worldly and fleshly limits.
Right now I don’t know where exactly this exploration is headed, but it’s exciting because this journey is not being directed by my meager ambitions. While reflecting on the path I’ve travelled described here, I realize this is a great example of how powerful inquiry-based learning can be.
How can these ideas be applied in creating the perfect learning environment for our kids?
Ryan Hershey see my blog at
Does our educational system allow us to push our students in a way that allows them to discover the power of their individual skills and abilities? Watch this short inspirational video and think about whether our outdated traditional classroom fosters an environment where students can soar.
This would be very encouraging if schools could simply operate as the “pusher” out of love, allowing students to discover the power and ability of their God given gifts. Unfortunately our industrial framed school system has a preconceived agenda with a narrowed definition of achievement and success.
I think one concept shared by Seth Godin in his book Tribes:We Need You to Lead Us, can really be applied to teaching in an alternative manner and also applicable to a journey of living by faith. Godin suggests that great modern leaders “Lean in, back off, but don’t do nothing.”
As for teachers:
·To “lean in” means to care deeply for each individual student. Create an
atmosphere where each child is personally heard, encouraged and supported according to their specific needs. Simply take interest in every pupil.
·To “back off” is a lot like what the parent eagle in the video does after the push. Continue to challenge while letting them explore. This allows the student to make their decisions and maintain authority of their learning development and growth. Let go of your own agenda. Get out of the way!
·I interpret the “But don’t do nothing” as the teacher is constantly opening avenues for student learning and exploration. Also the educator is constantly offering guidance and encouragement throughout the process.
I think this approach can have application in living by faith and parenting as well. Actually there are probably numerous areas of application for this, but in my experience of teaching, trying to live according to God’s will for my life, and definitely parenting, the “back off” step is BY FAR the most difficult!
Too often I want to do it for my students or especially my 3 year old son, which would ultimately inhibit their ability to soar.
Ryan Hershey see my blog at