A few days ago, as I loitered at the gym in an impossible attempt to acquire muscles at this advanced stage of life, an adolescent girl of Asian descent interrupted my pretense to join me in conversation. She had learned that I had taught classes at a local university where she planned to attend and wanted “my take” on the institution. Always amenable to take a break from exercise, we proceeded to converse about the value of education and how it impacts the work ethic and performance of the individual upon graduation.
Jesus used parables to teach about the Kingdom, but given my very limited bandwidth, all that is available to me are stories. So I narrated to her the one about the teacher and the first day of school in Health class. The story goes that she instructed her students to open the assigned textbook and began to guide them through its initial pages. Meanwhile, behind her on the blackboard a large drawing of the human body with its identified major organs, muscles and bones could be easily detected. The days turned to weeks and the midyear exam came upon them with the frenzy of preparation that accompanies it, and through it all, the drawing remained without consideration. To the students’ dismay, the test consisted of only one question, which read, “name all the major organs, muscles and bones of the human body.” To their chagrin, they looked up at the board only to find that for the only time since the first day of school it was completely erased. “Foul”, they cried; “one cannot be tested on material not covered in class.” Quickly came the reply from the teacher, “education is much more than learning what you are told.” On that vein, I would often give my students the same midterm exam two weeks after the original one only to find that the vast majority lost at least one letter grade in the process. The question begs an answer, “was I educating them or helping them to pass a test?”