Thursday Book Club: The Teacher

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

Daniel J. Estes, Hear, My Son: Teaching & Learning in Proverbs 1-9, (Inter-Varsity Press, 1997), 174 pages. In this post, I plan to finish out my extended review of  Hear, My Son that I've been working through for much of this year.    The final three chapters of the book unpack the educational process and the role of the teacher and learner in that process.  In Estes' observations of Proverbs 1-9, he finds three primary roles for the teacher that correspond with three primary modes of instruction.

Teacher as Expert Authority. Estes presents the teacher as a reliable transmitter of tradition who is qualified to speak with expert authority when he uses directive modes.  In these modes, the teacher is central, and the learner is expected to accept the teaching on the basis of his authority.  But, even when the teacher's authority is most prominent, his most direct instruction is  crafted as part of a literary devise.   This demonstrates the Teacher's own wisdom and humility.  In two passages where direct address is used, the speaker is not the teacher at all, but personified Wisdom (Proverbs 1:20-33; 8:1-11), a prophetic character that the teacher describes and recommends to his student.  In these texts, Wisdom speaks openly in the streets, and she denounces evil with accusations and threats of judgment.  She boasts of her own authority and the gifts that she can bestow.  She is the authority that the teacher recommends, but he is subversively recommending himself and his own tradition.  Similarly, the teacher paints a negative portrait of the evil person and evil activities that the LORD hates in Proverbs 6:12-19.  The teacher gives direct commands without literary subversion or substantiation (see below) only in Proverbs 6:1-5.  In this passage, the debtor has risked his own impoverishment by rash pledges, and the teacher directly commands him to free himself from debt.  The directness of the commands are appropriate to the conditions.

Teacher as Facilitator. The teacher is seen as a facilitator when he uses incentive and invitation.  In Proverbs 3:13-18 and 8:12-21, there is an appeal to the learner that praises all of the benefits of wisdom.  "By describing the intrinsic good of wisdom and the instrumental benefits which it can provide, the teacher endeavours to create in the learner a desire to choose what is best" (121).  In these passages, there is a focus on the learner's involvement with no commands or appeals to logic.  The teacher simply "presents the advantages of the way of wisdom, but leaves the choice up to the learner" (128).

Teacher as Guide. When the teacher gives commands with substantiation (reasons, illustrations, consequences, rhetorical questions), he regards the learner as an active participant in the learning process.  Instruction is seen as a "synergism, with both the teacher and learner playing crucial roles" (112).   "Commands with reasons" constitutes "the largest single category of rhetoric in Proverbs 1-9" (111).  The teacher speaks from his own knowledge and experience to provide direction for the learner, and he also appeals to observations.  In making these appeals, the teacher respects the learner's own experience and readiness to hear.  At times, illustrations (1:10-19), consequences (1:8-9), and rhetorical questions (6:27-28) are added to reasons.  These additions constitute an appeal to the learner's desires and affections, and they help to move the learner toward the point of decision.

For an overview of the first several sections of Estes' book, check out:

Thursday Book Club: Curriculum for Education

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

Daniel J. Estes, Hear, My Son: Teaching & Learning in Proverbs 1-9, (Inter-Varsity Press, 1997), 174 pages. It has been several weeks since I worked through the third chapter of Hear, My Son.  Over the next month or so, I'll finish out this volume.  Estes' fourth chapter unpacks the curriculum for education.  He gives three sources:

  • Observation of the physical environment.
  • Tradition mediated by a teacher
  • Divine Revelation

Observation. In 6:6-8, the ant is used as an object lesson.  The teacher appeals to the learner to physically observe his environment, observe it, and learn from it.  Similarly, in 5:15-20, the teacher directs the learner to personal observation of the "satisfaction of sexual intimacy in marriage as a preventative against the allurement of the strange woman" (98).  The learner is to see that wise ways are part of the very structure of creation.

Tradition. Estes believes that the "predominant source of knowledge in Proverbs 1-9 is mediated through tradition communicated by the teacher."  Our Student and Family Ministry team's discussion of this book centered around the axiom: "The teacher is the curriculum."  It is important to remember that students learn most from who we are and what we teach through our words and actions taken as a whole.  This can be more important than the actual content in our lesson books or the greatness of their craft project.

Divine Revelation. Since the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, the curriculum for education must find its ultimate source in Him and his words.  God himself provides the unity of truth found in creation, tradition, and his Word.  And his Word provides the clearest and most orderly explanation of it all.

Thursday Book Club: Goals for Education

UncategorizedJared Kennedy1 Comment

Daniel J. Estes, Hear, My Son: Teaching & Learning in Proverbs 1-9, (Inter-Varsity Press, 1997), 174 pages. Estes' third chapter unpacks goals for education.  He gives four goals.  The goals for education "focus for the most part on the cultivation of the learner as a mature godly person, rather than upon the transmission of a discrete body of knowledge" (85).  The first three speak to the kind of person that biblical education seeks to equip and disciple.   These goals answer the questions: Who should you become?  What is your character?  The final goal speaks to the reward of becoming that kind of person.

  1. Commitment (Knowing God).  "A primary goal for education is that the learner may accept for himself the values that wisdom propounds so that his life is shaped according to Yahweh's desires" (85).  Commitment requires conversion and faith.  This is the first goal of a Christian education--that learners might know, fear, and trust in God.
  2. Character. Commitment leads to godly character, which "provides the learner with an internal compulsion to keep learning and growing in wisdom" (85).
  3. Competence in Skillful Living. Proverbs uses many words for wise living, but this is the most obvious point of the book.  The learner should be skillful in the way that he learns to live within God's world.  How often do we really teach for this kind of response?  How often do we connect the truths of the Bible to life in a way that equips our children and students to live in a way that is wise?
  4. Prosperity and Protection.  The  result of becoming a faithful, godly, and wise person is the prosperity and protection that wisdom affords.  The Lord's way of wisdom generally leads to well-being, success, stability, wealth, honor, protection, and satisfaction.  This does not mean that suffering is totally avoided.  Suffering is inevitable in a sinful world.  But one can follow God and generally expect good to follow rather than harm.  One can follow God and know that ultimately (even if this is only in heave) good will follow rather than harm. This is an important part of our teaching for kids.  Without making prosperity the point of the gospel, we should be clear that following God generally brings success.

Thursday Book Club: Values for Education

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

Daniel J. Estes, Hear, My Son: Teaching & Learning in Proverbs 1-9, (Inter-Varsity Press, 1997), 174 pages. Estes' second chapter unpacks values for education.  He gives four values:

1.  Wisdom is skillful living within God's ordered world.  Ultimately this is found not merely in doing what appears to be wise but in fearing God and shunning evil (Proverbs 9:10).  When we teach, we must teach for response, because the Scriptures value more than mere knowledge.  Knowing is not enough.  It must be put into practice.

2. Teachability is the humble willingness to accept instruction both from God and human teachers.  As Estes states, "Rejection of instruction is a degenerative condition that leads to scoffing and folly" (46).  Proverbs presents three kind of unteachable people.  The simple love their simple ways, because they don't possess the knowledge necessary to make wise decisions.  Mockers despise wisdom because they take pleasure in tearing down what they don't accept.  Fools have settled into a fixed pattern of antagonism against the Lord's way of wisdom.

3. Righteousness. The righteous man conforms to God's wise standards.  "Wisdom declares in Proverbs 8:13 that to fear Yahweh is to hate evil in all of its forms.  Because Yahweh is righteous, reverence for him necessarily entails both embracing what is righteous and rejecting what is unrighteous" (50-51).

4.  Life is substantial, meaningful existence within God's world.  On the one hand, this can be seen as a value for education in Proverbs.  On the other hand, it can be seen as the reward which comes to those who esteem the first three values.   Life in the Lord must be valued above all other counterfeits.

This is why, as Christians, we must value Jesus in our education.  He is our wisdom, righteousness, and life.  And only he can make us humble and teachable.

Thursday Book Club: Hear, My Son

UncategorizedJared Kennedy1 Comment

Daniel J. Estes, Hear, My Son: Teaching & Learning in Proverbs 1-9, (Inter-Varsity Press, 1997), 174 pages. Over the first quarter of this year, Sojourn's Student and Family Ministry team has been learning together by reading Dan Estes' little book on education in the book of Proverbs.  Over the next seven weeks, I'm going to unpack his book chapter by chapter.

Chapter 1 gives an overview of the worldview behind Proverbs 1-9.  The worldview of the sage (the writer of Proverbs) can be seen in three basic statements: (1) God made and ordered the world, (2) God's order is mysterious but knowable, and (3) People must reverence God with their whole life.

God made and ordered the world. God made the world, and because he made the world, he makes the rules.  There is a common ethical system behind all of creation.  This is why the author of Proverbs is not afraid to use so many illustrations from nature.  We talked at length about whether or not we are prepared to speak about God's order in nature.  The sage taught lessons based on ants, and the sage taught lessons based on fig trees.  Training our eyes to see God's order in nature will prepare us when there are teachable moments with our students and children.

God's order is mysterious but knowable. Since God reveals his order, the student can learn to be skillful in the way that he lives.  Do we focus on teaching our kids how to live skillfully or simply on helping them learn intellectual truth?

People must reverence God with their whole life. We discussed how seeing God's will in his world requires a radical re-orientation--a conversion.  "The search for wisdom... is not a supplement, but it must be the radical re-orientation of life in which wisdom becomes the prime priority" (31).  Do we help students live in reverence under God's rule?  Do we help them understand that one day they will stand before His judgment?  What does it mean to help them live in light of eternity but yet by God's grace?  Thank God that it is our crucified Savior that sits on the judgment seat.