Monday, February 11, 2013

Free Education

We really are living in a very amazing times.  On one hand the cost of taking a graduate course at many seminaries has reached $500+ a credit hour.  That means if you are working on your Masters of Divinity at a good seminary it could cost $48,000 just for tuition ($500 * 96 credit hours).  On top of that you have to purchase textbooks which will cost you between $5,000 and $10,000.  Then there are all of those fees that institutions throw in like insurance, housing, food.  It is estimated that a year of study would cost between $20,000 and $30,000 for a single student.

But we are also living in an age when knowledge and courses are free.  Major universities like MIT are offering courses free online (no credit but the knowledge is there).   While you may not get credit for the courses you are free to take them. There are also independent sites that put up courses like Khan Academy. There are even sites that offer free textbooks:, wikibooks, and many more.  If you google: free courses, you will get more knowledge and information than one person can digest.  So, if the trend is towards free, why is the cost of education going up?  Good question.

The answer is pretty simple, failure to take advantage of the innovation.  The brick and mortar system is not on its way out, but it must find a way to morph into something different.  Traditional models of information delivery are changing rapidly.  The talking head spouting reams of wisdom is giving way to something new and different.  Now the talking head can actually be one of the foremost experts in their field as opposed to a professor who simply has the degree and limited knowledge.  There are groups that are working hard to become the clearing house for these types of courses.  They go out find the best courses for an area of study and then offer them in a degree.

Education is going through major changes.  But much of theological education remains the same.  We are in danger of committing a serious mistake.  Too often we in theological education are running hard to catch up with the latest, greatest advances of a decade ago.  In our attempt to pay the educational bills while forcing students through a key approach to theology we end up mistaking knowledge for spiritual wisdom.  Amazingly Plato warned against such a thing:

"If men learn this (literacy), it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows."

Change is happening, but the question remains, "Will we simply make more swollen talking heads, or will we provide leaders with an environment that changes them to be more like Jesus?"  Knowledge without transformation is simply telling "them of many things without teaching them and you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing..."

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