Philosophy of Teaching

     In Proverbs 8:19-20 wisdom is personified and speaks to the reader: "My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield than choicest silver.  I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the path of justice."  The best teachers do not just teach facts and figures; they teach wisdom and the love of wisdom through the knowledge of Christ.

    Unfortunately, today's college students are not often pursuing wisdom through their college education.  They are there simply to get a degree so that they can get a job after they graduate.  This attitude is not reserved for America's college students, but is typical of American life as a whole.  If knowledge is useful for gaining power, employment or wealth, we eat it up, but very rarely do we pursue wisdom for wisdom's sake.  This attitude is evidenced in a popular song by the Indigo Girls called "Closer to Fine."  The second verse states: "I went to see the doctor of philosophy / With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee. / He never did marry, or see a B grade movie, / He graded my performance, he said he could see through me. / I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind / Got my paper and I was free!"  College is seen as a time to get your paper (i.e., degree) and get out of there.

     A true teacher is one who loves the world around him and is eager to share that love with others.  A true teacher does not emphasize the facts without first emphasizing what those facts mean and how they affect the student and the student's world.  A true teacher does not just lecture for an hour and then head directly back to his office, but instead engages his students through thought-provoking questions, through new and interesting applications of the material, and through unique and challenging comparisons of the material to other aspects of life.  A true teacher does not assume that he has all the answers, but instead assumes that he can learn as much from his students as they can from him.  With this knowledge in mind, a true teacher gets to know his students and encourages them to ask questions, to think critically and deeply, and even to disagree with the teacher if they are so inclined.  A true teacher is not afraid of this, nor insulted by it, but recognizes it as an opportunity for more learning and sees in his student a fellow human being who can think and understand as clearly as himself and perhaps in ways that would not occur to him.

     The methods of teaching can vary, from straight lectures to open discussion to thought-provoking questions to debates to role playing to careful analysis of books, movies, songs, etc.  The ideas really are limitless.  But each method should encourage the student to involve himself in the subject, to seek after knowledge, and to love wisdom.

     Teaching is a calling that requires love of wisdom and knowledge, as well as love of your fellow man.  The academic world should not be one of isolation and ivory tower researchers, but of interaction, engagement and discussion between teachers and students as together they pursue wisdom and her fruits.

      I believe that a college must not only teach facts and figures, but should also nurture and mentor it students through personal relationships between faculty and students, apprenticeship programs, the love of wisdom, and the formation of a true Christian community in which everyone participates.