Learning

Western versus non-Western learning approaches and the need to live as if schools do not exist

According to Merriam and Kim (2008), “most Westerners neither recognize nor value learning that is embedded in everyday life.  Most Westerners think of learning as that which occurs in a formal teacher-directed classroom with a prescribed curriculum” (Merriam and Kim, 2008, p. 75).  On the other hand “non-Western understandings of lifelong learning is that very little of it is lodged in formal institutional settings.  Lifelong learning in non-Western settings is community-based and informal” (Merriam and Kim, 2008, p. 75).

The kind of learning that is advocated in the Bible is much closer to the kind of learning that Merriam and Kim describe as non-Western.  This is why I have been writing about deschooling and unschooling.  The longer I am away from schools, the more firmly deschooled I am becoming, and the more convinced I am of the need for parents, who want to properly educate their children, to live life with their children as if schools do not exist (Priesnitz, 2012).    I firmly agree with Priesnitz when she writes: “I look forward to the day when school (at least in its compulsory form as we know it) doesn’t exist; …” (Priesnitz, 2012, p. 8).

The classical passage of Scripture that is used to justify Christian education is Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

I have several books on my shelves that quote this passage in the context of their justification for ‘Christian Schools’ (Cummings, 1979, 1982; Johnson, 1980;  Kienel, 1978; and others).  However, on closer investigation, the passage speaks nothing of schools; nor do any of the other passages in the Bible, that address the issue of education.  Clearly, the modern concept of compulsory, state-financed, centralized curriculum-ed, state-licensed schooling just cannot be found in the Bible, and that is because the Scriptures teach learning principles that are more closely aligned to a non-Western approach.

References

Cummings, D. B. [ed.]. (1979). The Purpose of A Christian School. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

Cummings, D. B. [ed.]. (1982). The Basis for a Christian School: A resource book with answers for the Christian parent. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

Johnson, R. E. (1980). Under Tutors & Governors. Nashville, Tennessee: Accelerated Christian Education, Inc.

Kienel, P. A. [ed.].  (1978). The Philosophy of Christian School Education, Revised Edition. Whittier, California: Association of Christian Schools International.

Merriam, S. B. and Kim, Y. S. (2008). ‘Non-Western Perspectives on Learning and Knowing’ New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. No. 119, pp. 71-81.

Priesnitz, W. (2012). Beyond School: Living As If School Doesn’t Exist. Canada: The Alternate Press (an imprint of Life Media – http://www.LifeMedia.ca).

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