As would be expected of anyone in the throws of finalizing their doctoral dissertation, I have been reading A LOT lately about teaching and learning. Through this study, I have read again the Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayer. She asks some very probing questions. I thought I would hopefully burden you with the same deep contemplation on the answers to the questions. Are you ready to go there?
“Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side? Or have you ever pondered upon the extremely high incidence of irrelevant matter which crops up at committee-meetings, and upon the very great rarity of persons capable of acting as chairmen of committees? And when you think of this, and think that most of our public affairs are settled by debates and committees, have you ever felt a certain sinking of the heart?
Have you ever followed a discussion in the newspapers or elsewhere and noticed how frequently writers fail to define the terms they use? Or how often, if one man does define his terms, another will assume in his reply that he was using the terms in precisely the opposite sense to that in which he has already defined them?
Have you ever been faintly troubled by the amount of slipshod syntax going about? And if so, are you troubled because it is inelegant or because it may lead to dangerous misunderstanding?
Do you ever find that young people, when they have left school, not only forget most of what they have learnt (that is only to be expected) but forget also, or betray that they have never really known, how to tackle a new subject for themselves? Are you often bothered by coming across grown-up men and women who seem unable to distinguish between a book that is sound, scholarly and properly documented, and one that is to any trained eye, very conspicuously none of these things? Or who cannot handle a library catalogue? Or who, when faced with a book of reference, betray a curious inability to extract from it the passages relevant to the particular question which interests them?
Do you often come across people for whom, all their lives, a “subject” remains a “subject,” divided by water-tight bulkheads from all other “subjects,” so that they experience very great difficulty in making an immediate mental connection between, let us say, algebra and detective fiction, sewage disposal and the price of salmon, cellulose and the distribution of rainfall-or, more generally, between such spheres of knowledge as philosophy and economics, or chemistry and art?
Are you occasionally perturbed by the things written by adult men and women for adult men and women to read?” (Dorothy Sayer, Lost Tools of Learning, 1945).
She asks these questions in 1945. Are we still asking the same nagging questions? Hopefully, Salem Christian School is continuing in its tradition of constant improvement. And, through this endeavor we ensure that our students are not the topic of these questions. Rather, we work feverishly to ensure that the generation that we influence are a different breed. We hope that they shed the secular thought and transform to the Christ-like worldview. Through that worldview they see the imperative to work hard, think hard, and communicate excellently. After all, the Gospel is at stake.