December 5, 2019 | #FliptheScript

Flip the Script – Passing the Test

by Will Goodwin

Most students are schooled with a focus on getting good grades and passing tests. In my Humane Letters class, after each book we read, my students do take a test which is for a grade. Maybe surprisingly however, we spend a good portion of each class reciting words I never require my students to regurgitate for a test. Each morning, my Logic School students begin their Humane Letters class with a lengthy call-and-response, question-and-answer series that references the texts we read throughout the year.  The first question is: “Who were you made to be?” The response: “We are to be imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Our aim is not to memorize such passages for a test; rather, we let these old words seep into our bones, feed our souls, and form our lives.

At this point in the year, the students have memorized nearly every line of these recitations. It is impressive to hear them recite chapters of Scripture and passages from The Odyssey or Frankenstein, for example. What is more, the students have begun to utilize these words in their lives outside the classroom. This is the good stuff. I hear that in the midst of sibling squabbles and obligatory middle school drama, these oft-repeated words begin to influence them. My students do not do it consistently, nor is it uncommon for the revelation to come about in a sarcastic comment, but they are beginning to realize – even if unconsciously – that education is not limited to the classroom. They are truly beginning to be formed – not simply informed.

Do not get me wrong: I want my students to wrestle well with difficult concepts; I want them to push themselves to the highest level of academic excellence; but I also want my students to be good people. Even more than the desire for my students to be informed is my desire for them to be formed. As it is, my sole aim is not just preparing them for a test, or college, or the workplace – though these things are important. The reality is that tests are ubiquitous and do not always come with a grade. Life has its own tests to offer my students. There will be tests in school, but there will also be great challenges in the workplace and in the home as my students grow old, marry, buy a house, total their car, long for or raise children of their own.

The merely informed student may have open doors before her, but the truly formed student has learned that circumstances do not dictate her worth and calling. It is the formed student who respects authority and realizes that the meek inherit the earth. It is the formed student who studies hard, works diligently, and doesn’t cut corners because he recognizes that everything is a gift from God. It is the formed student who holds fast to meaningful things and prioritizes them over lesser things. It is the formed student who knows that life is not a series of separate spheres but a unified whole. It is the formed student who sees that education in the classroom is a slice of the feast that is Life.

More than settling for perfect test scores, I desire for my students truly to follow the Author and Perfecter of their faith. More than having heads stuffed with information, I want my students to have souls conformed to the image of Christ. More than rising through the ranks and taking what’s theirs, I want my students to be humble children of God who walk in love and give themselves up as “a fragrant offering and sacrifice.” 


Further thoughts. . . .

Not Everything Good is Measurable