“Train up a child in the ways of the world, and when he is older, he will not depart from it.”
Recently I looked up the word origin of “school” and was surprised at what I found… it comes from the Greek word “skhole” which means “spare time, leisure, rest, ease; idleness; that in which leisure is employed; learned discussion”. One site actually translated “skhole” as “the proper use of spare time.” Certainly seems different to our current definition of school, but personally, one I’d like to get back to.
While catching up with an old friend yesterday, we got on to the topic of living in Australia. I commented that quality of life is great but I wouldn’t want to work or bring up my kids there as we just wouldn’t fit in. His wife asked if I thought there was any difference here in Malaysia. The question caused me to ponder for a moment, before replying that we had created our own culture around us, which some may not be able to.
My wife and I have been self-employed since our early 20’s. We’ve had the experience of working for people for a whole three years of our careers, and subsequently never held a stable income; never had a salary; never been able to budget. Since we started on our own 20 years ago, we gave up monthly stability for the unknown, purposefully creating a culture based around our values and beliefs.
The culture that our family is growing up in is one that we have intentionally engaged. My wife and I come from extremely different backgrounds. I had a Christian upbringing while she did not, but we have our share of childhood memories; those we cherish and those we don’t. Both of us have come to the understanding that the culture in which we bring up our children really does lie in our hands. It’s really a matter of getting out of the box, looking at the desired outcome and working backwards. I know there are some corporate buzzwords out there defining this thought process with a cooler name, but I simply call it thinking backwards.
My dad always tells people that I learn everything the hard way. I won’t simply take “it can’t be done” as a definitive response. This doesn’t refer to being able to do a quadruple somersault. This refers to things like “you can’t change the way things are” or “this is the only way it will work.” These are the types of statements that limit solutions to real problems. People say you can’t change culture. However, I am convinced it’s not true…
So, let’s take a look at the first statement…
“Train up a child in the ways of the world, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
This is a reverse application of the well-known verse found in Proverbs 22:6 which actually reads…
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
I divide this verse into three distinct components: 1) an action; 2) a purpose; and 3) an outcome. As we break this down, we have no issues understanding and applying “Train up a child…”. Every parent is concerned about their child’s learning. We also have no issues with “and when he’s old he will not depart from it.” Education has become such a big business globally, because all of us are concerned about the future of our children; not just parents, but the government, business owners and everyone else. This has led to the belief that our society’s future is determined by our ability to have a well-educated population.
So it seems society is unified in two of the three segments of the verse, and this leaves us with the middle issue, the most important component, as it defines the other two so decisively.
“…in the ways he should go…”
How do we define “the way he should go”? In today’s day and age it is almost scary to read about the manners in which parents are defining the ways their kids should go. Probably one of the most common statements I hear in respect to kids growing up and going to school is this…
“You have to do well at school to get into a good university; to get a good job to be able to look after your family.”
This was said to me by my own parents, school teachers and high school principal. The problem was… as usual, I didn’t listen. My schooling was a season of calamity. I still share my 11th grade story when the school arranged a meeting with my parents and all my teachers (with me included). The objective was to have my teachers explain individually why I wasn’t a good student. Nearly everyone in that room had negative things to say about me. At the end, my parents were asked if they had anything to say. My father simply said, “I don’t think this school knows how to teach my son.” The room went silent. The meeting ended.
Most people respond to that story with disappointment at the school system, but the beauty of hindsight is the ability to look back and see what the real catalysts in our lives were. This was one of the biggest catalyst of my life, forming the basis of how we approach what we now do. The greatest impact leading to the foundation of our educational initiatives, is what some would call the most disappointing day of my school life. It actually reminds me that the biggest day of our salvation was the darkest day for Christ. I cannot be happier that the meeting in 1995 took place, because 20 years later, it led to the opening of our inclusive learning environment where we believe there is a way for every child to learn. We just have to be committed to develop it.
Coming back to “in the ways he should go” therefore needs to be thoroughly thought out and analysed by parents. There is no question about our desire for our children to be trained and taught; so they can retain what they learn and benefit from it for the rest of their lives. We often say, school is the foundation of a person’s future. But do we actually contemplate “the ways” in which our educational systems are bringing up our children?
The onus of this verse in Proverbs 22:6 is neither on the educational institutions, nor the government’s education policy. The onus of this verse lies solely with a child’s parents. What are the ways in which you do not want your children to depart from when they are older?
If you think about how many of the previous generations have said, “things were different when I was a child”, you realize they are so right. Nothing back then was preparing children for the differences of today. However the one single truth that remains the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, is the sovereignty of our Lord God Almighty.
Paul wrote about this to the Philippians and said, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labour in vain.” (Philippians 2:14-16 ESV)
Understanding this singular, undisputed truth is the way I want my children to be trained up in, engaged in and not to depart from when they are old.