Thursday, November 4, 2010

Real tests aren't taken in classrooms [Megan]

The tests were passed into trembling hands on Monday (Nov. 1) as the Christian worldview students Jay and I teach on a weekly basis took their first look at one of two exams they take in the course of the semester. This exam was drawn from the first four chapters of Kenneth Samples' book, A World of Difference, which lay out the components that make up this thing we call a "worldview."
The students needn't have trembled. Though they have found the material challenging, they were more than adequately familiar with what we expected from them. We wanted them familiar with the terms, terms like "fallacy," "law of non-contradiction," "epistemology and ontology," "ad hominem," and others. In no way did we expect them to be able to explain these in full, but as we move forward in laying out the Christian worldview, then comparing it to others, we wanted the students to have a framework in place to work with. When I or Jay say(s), "theology," we expect them to automatically think, "study of God." For now, that's enough.
Their intimidation is suitable in a way, however. Though they don't need to feel it to such a degree as far as our expectations go for the class, anyone who begins to study our infinite Sovereign should feel a certain amount of reverent intimidation. Let's face it — given our limited capacities and finite natures, a little mystery is to be expected. On those grounds, I for one am encouraged that our students seem to recognize that.
Furthermore, the kind of thinking the students are doing in this class is new to many of them, and therefore challenging. To make decisions in the course of a given day is one matter; to understand the logical processes by which those decisions are made is something else entirely. In some ways, it is a backwards type of learning, but a type of learning more of us need to undertake.
As toddlers begin communicating in sentences, they take for granted the structure and components of the sentences they're using, which is probably why school-age language arts classes are frustrating to some. But there is something enriching about learning subjects and predicates, nouns and adjectives, verbs and adverbs that makes young students who grasp those concepts better communicators. The best writers out there use the rules of sentence-making to their advantages, and we the readers enjoy the fruits of their mastery.
Likewise, as our students have learned, everyone has a worldview — everyone sees reality in a certain way. Most people take their respective worldview for granted. They continue navigating life with no knowledge of the components of their worldview, and unable to ascertain reasonably whether their worldview corresponds with reality (aside from the occasional experience that forces a shift in ideas, as when someone who believes humans can sprout wings and fly jumps from a wall only to meet gravity face to face). But as our students have begun to understand the components, the working categories by which they can actually think about their worldview and its reasonableness, they — like writers who masterfully use sentences to express ideas — become able to use their worldview as a tool by which they navigate life. An intact Christian worldview makes sense of the world. As C.S. Lewis said of the Christian worldview, "I believe in Christianity as I believe the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else."
As far as the test goes, the grades were overall a success. Several students received "A"s, with others trailing closely. In the remaining months we have with these students, it is our hope that they are able to pass the tests that matter. Living life as a thinking believer. Not shaken to the core when their ideas are challenged, but meeting that challenge face-to-face with reasoning skills and pointed questions. Not afraid to speak truth when lies are raised against the knowledge of God. Courageous — and firmly grounded — enough to stand for victims in the face of injustice, especially when it comes to their unborn neighbors. Turning toward God, whose Holy Spirit, our Comforter, comes "with power" in the midst of suffering. Raising up strong leaders to come after them until Christ returns.
As they receive their graded tests next week, I hope they give their grades a passing glance, and chalk up their success as one small victory in the bigger picture.

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