Thursday, September 08, 2005

An Educational Moment

During the break during a class I was teaching today at Denver Seminary today (Defending Christian Faith, in other words: apologetics), a student said that he had learned how to speed read, but that he could not speed read my book, Truth Decay. Well, well... This, he said, was because he needed to stop and think about what was written. I told him to abandon trying to speed read any of our texts. Moreover, he should not think about time at all while reading, and that by all means he should stop and think when necessary. Radical thought, that.

The gods of chronos, efficiency, quantification, and rapidity let him down. May they stay down and trouble him no more when it comes to learning the deeper things available to human beings under heaven. Knowledge of what matters most requires other sensibilities.

4 comments:

john alan turner said...

Just as long as he gets his final paper in on time, right?

Dr Mike said...

Back when I was at DS, a prof told us that we'd never make it if we couldn't speed read. I thought about learning, but then thought better of it. I like savoring the content and style of many writers, and speed reading would rob me of much depth in learning and the raw admiration of a well-written book.

It would be like speed-eating a filet mignon or speed-listening to Dark Side of the Moon. Some things are meant to be done slowly, thoughtfully, deliciously.

(I'll leave it to you to come up with others.)

Ted Gossard said...

I once read that John Wesley (who allegedly knew the Greek New Testament by memory better than the English translation) was known for reading slowly (and did much reading while on horseback).

Douglas Groothuis said...

Mike and Ted:

These are thoughtful comments. I did not speed read them. There is a proper pace for the things in life. Wisdom finds that pace and honors it. The life of the mind cannot be cultivated on the cheap through any technique, although technique (in Jacques Ellul's sense) in a constituitive part of contemporary technological society. Ellul pointed this out about 40 years ago in "The Technological Society."

The aesthetics of some writing calls us to read at leisure, in the classic sense of the term: free from pedestrian contraints and necessities. As C.S. Lewis put it, some artifacts (literary or otherwise) should be "received" and not "used." They should be savored and appreciated for what they are instead of being put to a predetermined use.

For a musical example, let me commend "A Love Supreme" by John Coltrane. To receive this masterpiece you must submit to its nature, discern its genius. There are no "hooks" that immediately draw you in, as in popular culture's music. "A Love Supreme" is too deep. You must linger with it, over and over. Then, you begin to discern what it is. And you will never forget it. Moreover, every time you listen, you will discover something new. By the way, it is 33 minutes long, in four parts.

Have a slow day,
Doug Groothuis