September 2, 2021
by Director of Mission, Mr Geoff Brodie
What stops our students from attending their on-line classes? Well, how long have you got as we list the reasons? They are missing friends, tired of screens and the passive nature of the day, requiring the motivation of the personal interaction and invitation from their teachers, feeling a lack of progress at the end of a day, a lack of variety across the classes, boredom. Life seems to be lived in one room. As we list all the reasons, we must remember we are engaged in the education of young men. Consider these extracts from the Harvard Medical School:
In every generation, it seems, the same lament goes forth from the parents of adolescents: “What’s the matter with kids today?” Why are they so often confused, annoying, demanding, moody, defiant, reckless?…Plenty of explanations for teenage turmoil are available. Adolescents need to assert their independence and explore their limits, taking risks, breaking rules, and rebelling against their parents while still relying on them for support and protection… Now scientific research is suggesting a new reason for the clashes between teenagers and their environment. Unsettled moods and unsettling behaviour may be rooted in uneven brain development.
It’s not a question of intellectual maturity. Most studies show that abstract reasoning, memory, and the formal capacity for planning are fully developed by age 15 or 16. If teenagers are asked hypothetical questions about risk and reward, they usually give the same answers as adults. But the emotional state in which they answer questionnaires is not necessarily the one in which they make important choices… Adolescents’ judgment can be overwhelmed by the urge for new experiences (and) thrill-seeking…. They sometimes seem driven to seek experiences that produce strong feelings and sensations.
To all this add the monotony of remote learning. Let us agree this is a serious problem, but in making this claim we have already expressed hope. Problems have solutions. If not, the situation would simply be a brutal fact beyond questioning and understanding. However, our faith in Jesus is proposed as the solution to remote learning’s problems. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (1 Cor 10:13).
Here is the seed of the solution. Just as the chemistry of our bodies overflows its limits to become our biological reality, so too our biological patterns overflow with potency to ground the psychology of the mind. But our mind is not limited by our chemistry, biology, and instincts, so that we mistake Harvard’s description as the end of the story. In our love for them, we know our boys are far more than chemical and biological patterns because the reality of their freedom is present and emerging in every moment. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) and “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm” (Galatians 5:1).
Our students can choose to live the radical joy of their freedom even in the limits of remote learning. The decision to attend every class is the commitment to transcend the limits of adolescent nature and imposed conditions of a pandemic to choose human freedom. The choice to complete every little task abounds with the freedom’s solution to the problems of lockdown, and the freedom offered by Jesus’ friendship cannot be suppressed or contained. Our heart’s desire this freedom because it is the ground from which love takes hold of us and fulfills our deepest desires. Our friendship with Jesus is the true source of freedom, for it is friendship with our loving God that takes up the insights of reason, ethics, and wisdom and perfects them in love.
It is not the content that is ultimately important for students in actively attending on-line classes; nor is it some step towards a future goal. It is the invitation to take responsibility for the person they already are that abides in the ‘now’ of every moment. Let us not lose sight of what is at stake, even in the comparative poverty of remote learning. Our freedom reaches the depths and heights of our hearts through the relationships with others that form us according to the responsibilities that emerge from friendship and love. Let us affirm that even in remote learning the truth, goodness, and beauty of love’s perfection abides in every moment. In holding ourselves responsible to our friendships as students, teachers, and families, the kingdom of God is at hand.