Thursday, January 22, 2009

Power of Observation

I’ve faced a small set-back in my post series on learning, as someone broke into our home Tuesday night and stole my computer. I lost nearly all of my writings. But God provides – thankfully my husband’s old computer from graduate school was still in the closet so I am not without the ability to restart. I almost feel bad for the thief, though, as there was so little here for him to take! All he got was a 3 year old laptop running on its last leg. Apparently they weren’t interested in books…

One of the most powerful methods of learning, throughout our lives, is by observation. This is so broad that I’m struggling to find examples! Children learn how to treat others by watching how first their parents, then their peers treat others. Young girls learn how to keep home by watching their mothers. Attitudes towards formal studies (like math!) are passed from parents to children simply by the things parents say while helping their children with their work.

We learn most by what we’re surrounded with. God knew this, and directed Moses to teach the people to surround themselves with God’s word, so that they would learn it:

  • “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9

Cultural values are transmitted simply because they surround us, and we are designed to absorb what we see. This is one of the reasons we have decided to remove the television from our home. I realized that when I watched some of my favorite shows, I would begin comparing myself to the women on the screen. I felt inferior, like an ugly duckling. It made me want to go out and buy (whatever product the star is promoting this week)!

How many have heard while growing up, “Do what I say, not what I do”? Did that ever work? I tried cigarettes in high school because as a small child I had sat on my favorite grandfather’s lap every morning of our visits while he drank his coffee and had a smoke. He repeatedly admonished me to never smoke, but then why was he? Similar curiosity taught me how to curse, drink, and drive dangerously. It is only as an adult that I’ve realized the power of addictions and just how slippery the slope to death is. It’s taken years to re-learn the behaviors I picked up through observation.

Paul warns of this power of observation in his first letter to Timothy:

  • “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:15-16

Psalm 37 instructs us to:

  • “Consider the blameless, observe the upright.” Psalm 37:37

We do not live in an isolated bubble. People are watching us every day. For parents this is very obvious, but children are not the only ones watching. Our life is our clearest witness to Christ. We may “talk the talk,” but that is not enough to convince non-believers that our lives are changed and better for following God. They need to see our joy, our forgiveness, our growing compassion for those the world has rejected. Otherwise we become another hypocrite wasting their time. Don’t mistake me! We are not to be perfect, that’s impossible for any but Christ! But we need to watch our walk and be quick to apologize when we do err (which we will, on a daily basis).

Sarah Jane asked some excellent questions about what to do after formal education; those have been added to my list and I’ll write about them once I’ve had some more thought time. My next post will be about a fabulous research study I saw a clip on, demonstrating the innate abilities of infants to do mathematics.

1 comment:

Sarah Jane said...

This post is full of such important information and observations! This is especially important and convicting to me as I see my 2 and 1 year old sons starting to imitate David and I. It is disturbing to see them picking up on some less-than-ideal behaviours! Thank you for this excellent article, Jenny!