No entry requirements

Neil Postman proposed three commandments that described the philosophy of education by television, the first of which was “Thou shalt have no prerequisites” (Amusing Ourselves to Death, p. 147). Each programme is a self-contained unit which does away with “the idea of sequence and continuity in education” thus undermining “the idea that sequence and continuity have anything to do with thought itself” (p. 147).

Sadly this philosophy now has invaded the academy. An increasing number of students I reach (at a university which shall remain unnamed) are permitted to take courses, even at an elementary level, for which they are wholly unprepared. They have little idea of hos to write connected English, particularly those whose natural language it supposedly is. They have less of an idea of how to think; unsubstantiated assertions apparently clinch any argument. Little wonder if their diet for the past 20 plus years has been largely the compartmentalised, disconnected, uncontextualised pseudo-education of television.

Dangerous and worrying as such a situation is, for the Christian church the dangers are alarming. This idea has permeated virtually the whole of society, including the minds of many professing Christians. Have Sunday worship experiences become little more than self-contained happenings with little or no relevance to the rest of the week, or the rest of life? Do we expect to understand instantly what we read in Scripture? Do we despise theology because it requires sequence, and sheer hard graft? Is this why 60-second this, instant that, and secrets of the other are the staple diet of those Christians who still read (apart from the obvious endless revenue-generating possibilities for publishing houses)?

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