Culture promotes a popular myth concerning the teenage years: 13-18 year olds listen more to their peers than their parents.  Christian Smith in his latest published research explodes that myth in his book Souls in Transition. Perhaps the most important statement Smith makes does not appear in the text but a footnote.  “One of the most common, if not the most common, among the variety of answers that teenagers offered was that they wished they were closer to their parents.”  Over and over again qualitative and quantitative sociological analysis reached the same conclusions: home and church educators are the most important contributors in the emerging adult years.[1] It seems the Pied Piper of cultural icons telling youth to follow their own collective voice is a song out of tune.

A similar melody played poorly in the current marketplace of life is that learning must relate to the marketplace.  For over half a century the American education system has been committed to producing what Neil Postman called “a technocrat’s ideal—a person with no commitment and no point of view but with plenty of marketable skills.”  David Brooks counters that the study of humanities, the reading of great literature, is crucial for young minds to process life’s “why” questions.  Says Brooks, “Story, music, painting, architecture, and speech help us understand yearnings and how to mold them.” [2] So, I believe, the purpose of education should set aside the subject of so-called “careers.”  Instead, students have heard me say for years, “You should be in high school to read big books, have big discussions, writing big papers, about big ideas which answer life’s big human questions, “Why am I here and what should I do about it?”

Stanley Fish writing in The New York Times on the merits of classical education agrees.  “Forget about the latest fad and quick-fix, and buckle down to the time-honored, traditional study and practice of the liberal arts and sciences: history, literature, geography, the sciences, civics, mathematics, the arts and foreign languages.  In short, get knowledgeable and well-trained teachers, equip them with a carefully calibrated curriculum with challenging texts and materials, and put them in a room with students who are told where they are going and how they are going to get there.” [3]

Teachers telling students what they should learn is out of step with current educational beliefs.  Many believe instructors are no more than “facilitators” who help students to find their own voice.  But as Christian Smith discovered in his research, teenagers know they don’t know about what they should know.  We should change the tune of modern educational beliefs.  Answering the big questions of life will be music to students’ ears.  For Moody Radio, this is Dr. Mark Eckel, personally seeking truth wherever it’s found.

Education. Moody Radio Commentary. Summer, 2010

Dr. Mark Eckel, Professor of Old Testament, Crossroads Bible College

[1] 344, 246



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