Ravi Jain visits Covenant

‘You don’t need to make math interesting – it’s already more interesting than we can handle!’ – Paul Lockhart, A Mathematician’s Lament

Covenant enjoyed a visit from Ravi Jain, co-author of The Liberal Arts Tradition, on Friday, 9/23. Ravi led a mathematics workshop for our faculty in the morning followed by a talk to our upper schoolers in the afternoon about how learning science flows from wonder and leads to worship.

Over the last decade, Jain and his colleagues at the Geneva School in Orlando, FL have sought to recover an approach to teaching math and science that more fully embodies the classical tradition. Science should be taught in a way that corresponds to the native curiosity of students, giving students eyes to observe the beauty, complexity, and harmony of the created world. Placing scientific discoveries in their historical context so that students experience the pathos of scientific discovery will lead students to a greater appreciation for the marvelous achievements of science.

With regard to math, Jain drew our attention critics such as Morris Kline and Paul Lockhart who contend that modern methods of math instruction serve to dull the creativity of students. In his Mathematician’s Lament, Paul Lockhart, says that “mathematics is the music of reason. To do mathematics is to engage in an act of discovery and conjecture, intuition and inspiration . . . to be frustrated as an artist; to be awed and overwhelmed by an almost painful beauty…” Unfortunately, “this rich and fascinating adventure of the imagination has been reduced to a sterile set of ‘facts’ to be memorized and procedures to be followed.” Jain recognizes the importance of technique, but agrees with Lockhart that the key is to teach technique in the context of discovery. “Give your students a good problem, let them struggle and get frustrated. See what they come up with . Wait until they are dying for an idea, then give them some technique. But not too much.”

By teaching in this way, Ravi and his colleagues have seen more and more students become lovers of math, seeing it not just as a series of techniques or a body of content, but as an exciting path of discovery and awe. At Covenant, we want to awaken desire for beauty and truth in the hearts and minds of our students (and ourselves!) Learning math is a wonderful avenue for this cultivation of our humanity because mathematics is built on the beauty, symmetry, and harmony of the world God made. In all of this, classical Christian education is seeking to attend to the humanity of our students. As Stratford Caldecott wrote in his wonderful essay, Beauty for Truth’s Sake, the best way to teach students is “by first awakening the poetic imagination.” After all, we are educating image bearers of a loving and majestic God, students who are naturally curious and who seek answers that satisfy their soul rather than simply the “right answer” for the test so they can “move on” to the next subject

We are excited to continue a conversation with Ravi Jain this year as we seek to refine our teaching methods to more and more lead students to a love for learning to the glory of God.

The unTED Talk

Covenant is excited to have Dr. Dru Johnson from The King’s College speak to our community on Tuesday, October 4th at 7 PM. Dr. Johnson earned a Ph.D. from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, writing a thesis on biblical epistemology. Prior to serving as an Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at King’s, Dr. Johnson  studied and taught analytic philosophy at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. He has earned an M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary and an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Missouri.

Dr. Johnson has served as a Templeton Senior Research Fellow at The Herzl Institute in Jerusalem, Israel and serves as the co-chair for the Hebrew Bible and Philosophy program unit in the Society for Biblical Literature.  Dr. Johnson also teaches occasionally as a visiting professor at Covenant Theological Seminary and more frequently in Western Kenya in a school for rural pastors. He formerly served seven years in the U.S. Air Force, including five years involved in counter-narcotics operations in the Amazon basin of Columbia. He is ordained in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and he and his wife have four children.

His publications include:

  • Biblical Knowing: A Scriptural Epistemology of Error (2013)
  • Scripture’s Knowing: A Companion to Biblical Epistemology (2015)
  • Genesis 1-11. Transformative Word Commentary Series (2016)
  • Knowledge By Ritual: A Biblical Prolegomenon to Sacramental Theology (2016)

Drawing on his research in philosophy and theology, Dr. Johnson will be speaking about the kind of learning that leads to transformative growth and wisdom. Here is a description of his talk:

“The unTED Talk: How well-crafted speeches don’t necessarily teach us anything”

A college quite literally refers to a group of colleagues. Scientists have figured this out. The scientific enterprise only works when colleagues work in community to better understand the realities that they study. Learning, for scientists, necessarily happens as a form of apprenticeship within a community, where a young scientist begins as a novice and trains to contribute to the group’s understanding. 

TED Talks, on the other hand, propose another model of learning: a profound and eloquent insight delivered in a polished and brief speech. These wildly popular talks focus on the expert in the room sharing what he or she has learned with everyone else. However, what do we learn in such an environment? The danger is both in the setup and delivery. A polished speech can leave us thinking we’ve understood something profound, but we only feel that way because we understood how the parts of the talk worked together toward a common rhetorical goal. TED Talks are famous for this and that “polished speech model” is even being mocked within the TED Talk community.

Thousands of years ago, the Hebrew Bible and New Testament spelled out a unique view of expertise formation. Under the biblical model, young folk do not learn by well-crafted talks—though eloquent oratory often engages us as learners. Wisdom attains by entering a community of learners, submitting to their authority, and embodying instruction in order to see the world differently than could ever happen otherwise. Thus, discernment is transformational, forever changing the way we see that which we study. 

This talk challenges the “do what you love” idea of careerism by looking at these two forms of learning: the lure of listening to excellent rhetorical construction without transformation as opposed to submitting to a community that seeks to foster wisdom amongst colleagues. I pose that the “do what you love” model of career planningso prevalent today—should be replaced with a better question: What community should I belong to and how will being a colleague transform my understanding?



An Evening of Gratitude – November 12, 2016

We’re hosting an evening you won’t want to miss. Covenant Christian Academy will celebrate An Evening of Gratitude on Saturday, November 12, 2016. We are pleased to announce that two generous donors have pledged a $65,000 match for this year’s banquet.

We are excited that Dr. Peter Lillback, President of historic Westminster Theological Seminary, will give the keynote address at Covenant’s 2016 Evening of Gratitude. Dr. Lillback is a wonderful exemplar of the kind of Christian leader we are seeking to develop at Covenant.

An Evening of Gratitude will include stories from current students and graduates, showing how a Covenant education prepares our students for wherever their path may lead them.

Please join us in celebrating what God has accomplished and where He is leading.  You can find sponsorship information or reserve your tickets for An Evening of Gratitude HERE.

The banquet is being hosted at the Messiah College Martin Commons on Saturday, November 12, 2016 at 6:00PM.