No Longer Nominal

How true this is..

“You cannot compel excellence, only obedience. And teaching our young people deserves so much more than that… I do not want my own children to be reduced to statistical fodder in support of a good headline. The unseen damage is too high… To be literate but not to love a good book, because there’s no time to read a whole book for pleasure; to be able to pronounce but not to understand; to be well behaved but not to care; to be disciplined but not ambitious; to be a good citizen and not a rebel; to be healthy but not adventurous.”

– Russell Hobby

The above quote came from an online British newspaper.  Russel Hobby is the General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers in Great Britain.  His quote in this post appeared in the Telegraph article: Schoolchildren being turned into ‘statistical fodder’: Children’s education is being ruined as they are turned into “statistical fodder” to hit Government targets, a head teachers’ leader warned.  The article was written by Graeme Paton, Education Editor.

When I read Russel Hobby’s words, I was struck by some thoughts.

“You cannot compel excellence, only obedience.”

In other words, you can tell someone what to do, but you can’t make them put their heart into something. For example, in elementary school, high school and college we are all compelled to obediently learn lessons, but our teachers can’t “make” or “force” us to love a subject or to do excellently in it. Because of this, we have individual responsibilities placed upon us to not only obediently learn but embrace continuous learning. If we lack passion in our endeavors, it can not only harm us but rob us of life well-lived. This says something not just the educational system in England and here at home in the U.S., but about each of us individually.

Taken in context, Hobby’s quote implies that perhaps teachers could implement more big-picture teaching methods rather than teaching to tests in order to help compel excellence from their students. Many teachers, either by choice or by pressure from their individual governments, have found that teaching has become less a job of instructing students so that they may get a “passing grade” in life by being well-equipped to handle all that comes their way, and more a job of helping students to get a “passing grade” on exams that mean perhaps much more than they should. Regardless of what kinds of tests we must take in life, sometimes we leave our success too much up to how we’re being taught or what the learning standards are in school, and less on how we choose to live life.

I want not just to be literate, but to read many good books. I want not just to be able to pronounce English but to understand it and speak it with clarity. I want not just to be a good person but a truly caring and godly person. I want not just to be just a rule-abider but ambitious and driven. I want not just to be nominal but to be a world-changer. I want my life to have meaning and value.

There are two ways to live: free or not free. Free in Christ, or bound by man and our own bonds. So many times the nominal constructs of our lives are created either by ourselves or other people, but for someone who believes with Yann Martel that “There’s nothing more satisfying than… living a life of curiosity… enjoying sentences, splashes of paint, riffs of music-”, there has to be something different, a life requiring more passion, ambition, and faith than most. It is a life wholly given over, not just out of obedience, but out of love. It is the kind of life that can be well-lived.

The mindset we have in view of learning and the life that God has given us is often nominal at best, to use again that word. We have so many incredible gifts like literacy in the states and in England, yet so often we settle for “just” being literate, or “just” having God-given gifts, and not truly getting the enjoyment out of them that we could. It is not embracing life, but being satisfied with it on a superficial level. Yet we are blessed! We are really, truly, deeply, incredibly blessed!

Think about this in terms of our relationship with God. Like the children in a school-system run by a headmaster or teacher, do we simply live in obedience to Him but have no desire to love Him in return, no ambition to do things for Him, and no love for the things we learn from Him and the people we learn with? Let me say it again: we are really, truly, deeply, incredibly blessedReally blessed! Now what are you going to do about it? Plateau early in life, or embrace the calling and the claims God puts on your soul?

Okay, so that is a lot to extract from this quote and sometimes my thoughts go all over the place, but often what I read sparks thoughts, which then sparks other thoughts, and pretty soon, I’ve discovered and digested some interesting truths. What do you think? 🙂

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