My one word definition of education: Ownership.

This past week one of my classes and I were reviewing the year. I wanted to know their comments about the learning process. It was a great discussion lasting an hour and a half.

“As much as it pains me to admit it,” one young man began his comment, “You were right.”

He smiled. I smiled. The class smiled.

“You made us go through this incremental process of building knowledge,” others began to nod their heads. “I did not like it. I just wanted to get the final paper out of the way. But you kept pacing us, slowing us down. You wanted us to reflect on what we were learning. And I was surprised how helpful the progression was for me.”

Another student reflected on what her mom told her.

“My mom has Masters and PhD degrees,” the young woman was obviously proud. “She told me when we were going over my final paper that the work we were doing in this class was work she was taught to do at the graduate level. She was so pleased that I was learning the process of researching and writing in preparation for college.”

Family connections continued.

“Yes, my sister is a senior in college studying English,” my young charge smiled, knowing I had her sister in my class years before. “She told me that how I was learning to write papers was such good preparation for university studies. In fact, she also said, I would be far ahead of other students in my college classes.”

During the week I had also begun reading Turn the Ship Around! Retired Navy captain of a U.S. nuclear submarine L. David Marquet tells the true story of changing the culture of leadership. He proposes a leader-leader model where everyone is empowered with authority over knowledge.

It struck me that Marquet and I share the same philosophy. We want our people to own authority, knowledge, and responsibility. Similar to the captain’s philosophy I have taught students

Tools of learning they would use throughout life (essay here)

Principles of life they could employ throughout any vocation (essay here)

Outcomes depend on what is done with opportunities (essay here)

Assumptions frame the application of their knowledge (essay here)

Objectives are met only with intentional practice (essay here)

“I won’t be around when you have questions in the future,” I began to close the class discussion. “How I am teaching you now—the mindset, ways of thought—you can employ for the rest of your days wherever you are, whatever you do.”

One of my former students, a philosopher with a PhD” I was remembering an email I had received earlier in the week, “Put it this way,”

“Your high school classes were good, time well spent. I was not aware that the ‘bricks’ gathered in the class would become incorporated into the ‘walls’ which now support the ‘upper stories’ of my life. Looking back now, I don’t know what I would have done without them.”

One young man, nodding his head, said, “This year I have learned to own my education.”

Ownership. The definition stands. The process continues.

Mark’s view of “ownership” is because he stands on the shoulders of giants such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Calvin, Luther, Comenius, Edwards, and so many more. This essay is being written toward Mark’s forthcoming book “Up Against the Lockers: Teaching-Learning as Christian Practice.” Dr. Mark Eckel teaches high school classes as well as PhD classes and is President of The Comenius Institute (one minute video here).

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