Education and Opthamology

It’s been a good long while since my last post. This new school year brought about new responsibilities at school, and these new responsibilities have been their own “graduate” education. The things I’ve learned could not have been prepared for as the subject matter has principally been people, their stories, their contexts and struggles. What have I learned? I’ve learned (or, re-learned) just how broken the human race really is, including me. I’ve re-learned how desperately we need a Healer and a Savior. I’ve re-learned why I cannot personally hold the idea that we are all a product of nature, DNA doing its’ DNA thing. I hear the stories of these young people, hear their hurts, disappointments, pains, anxieties, and fears and I find myself thinking, “This is not how it ought to be.” It is into these situations you must enter and encourage, disciple and discipline students appropriately as Dean of Students. I find myself praying often the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Ultimately, these students are his, and I must trust him as such.

My continuing education hasn’t only been practical. I’ve been reading a classic book by Victor Frankl called Man’s Search for Meaning. It would be hard to count the underlined sentences, highlighted passages, and dog-eared pages because there have been so many. One such statement got me thinking about the role of educators in the lives of their students. Though this book is more about psychology, as an educator I can’t help but try applying great ideas to the world of education. Here’s what Frankl said:

Logotherapy is neither teaching nor preaching. It is as afar removed from logical reasoning as it is from moral exhortation. To put it figuratively, the role played by a logotherapist is that of an eye specialist rather than a painter. A painter tries to convey to us a picture of the world as he sees it; an ophthalmologist tries to enable us to see the world as it really is. The logotherapist’s role consists of widening and broadening the visual field of the patient so that the whole spectrum of potential meaning becomes conscious and visible to him.

I think if you were to substitute “Education/educator” for “Logotherapy/logotherapist”, this quote could remain largely unchanged and equally correct. As one who has spent his professional career in secondary education, I can’t help but wonder if this it not a great description of a teacher’s role. Educators are to convey the world not as we see it, but as the world really is, much like Frankl described the work of an ophthalmologist. As secondary age students it seems their educational/moral/social growth includes minds that are expanding and questioning much of what they see. From my experience, they need the why question addressed that lies at the base of every what statement. I think we can agree that students do not need pat answers or formulated responses. Their questions are far to deep, and in many cases, far to personal to such an approach. Rather, students need people to come alongside them and teach them how to see the world as it is, not describe to them the world from the eyes of the teacher. This is certainly the role of educators, particularly Christian educators.

I wonder if this is not what Jesus did? Did Jesus use logical reasoning? Yes. Did Jesus include moral exhortation? Emphatically, yes. But, Jesus sought to help his disciples to see the world as it really is. While Jesus did describe the world as it is, Jesus also invited people to see with him the world as it is. Let’s look at an example. Jesus is speaking to Pilate in John 18. In their conversation, Pilate has an inflated sense of power when he says to Jesus, “Don’t you know I [i.e., the state] has power to kill you or free you?” Jesus’ response (not literally): “Pilate, the world you see is not the world as it really is. You actually have no power over me except that which is given to you from above. I lay my own life down.” Or, in another instance Jesus is being questioned about whether taxes to Rome should be paid. Jesus address that question by asking for a coin and a description of the image on the coin. After learning the image is of Caesar, Jesus says, “Give to Caesar that which is Caesars, and to God that which is God’s.” See what he did? Jesus again confronts an image of the world as it seemed to be to the common people. The world was a world reduced to economic struggle and the right over taxes. I’m sure this is all very important, but Jesus uses a question as a means of asking about the real world, the world that is. In that world, people remember their own finitude. They remember they are dependent creatures, not independent.

This real world is what I was referring to in my first paragraph. We people are incredibly broken. We are broken physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Physically, you cannot help notice how many students are absent daily due to illness. If you take a look behind the students, you see families full of illness and brokenness. Concerning emotions, it is staggering how many young people are showing signs of anxiety and depression. These are kids, for goodness sake! Yet, they pressure they are under to perform is staggering. The brokenness and insecurity they bring from home and hide is sad. Kids aren’t just these days. Much the same could be said socially. Bullying is just one example that people are uncomfortable with who they are physically and/or emotionally. They are so insecure with themselves, they force themselves on others so that eyes get off them. Why all these problems? Because spiritually we are empty. We are longing for anything that might fill this void, yet completely unable. So, what’s the fix?

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus. That’s it. That’s real. That’s the only place we find a description of the way the world really is. Educators are charged with bringing students to that realization.

May we be ophthalmologists who enables young minds to see the world as it really is, not the way social media, TV, internet or anything else describes pseudo-reality.

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