I have one other issue with the column I addressed yesterday by Joy Pullman on the topic of online education. At the conclusion of the column Pullman quotes Angelika Weiss, the pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four from southern Minnesota who provided most of the material for Pullman’s column, saying this: “With online education, there is so much time not wasted in the classroom. My son can be out in the community volunteering or working. Let’s face it: The inside of a classroom isn’t the real world.”
That’s true, Mrs. Weiss, the inside of a classroom is not the real world. But then neither is the inside of a church. Should we all skip church on Sunday morning so we can spend more time working or maybe volunteering in the community? After all, we can read the Bible on our own, listen to Christian radio and watch or listen to sermons from respected pastors on our computers, so why go to church? Going somewhere where everyone either professes to be a Christian or to be open to the gospel, where we sit in classrooms to study the Bible together and in pews or padded chairs to sing hymns and praise songs before listening to someone teach the Bible…none of those things are anything like “the real world.” Given that Mrs. Weiss’s husband is a pastor, though, I suspect it would be safe to assume that neither she nor her husband would agree that we should all skip church in order to avoid “wasted time.”
Now I can already hear Mrs. Weiss and others responding with utter shock that I would suggest such a thing. “That’s not the same,” I can hear. Really? And why not, may I ask? Why do we go to church anyway? I mean sure, the Bible says we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together but why not? What do we get by going to church with fellow believers that we cannot get by staying at home and tapping into the multitude of resources available online, on TV, on radio and in print? We get interaction with other human beings. We get the accountability. We get the fellowship. We get to talk and question and wrestle with how to deal with “the real world” when we leave the church. With all due respect to my pastor and yours, I could find “better sermons” from “better preachers” than I am going to get when I go to church (and the people who sit and listen to me when I preach surely could!) but that does not mean I should skip church.
Sitting in a classroom may not be “the real world,” but it does prepare students for the real world. As with church, the experience of being in a school with other students–and teachers–provides a much richer educational opportunity than does sitting in front of a computer screen and interacting through typed text. That kind of interaction has its place, don’t get me wrong–and the opportunity to interact with people from around the country and around the world makes that kind of interaction very valuable as an element of a well rounded education. But I would suggest to Mrs. Weiss and to anyone else who laments the “wasted time” in school classrooms that–at least in a good school with effective teachers–there is not really much time that is truly wasted…and even that which might be is probably far better than the multitude of other ways students waste time every day.