Monday, November 14, 2011

Ever Been Told You're "Stupid" or "Don't Measure Up"?

I think that many of us end up marginalized and lost because we are told by some of our educators that we are "stupid" because we struggle with understanding the material they want us to learn (or perhaps we struggle with the methodology they use to teach us).

If this has ever been your experience, I hope this creative video of illustrations of a talk given by Sir Ken Robinson encourages you. I particularly like this line in the video: "Collaboration is the stuff of growth." We too often section ourselves off from each other and make ourselves the master of our own education, perhaps in part because the world keeps stressing our work as individuals against our work as groups.

Surely the individual is important, but we weren't created to be islands unto ourselves. Humans are social creatures, as God himself noted when he created us: "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). (Of course, women were not simply created just to keep men company. I fear that this verse is too often used to suggest this. God did not create women just to please men. I want to be emphatic about this. I think the larger point of this passage is that God recognized that humans are not mean to be alone, and Adam needed another person---someone different from/other than him---to be present as well. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments if you think I'm way off base here.)

I think this corresponds to biblical truth, actually. Part of loving our neighbors involves giving everyone a voice (by providing conditions in which they are encouraged to speak and by subsequently listening to them when they speak). Just because someone does not have what we would call "academic" abilities, for instance, does not mean that they do not have something constructive to say.

I think the root of the problem is human pride. We are often so arrogant in the way that we refuse to let our paradigms be challenged, whether they are educational, business-oriented, intellectual, or economic in nature. If we can show that a particular paradigm has "worked" in some sense ("hey, my business model is keeping in my company in business, after all"), we then cite that as evidence for avoiding any kind of change, and we therefore continue to slide past the people who don't measure up to the way we do things. (That is, so what if your "business model" keeps your company in business if it squashes the "least" of your employees in the process?)

Bottom line: No matter where you operate in life, never develop an attitude of "unteachability" or "personal inerrancy." Allow yourself to be challenged.

The truly stupid people are those who think they have nothing more to learn.


Daniel said...

Well put, Benj.

No one likes to reevaluate their own long held beliefs - let alone admit being wrong every once in a while. It seems teachability is a trait that wanes with age. My own theory as to why this is stems from a misconception that there is a direct correlation between life experience and wisdom. Isn't the first step to becoming wise the recognition that you don't really know anything? Life experience isn't wisdom. It only informs it.

I hope that makes sense. I enjoy reading your posts and look forward to reading more.

Ben said...

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for the comment. Yes, I think this is true in some cases, but I've also met much older people who have clearly matured into a humble attitude in teachability. (But I do think you've identified a real trend.)

I've found that I can also often develop a youthful arrogance. That is, I think it's easy for me to refuse to be told by an older person that I'm wrong about something, sometimes because my own idealism can deceive me into believing that I always (or usually) have fresh insights about things.


Mike Edsall said...


I have seen this in ministry as well. "We have people coming, so it must be working!" Little thought is given to what it is building into the lives of those attending.

Ben said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks again for sharing your insights. Always good to hear from you!

I am frustrated with the tendency of some ministries to stay content with stale, shallow teaching simply because it continues to bring in people. And that's something I hope I won't fall into either! ;-) Regent has had great people who have kept challenging me to realize that there are always an incredible amount of things about God's Word and his creation that I don't yet know.

I think constantly reminding ourselves of that fact keeps Scripture as our constant correcter. We never become masters of Scripture---we are to allow Scripture to master us.

Many blessings,