"What if the hokey-pokey really is what it's all about?"
If life is the referent, maybe; but if we're talking education, I (Craig) would suggest a different descriptive dance step: the "Two Steps Forward, One Step Back." Let me explain.
A week ago, Megan, the girls and I were sitting at home having dinner when, out of the blue (or more accurately, out of her Bible class earlier that day), our 12-year-old oldest daughter asked a question: "Dad, how do we know – really know – Jesus and the Bible are true when other prophets and their books make similar claims?"
I'd waited 12 years for this question. While we'd touched on the topic in past conversations, I'd been the one who brought it up. Now, my daughter – my oldest – was intrigued on her own by the hugest of epistemological questions, and she and I (along with her three younger sisters listening at the dinner table) had the entire evening to dance the night away discussing.
And we danced. We talked about the cultural shift from what once was an ancient mindset that accepted deontological reality to the modernist mentality that anything true must be able to be proven. Not being satisfied with this premise and its false dichotomy between science and belief, we continued onward to postmodernism's sounds-too-good-to-be-true promise that, in the absence of really being able to know anything, whatever works for you is, by pragmatic default, right and real.
We then talked about the difference between facts and truth. I pulled out my Case for Christ DVD and together we watched several chapters on the geographical, archaeological, and transmissional evidence for the Bible. The girls asked questions about how we know what we know, and we talked about what evidence can and cannot mean (i.e. facts do not prove that God is true, but if the facts are accurate, what claims do they make that may be true?).
We were two hours in and having a blast – the girls were making great observations and asking really good questions, and I was thrilled to play Socrates in helping them sort out the pieces and slowly put part of the puzzle together. As an educator, this is "the jazz"; as a father, this is the call.
Unfortunately, bedtime was upon us, so we wound things down with enthusiasm, thanks, hugs, and promises to talk more. Then four girls tried to use two bathrooms with little consideration for each other. Twenty minutes later, there were tears (them), yelling (me), frustration (us), and that was that; the awe and inspiration surrounding everything we had just discussed was gone. Warm and fuzzy feelings from learning with and from one another? Replaced with hurt, anger, and hands thrown up in the air.
The good news? Once again the Bible had shown itself true by accurately explaining the facts of our hearts – that they were deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; indeed, who could understand them? (Jeremiah 17:9) None of us did, that's for sure.
Then I remembered: two steps forward, one step back. So goes the dance of education.
Deuteronomy 6:7 speaks to our parental responsibility to teach our children, but often we miss the how when we focus too much on the what, where, and when: "You shall teach them (God's words) diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." The definition of "diligently"? According to Merriam-Webster: "In a manner involving great or constant activity; with great effort or determination." According to my experience: "With a whole heapin' lot of commitment, effort, and work."
Lest I leave you with a lack of resolution, let me finish the story. Thankfully, over the course of the next few days, we resolved things and got back on the education dance floor by way of the Passages Exhibition at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art this past Saturday. While our visit at times felt like another "two steps forward, one step back" experience because of the crowd (one could argue that every 65-and-over adult Sunday School class in Oklahoma was there), we persevered and enjoyed two hours learning about God's preservation of the Bible over time. It was a good currciulum tie-in to our talk the week before…and a needed shared experience for our family as well.