It seems paradoxical to think of playing with education. But that is the point! Without play of concepts and knowledge, can there ever be wisdom? For our current education model, we need a ‘call and response’ in order to operate. Play is restricted to gym class and recess. This duelist approach works great in theory, but only if it exists in a vacuum. Vacuums hold no wisdom. I propose that in education, we cannot afford to operate in a vacuum. We are dealing with real people who will respond to our theories in real ways. Real people tend bring things into or to step out of bounds in areas where vacuums can’t operate. We must find a way to educate can hold together in the real world. If we must keep the vacuum, let us then us a quantum vacuum. According to quantum mechanics, the vacuum state is not truly empty but instead contains fleeting electromagnetic waves and particles that pop into and out of existence (“Vacuum State”).
Wisdom then is noticing when waves and particles pop in and out of existence. Wisdom is noticing how the play of light in the floating dust of a room evokes feelings of home. Wisdom is hearing a song on the radio you haven’t heard in a decade and remembering with vivid clarity events forgotten. Wisdom happens when things you know blend into things you experience.
The problem with wisdom is that it is fleeting (Melchert and Profitt). The problem is that wisdom is incredibly hard to test. To compensate for this our education system has concetrated on testable knowledge. Indeed wrote memorization is important, but wisdom occurs in the face of incomplete facts. We may not have all the facts, but that shouldn’t keep us from moving forward. That shouldn’t keep us from trying to gather the facts and look for the interplay between subjects that we know. The education system has negletcted this. We have tilted too far into the realm of utilitarianism.
We are seeing the effects of this in our lagging performance in the world community. The US is producing far less highly techincal professionals (engineers, programmers, etc). and U.S. students do not lead in any assessment (Strauss). We see the same problem in our churches as well. We have many people running around claiming to be Christian and doing very unchristian things. The generations that include late teens to early 30-somethings believe Christians are judgmental, antihomosexual, hypocritical, too political and sheltered (Kinnaman and Lyons). Rather than simply try to do a PR face-lift, we need to develop a way to teach a faith that focuses on holiness but also loves, accepts and works to understand the world around it
This problem is not new. The Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard commented on the state of Christianity when he said, people claim to be “Christian’ without knowing what it means to be Christian. It is also detrimental to the religion itself since it reduces Christianity to a mere fashionable tradition adhered to by unbelieving "believers", a "herd mentality" of the population, so to speak.”
I pains my soul to hear such things. But how do we fix it? I would take a post-modern, post-colonial, deconstructionist approach. What does this mean? It means I know a whole bunch of “university words” that sound impressive. What I’m actually saying in my “de-post” language is that I’m taking a stand to choose. The word for “choose” in Greek is “heresy.”People think heresy is a bad thing. I would argue it’s not. Why is it wrong to choose?! Mainly because the church has declared it so, as they have God nicely boxed and packaged, no need for thought. It’s all figured out. That view, is simply no fun.
Eastern religions and even our parent religion of Judaism has an immense sense of play built right in. Non-orthodox followers of these faiths do not accept things "just because." They must have room for debate. Jews wrestle at the core, in fact the name "Israel" means "to wrestle with God" (El being the word for God). Why wrestle? Well if you've every seen a Greco-Roman wrestling match, you'll note that wrestling is an intimate event. One must know how the opponent's body is positioned and what strategy that person is trying to use to get out of or put the other into a hold. Aside from sex, this is about as intimate as you're going to get.
There is no vacuum in wrestling. The world is sand, in constant flux. The Jewish tradition seems to get that. Plus how they look at the Bible is at a much more complex level than what I’m used to looking at. With this approach, the sense of awe returns. Within that awe, there is a willingness to live within the possibility of each word. The Rabbi's also have developed the midrash, which are collections of stories to help explain the Bible. This sounds like heresy to most Christians, as we tend just to think of what the Bible says but ignore what the Bible does not say. Midrash stories fill in the blanks in the bible. This sense of play and daily application make the stories much more meaningful and the Bible and faith more livable and flexible to the non-static world in which we live.
So the question then becomes how to instill wisdom into a system, which diametrically opposes wisdom. Task learning is a great step forward to recognizing that we live in a quantum vacuum. I certainly will use it within my future ministry. How do we go beyond my future congregation and into the U.S. education? I don’t have the answer for that. But one day, we will.
Kierkegaard, Søren. Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, Princeton University Press, 1992,
Kinnaman, David and Gabe Lyons. “UnChristian; What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why it Matters. Baker Books, 2007.
Melchert, Charles and Anabel Proffitt. “Playing in the Presence of God.”
Schramm, David, "The Big Bang Creation of the Universe", in Quarks, Quasars and Quandries, Ed. Gordon Aubrecht, Amer. Assoc of Physics Teachers, 1987. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/Hbase/Astro/hydhel.html
Strauss, Valerie, A Snapshot of the State of U.S. Education. Tuesday, November 21, 2006 The Washington Post. 4 Apr 2008
"Vacuum state." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 8 Mar 2008, 05:52 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 4 Apr 2008