Learning by doing

There is a folktale about a corn farmer whose wealth far exceeded that of his peers. Despite having enough money to hire as many workers as he wanted, the farmer was famous for using his sons to harvest the corn instead. Day after day other farmers would pass by his fields and see his two boys toiling from sunup to sundown until finally one stopped to ask the wealthy farmer why he didn’t hire out such a menial task. Not only would this be a more efficient way to bring in the harvest, he explained, but it would also spare his own sons from backbreaking labor. The wealthy farmer listened carefully and considered the question before simply stating, “I’m growing men, not corn.”

This story resonates with us because it demonstrates the value of experiential learning. While it might have been easier for the wealthy farmer to hire out his work, it would have come at a cost. Not only would he be paying someone else to do the work, but he would be doing so at the expense of his sons’ personal growth. His motivations were personal, not practical and the effect of the work on his sons outweighed any advantage he might gain by bringing in outside laborers. Anyone can establish a profitable farm, but only the truly wise farmer knows how to cultivate deserving heirs to such an estate.

We shared this story during Teacher In-Service this year and it begged the question: What kind of people are we growing at CCHS? Have we reduced the educational process to a strictly pragmatic transaction built around results or are we inviting our students into something more? We are, after all, children of the wealthiest farmer of all who invites us into equally meaningful and transformative work.

When we commit to the kind of behaviors outlined for us in the New Testament, we achieve (by God’s grace) good for others, glory for God, and godliness for ourselves. Although God could fulfill these purposes more efficiently without us, He prepares these good works for us in advance as a way to further conform us into the image of His son (Ephesians 2:10; Romans 8:29). One such example can be seen in Paul’s rationale for giving in Philippians 4. Despite his imprisonment, the greatest need, he argued, was for the church to practice the spiritual discipline of giving because of what it would do to them: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content…but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit” (v. 10, 17).

The work God calls us to is therefore perhaps best understood by what He desires to do in us and not just through us. Like the sons of the wealthy farmer, we are transformed into the kinds of people our Father wants us to be by participation, not just speculation. It is for this reason that we continue to require our students to complete a minimum of twenty-five community service hours each year and why we often witness life transformation for both the recipients and the participants. Not only are students actively meeting the needs of others, but in doing so they learn something about the character of God. When this is coupled with curriculum taught from a distinctly biblical worldview, the result is a transformative learning environment where students can know firsthand what it means to live for Christ.

The Teaching for Transformation initiative we referenced in the last blog post emphasizes this educational philosophy through their use of discipleship practices called Throughlines. By incorporating these into our existing curriculum, students are not only presented with a biblical understanding of their disciplines, but also opportunities to do real work that meets the real needs of real people through their growing understanding of math, science, English, and history (among others). Our faculty and staff are currently in the process of determining the Throughlines that will be specific to CCHS, though a sample list has been provided below for the sake of demonstration. Ultimately, we believe education is capable of producing something far more than competitive transcripts and practices such as these Throughlines help give us a clearer vision for how to produce the kind of peculiar people who embrace their role as ambassadors for Christ.

Sample TfT Throughlines
CCHS students should be…
● God Worshippers
● Community Builders
● Order Discoverers
● Beauty Creators
● Idolatry Discerners
● Truth Tellers
● Thanks Givers
● Joy Seekers