Monday, June 01, 2009

Seminary Vision (6-1-09)

In these posts, I'm not just giving updates on seminary development. I'm also trying to capture what I think is unique about what we are designing here. I think these sorts of things apply to educational theory in general, an area in which I am an experienced novice. They could really be written into a revolutionary book (and already have, at least in pieces).

Here's another one. We had a playful discussion about whether we should structure courses in terms of "ready, aim, fire" or "fire, aim, ready" or "fire, ready, aim." It seems obvious that you do the first...

BUT, that's exactly what the traditional seminary does in the extreme. You go off for three years to get ready. Then in theory you go to a local congregation, aim at it, and fire.

Here are some problems with this approach:

1. To a very large extent, teaching on getting ready won't stick with 80% of people unless they see what they are aiming at first. The vast majority of seminary stuff doesn't stick. It isn't that it all isn't relevant--at least I don't believe that. It's that most students can't see its relevance because they really have no real idea of what they are going to aim at.

In fact, to a very large extent, most people don't know how to ready themselves and aim at something until they have fired and missed a few times. People in seminary who have pastored a little before they came recognize to a much greater extent the usefulness of what they are learning because they have missed a few shots already.

A pastor will never misfire a certain way again if they shoot the wrong target once. On the other hand, they might misfire twenty times on a classroom test about taking that shot before it sinks in. This of course is the brilliance of our "in ministry" model. You are not in a practicum or a supervised ministry. You mess up; you're fired.

2. Most people will learn more, better if they have learned it a little wrong to begin with. This is especially the case with children. It's better to tell them: "An atom is the smallest thing there is" and then later correct it, "Well, actually there are these things called protons, electrons, and neutrons that are smaller." And then later, "Well, actually protons and neutrons are probably both made of quarks and gluons."

An approach that would try to teach all the exhaustive theory of firing before ever letting a person try a shot is bound for failure. They need to fire a little, even if not quite rightly, and then perfect later.

I leave you with two YouTube links that come to my mind often these days:

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