Friday, July 21, 2017

Carl Sanders' "Biblical Language Instruction By The Book"

If you would have asked someone forty years ago to describe the "statistics" class of the future, I'm sure it would have been hard to imagine a world with SAS/STAT software. Most of the statistics profs would have scoffed at the idea of a classroom incorporating technology like that. The purists out there would have ridiculed it as a cheapening of the real thing, a watered down version, a stats class that was not even a stats class. But, my friends, there would have been some other people out there, the ones who could look to the horizon and see beyond, the ones who could imagine a classroom that leveraged what innovation had afforded them in order to make stat courses better for everyone, not just for the Gertrude Cox's of the world. And, as it would happen, these individuals would be the ones who shaped statistics education for the next thirty years (and beyond).

My friend Carl Sanders has written a paper that in my opinion echoes the calls of the 1990s for a "new pedagogy" in the field of statistics. Carl, though, is calling for a new pedagogy when it comes to the teaching of biblical languages. The article is now published in Teaching Theology and Religion 20:3 (July 2017): 216–229. You can find the abstract and other information here.

Should you read it? –Yes. What if you don't have TTR? ––Order it, or request it via inter-library loan. This one is a must read. You might spill your coffee as you disagree vehemently, but read it all the way through. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe there's no evidence to back up a task-based approach to teaching the biblical languages. Maybe. But maybe there's none to back up grammar-translation either. Most of the people I ask who had Greek, even as early as a year ago, can't do a smidgen of what they were told they would be able to do "after this course." It's true: Students own a lot of the responsibility for not getting their Greek, not keeping it all, or altogether losing it in the months and years that follow their final course. But there's a big question that is often never asked: What skills that have a direct impact on ministry are developed and acquired in each language course? Language professors often––so often––tie exegesis to the third or fourth course in a sequence of language courses (e.g., Greek III/IV). Here's the problem though: Most students only take the "required" language courses, if any at all. And if exegetical skills are the focus of those later courses, you're not cultivating skills that make a difference in the lives of most of the students. That's a major problem. And even then, many of the third or fourth semester language courses are just beefed up grammar-translation courses.

Is it time for a rethink? I think so. Carl thinks so. Some others have told us they think so too. But what say you?