“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
– Alvin Toffler
I have mixed feelings about my years in the 8-4-4 system.
On the one hand, I had key experiences – good, bad, and ugly – that shaped who I am today. In hindsight, I can see all the ways God was preparing me even then for the purpose He has for me.
But on the other hand, some things just sucked. Big time.
Like the fallacy we were fed about how good grades are the (only) key to a successful and happy life. It’s no wonder so many graduates enter the marketplace holding up their shiny good grades and expecting the world to bow at their knees.
I get amused when the generations that precede us get mad at our entitlement. Thing is – we weren’t born with it. We grew into it over the years when you constantly told us that our good grades are what we needed to make it in life. Heck, some of the most common questions that get asked at family gatherings are about school and grades; not even basic wellbeing. We met our end of the deal and got the good grades. So where’s the fancy life you inadvertently promised us? If there was more to it than the grades, maybe perhaps you should have told us?
Good or bad, we are a product and reflection of the choices you made in our upbringing. Yes, certain grades do open certain doors to certain opportunities; but they don’t guarantee success. Many of us learned that the hard way when we found ourselves academically certified for the marketplace but sorely lacking in the life skills we need to survive there. Not to mention, ill-equipped to take a stand as believers.
I was good at passing exams.
At a very early age I discovered what worked for me and what didn’t. I wasn’t like one of those “geniuses” who could just sit in class, absorb and retain all the information. I learned and remembered best when I read stuff on my own. Such that the classroom only served as a reinforcement of what I had studied for myself. And it worked. For me.
Yet there were far too many unfortunate instances when I became the comparison stick used by teachers and parents to beat down on my classmates, and worse still, my friends, in the name of encouragement. The assumption being that if they did whatever “magical” thing I was doing then they would get the same results I did. Not necessarily. How I wish that time had been spent figuring out what worked well for them so they could do well on their terms.
I was good at passing exams. But that didn’t always translate into being good at learning. Because when you’re in a certain grade bracket, an unrealistic expectation is thrust on you to always be at 100%. Anything less isn’t good enough. So you walk around being the “failure” who got 96%. Yet, nobody gets a perfect score all of the time. Talk about an epic fail in life lessons. *rolls eyes*
I know my teachers meant well. Really. But their good intentions were pretty rough on my pre-teen heart. I had to make the decision to set my own goals and standards of academic success because if I kept allowing others to do it, I was going to be the miserable “96% failure” for the rest of my life.
In the throes of a decade-early quarter-life crisis, I once asked an adult I respected why it was necessary for me to get certain grades. I was told to just get the good grades and the rest would work itself out later.
Yeah, right. Thanks for that magnificent non-answer.
I stopped asking. Out loud that is.
But internally my query continued. I didn’t know it then but what I was searching for was purpose. My purpose. Something to make the challenge and the effort worthwhile. Something beyond a flashy car, title and corner office to work towards. It took me a few more years but I eventually found my purpose and made peace with it.
When I look back at where I came from, where I am today and what I had to do and go through to get here, my heart breaks for those currently in the education system and those who made it out but still have no clue why they’re on this earth. One of the biggest challenges in the marketplace is the sheer number of people who don’t know who they are or what they’re capable of (and I don’t mean the good car, house et al, I’m talking about world changing stuff). More so, believers.
We’re labelling children stupid for not getting to a certain grade bracket. Sometimes it’s said out loud. Sometimes it’s said in silence, in actions and even inactions. In the nudges to one career path and not another. In the lack of faith and investment at the direction of their dreams.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
– Albert Einstein (attribution is challenged online, but these days, what isn’t? *sigh*)
No one is stupid. God is both wise and knowledgeable. He created us in His image. As branches connected to the Vine, we become wise and knowledgeable too. We are uniquely created, however, and that is expressed even in our learning interests and abilities.
The nature of many education systems is that they have very specific learning templates that work for some and not for others. I can’t entirely find fault in this because one would be hard pressed to find a man-made system that works for everyone. Nonetheless, multiple learning models have identified different methods by which people learn best that inherently affect how they can best be taught. One of these models is the VARK model that identifies visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic learners. The issue here isn’t our willingness or ability to learn, it’s the method by which we go about it. A learner is thrown into the model available (especially economically) when in fact, in an ideal situation, the model should be tailored to work for the learner.
I know people who were average students in class but put them in the arts or in a sports field and they come alive. Sometimes it has to do with their interest and abilities. But sometimes, it’s also a question of the difference in how they’re taught in class and the hands on training they get in a drama/music class or in a sports field. Where the latter works better for them than the former.
There’s a new education system being phased in in Kenya and I’m reserving my comments about it because I haven’t experienced it as a student, teacher or parent and I’m still doing my research and prayer about it. I will say this. The answers for us as believers ultimately lie not in a system but in our God. If we exalt a system, whether this new one or even a Christian one, above Him, we are bound to fail. We need the wisdom of God to build aright. Especially when we’re raising people.
We choose (read: have them chosen for us) career paths based on grades not divine purpose. Based on my primary school grades, I was supposed to be a doctor. HA! Thank God, that got thrown out of the window quickly. Not because there’s anything wrong with the medical field, but because I’m not divinely configured for it, which means I have zero grace to fulfill God’s mandate in that field. Don’t get me started on this notion about “smart” people and “serious” careers. I’ve had my path questioned by people who thought I was letting my potential go to waste by going into the arts. Let’s talk in the next decade or so and see how wasted my potential is.
School doesn’t give us purpose. Neither do grades. God does. I believe learning is supposed to equip us for the purpose God has deposited inside each one of us. Learning needs to happen not just in school, but at home and everywhere else. Learning is the conscious effort to take in new knowledge, gain understanding of it and use wisdom to apply it to manifest our God-given purpose. It happens not in a few seasons of structured teaching but for the entirety of our lives.
I think we need to go beyond teaching information. We need to teach and be taught how to learn, unlearn and relearn. Not just in general terms but in a way that is relevant to us as individuals and to our respective kingdom assignments. It doesn’t surprise me that teaching is one of the offices Jesus gifted the Body of Christ. (Note: There’s a difference between classroom teaching and kingdom teaching; and not everyone who teaches in the classroom is called to the office of teaching.) If you think about what that entails, it’s a lot. And it really does take a kingdom community to raise up a child of God in this manner.
So where does that leave us?
Education and learning can no longer be assumed to be the sole mandate of teachers and parents. Everyone in the Body of Christ has a role to play.
Teachers, my heart goes out to you. I come from a family with a pretty good number of teachers in it. So does my husband. I’ve caught a glimpse of life on the other side of that desk and I know the challenges are immense. As a believer, you have the divine ability to speak life not just over the students in your care, but their families as well. Your role is critical because children spend so much of their childhood and early adulthood with you. You can create an ecosystem that allows them to thrive despite the prevailing circumstances you and your students are in. The Holy Spirit can do what your institution, union and the government cannot and/or will not do. He can reveal to you who each of your students is in the realms of the spirit. He can pour out His presence and wisdom and cause there to be wholesome equipping. Is it easy? No. Will it cost you? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Parents, even with learning and education, the buck stops with you, not with teachers. It saddens me when I see a level of volley balling happening between some parents and teachers concerning who is responsible for certain levels of learning concerning their children. At some point, my mother realized that the path God had me on was beyond her knowledge and experience. I had questions she honestly just didn’t have answers to. But she didn’t just raise her hands up and shrug. She didn’t point fingers at my teachers. She called on heaven to lead and guide me. She spoke life and wisdom into me like my life depended on it, and it did. The spiritual power and authority that parents have over children is unrivalled. Don’t allow the devil to have a field day with your child (ren) because he knows their purpose better than you do and he’s more active in their lives than you are. They really do need your active presence more than an X figure pay check. I’m yet to meet one child who would pick money (and the things that come with it) over time with their parent (s). There’s an impartation that only you can give them as their parents and you need to be present to actively do so.
To the believer in the marketplace and at whichever one of the seven gates who has a few cocky graduates and/or seeking (purpose) workmates in their sphere of influence, ask God for wisdom on how to handle them. You don’t need to shove Jesus down anyone’s throat. There are better ways to bear witness. For kingdom learning to happen in the marketplace, we need believers who are ready to take people under their wings and journey with them. We need fathers and mothers in the marketplace to raise sons and daughters who can take a stand for the kingdom at their gates and who are able to steward their inheritance with strength and wisdom.
To you who made it through whatever education system you were in and feel a little lost and short changed as you try and navigate through the marketplace, it’s not too late. The graciousness with God is that He finds us where we are but doesn’t leave us there. There are resources available to help you. The greatest of whom is the Holy Spirit. He is your Helper. Spend time with Him.
To you, who’s reading this and is still in the education system, take heart. God’s purpose for your life won’t be derailed because the system you’re in isn’t perfect. In His presence, you will find the knowledge, wisdom and understanding that you need to make the system work for you. Take time to continually seek Him. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all things pertaining to your purpose will be added into your life. I’ve seen this principle work in my life over the years.
To all of us, as believers in One Body, we need to arise. We need to stand with the members of our Body who are in the gate of education because theirs is a battle and a half. For instance, how often, as parents, do we pray for the teachers of our children and vice versa? Complaining and worrying has never dethroned a principality or transformed a life. We need take ownership of the generations coming after us and pray for them and for ourselves as we raise them. We need to take an active spiritual role in the direction our education system leans towards.
The devil fights and distorts our learning because he knows when we get the right knowledge i.e. truth, we are fully equipped to defeat him. Our minds must be renewed with the truth of God before any transformation can occur in our lives or in our homes, schools and workplaces. May we all be found in the secret place where the Lord renews our minds with truth and transforms our hearts with His love.
I had to do two posts for this gate because education is a big one for me. Read Part 2, where I dive into Science & Technology and why I think the invisible wall between the arts and sciences needs to be reduced to rubble and a bridge created in its place.
Niyi Morakinyo’s book – The 7 Professional Nations: Reconciling Them Back To God – is the genesis of the categorization of the 7 gates as I’m writing about them. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to be fruitful for the Kingdom of God. You can download it from the Joshua Generation Trust website as a free resource. Just click here. 🙂