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Transformational Education in a world of instant gratification

Transformational Education in a world of instant gratification

Thursday, 27 April 2017  | Emma - Senior School Coordinator
In the recent staff workbreak I shared in a staff devotion some of the struggles I have identified in my own life, and in the lives of the students I teach, with the trappings of living in an ‘I want it now!’ world.

Discussion around societal tendencies that pander to our human desire for instant gratification is not new. However, in recent times I have become more aware of my own growing dependency on needing to see immediate results for effort, and quick dismissal of things that take too much time. From observations in my classroom and just daily life, I feel I am not alone in this.

We live in a world that continuously plays on our desire for immediacy and efficiency. In researching this topic I came across some marketing articles that gave tips on how companies could take advantage of the trend of instant gratification: play up the time savings you offer, speed up communications, offer faster shipping, and sweeten the deal by giving small immediate rewards. Quoting a study of 6.7 million internet users, the site stated that the average time users were willing to wait for a site to load was 2 seconds. More than half the users would abandon the wait before 10 seconds was up. While I was researching this I ironically found myself habitually slipping into this pattern without realising. I would skim read the articles, jump between sites and not bother to wait for anything that was taking too long.

When I think more broadly about the societal trends that are primarily focussed on speed and instant gratification I begin to feel somewhat overwhelmed. These include seemingly harmless initiatives such as online shopping, same day delivery, dating apps, tap and go credit card payments, fast food, jump the queue member benefits, text messaging, and fad diets and exercise regimes. However they also play into more substantial societal constructs such as the diminishing of relationships, as seen through shows like ‘Married at First Sight’, and an epidemic of pornography, or the push for educational improvement through standardised testing. Even more scary, the success of governments and political parties as determined by their popularity in online polling data or promises for quick fixes to problems that are multifaceted and complex.

Yet despite all these changes I feel more time poor and disillusioned by promises of improvement than ever before. We, and our students, are being constantly bombarded with messages of self and of immediate satisfaction. I can’t help but feel that in many ways we are being groomed for superficiality.

While this all sounds a bit heavy, I feel it highlights the importance of Christian education that challenges this worldview with a different narrative. When we look at the bible it is full of stories of waiting; Abraham and Sarah who had to struggle through 15 long years to see the fulfilment of God’s promise of a son; the Israelites waiting for 40 years to enter the promised land; the long period of waiting for the Messiah to come (and now indeed to return), and Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, just to name a few. In fact the act of reading the bible is one that demands great patience and persistence - the work of a lifetime or more.

The bible also speaks of a need to go deeper and more intimate in relationships with each other and with God. In Hebrews 11 we see the great passage on the heroes of the faith and yet in verse 39 it says ‘these were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.’ The great challenge of the Christian journey is to walk in faith during the time of the now but not yet. Paul continues in Hebrews to urge believers to ‘run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith’ that we might ‘consider him who endured such opposition, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart’.

At MECS we talk about transformative Christian education where we are transformed in our heart, mind, spirit and life through the work of the Holy Spirit for God’s good purposes. In a world that continually fosters our desire for immediate satisfaction and superficiality, I think we need to consider the challenges this presents. The first step in this is to acknowledge the tension and develop a greater awareness of the unhelpful patterns of behaviour and thinking that we can so easily slip in to. Secondly, I think we need to intentionally create opportunities to slow down. In the school setting this could involve activities that invite rich, complex learning, to provide experiences and supports that encourage students to persevere in overcoming barriers and developing resilience, and to set aside time for wonder and awe where we ponder the mystery and majesty of creation and Creator. And thirdly, we can lift this struggle in prayer, that we may not ‘conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds’ (Romans 12:2). 
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