On Wednesday I went back to school, sitting in on a couple of lessons. I was there as a Parent Governor of the local secondary school, linked to the BV (Beliefs & Values, or RE in old money) Department. From what I remember of school at that stage, it was mostly about teachers writing stuff on blackboards with sticks of chalk, or dictating information that we had to note down in our exercise books. It didn't really engage me. Present day lessons are a lot more fun and interesting, with plenty of teacher/class interaction through questions and discussion and the use of PowerPoint, film clips etc.
I listened with interest to the leaked news of Michael Gove's proposals on bringing back the O-level. It reminded me that my lack of educational effort was rewarded by the school I attended putting me in for CSEs in most subjects. Yesterday's Guardian described the CSE as "a badge of a misspent youth". Knowing that CSEs were regarded as the poor relative of O levels gave me little motivation me to get on with my school work. The Headteacher's comment on my Report for 1976 read, "Guy is content to waste a great deal of time. He is under achieving in most subjects. Greater effort is needed at all times." Ouch! Harsh, but true. I left school at sixteen and became a YTS boy in British Steel Orb Works, Newport. I'm all for making the GCSE as rigorous and highly regarded a qualification as possible. But Nick Clegg was right to point out that while some people might applaud the reintroduction of O-levels, few would welcome the return of little lamented CSEs. May as well bring back Grammar Schools.
It was only on becoming a Christian in my late teens that I became interested in reading and study. I hungrily devoured Lloyd-Jones' sermons on Romans and Ephesians and began reading theology and church history in earnest. Feeling called to the Ministry I went to the London Theological Seminary (1988-1990), which only served to deepen my love for theological study. Later I gained a BA (Hons) degree with Greenwich School of Theology for research on the meaning and significance of the resurrection of Jesus. Education-wise the Lord has graciously restored the locust-eaten years spent wasting time rather than learning.
Yesterday I took my son to Birmingham University for one of their open days. He's interested in studying Chemical Engineering. It looked like a fine place to study, with an attractive campus, great facilities and a vibrant student scene. We'll be off to Loughborough, Nottingham and Sheffield over the next few weeks for their open days. Spending the day looking round Birmingham Uni made me feel quite envious of my seventeen year-old son, with the prospects of a university education ahead of him. But there we are. I can't turn back the clock, but in terms of study I can try to redeem the time, Ecclesiastes 9:10.
I've sometimes thought of doing a Masters in theology. The John Owen Centre's ThM looks good. But current family life and ministry commitments mean I won't be getting around to that for a while. Never mind. There's more to learning than formal courses of study. Now, where was I in Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3?
Education, education, education.