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Serious, Lively Teaching

I was struck by the following quote which I came across in Bartholomew and Dowd’s Old Testament Wisdom Literature: Theological Introduction.  The original quote seems to have in view primarily classroom teaching. Bartholomew and Dowd use it in well drawing out the implications of biblical wisdom. The truths here apply well to those of us who preach and teach the Bible. Let us not be “amiable gravediggers” diminishing our hearers to our “own level of indifferent fatigue.” There is life in God’s Word and if it animates us, life in the teaching will be unavoidable.

To teach seriously is to lay hands on what is most vital in a human being….Poor teaching, pedagogic routine, a style of instruction which is, consciously or not, cynical in its mere utilitarian aims, are ruinous.  They tear up hope by its roots.  Bad teaching is, almost literally, murderous and metaphorically, a sin.  It diminishes the student, it reduces to gray inanity the subject being presented.  It drips into the child’s or adult’s sensibility that most corrosive of acids, boredom, the marsh gas of ennui.  Millions have had mathematics, poetry, logical thinking, killed for them by dead teaching, by the perhaps subconsciously vengeful mediocrity of frustrated pedagogues….The majority of those to whom we entrust our children in secondary education…are amiable gravediggers.  They labour to diminish their students to their own level of indifferent fatigue. (300) [quoting George Steiner Lessons of the Masters.  Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003.  p 18.]

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