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The Lost Tools of Teaching?

The teacher has four super-powerful tools that cross the disciplines and link learning to life:

  • Forms
  • Questions
  • Names
  • Analogies

In Genesis one, we see a world that is “without form and void” and therefore one in which Adam could do nothing. But over the course of six days, God creates forms and fills them with substances and kinds. Then He puts Adam in that formed and filled world.

Next He gives Adam a task so that he will be able to fulfill his own role, finding his place, practicing his powers, and learning his limits: He tells him to name the animals.

This act of naming raises questions in Adam’s mind and those questions are the means by which he locates himself and cultivates his virtues.

Having completed his first lesson, in which he learned that he needed someone’s help to do his job rightly, Adam was then presented with the solution to his inadequacies. Together, the man and his wife were tested. Regrettably, they failed and the cosmos was broken.

The analogy of God, His likeness, was cracked and a great separation called death took place (it is worth mentioning here that death is not first “powerlessness” in the Bible, but a separation that leads to powerlessness). Henceforth, man becomes lost in ignorance and can be brought back to knowledge only, or almos only, through analogies.

All of which is analogous to the way we teach students, for the simple reason that God is the great teacher and what he was teaching Adam is precisely what we need to teach our students. It requires that forms be in place before our students arrive, that we teach them to name things rightly by asking questions that lead to the knowledge of the truth of things, and that we teach by relating the new (unknown) to the old (known), which is to say, that we teach by analogy.

Forms, questions, names, and analogies: they are what we have. Let’s think about how to use them best.

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