Dorothy Sayers once worked for an advertising firm and would develop slogans which would catch the minds of those who saw them. Sayers lamented later on that people were so easily manipulated by the media and advertising. She once stated, “Gullibility is only a symptom; the core problem, according to Sayers, is an educational system that graduates students unable to learn on their own: “[A]lthough we often succeed in teaching our pupil’s ‘subjects,’ we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think . . . They learn everything, except the art of learning.”
As a teacher who has taught now in the private school system for 12 years, I will give that quote a nod of affirmation. If the goal of education is to simply teach others to regurgitate facts and to then move on to the next class, then we are doing a pretty good job. If the goal is to get students to love the very art of learning then maybe we are not doing so well. Learning at the higher learning of analysis, evaluation, synthesis and critique are a much harder task. In our modern society, it is just so much easier to just look up what you want to know on the World Wide Web. We may be tempted to let others tell us how to think and how to respond to daily situations.
The media and advertising love to tell us how to think. They enjoy guiding our opinions towards the current popular and acceptable views. And they are not in any way neutral in their approaches and messages. The more you see or hear something the more likely you are to accept that view or perception. We often hear that we cannot be closed minded in our views, especially our moral/ethical views and standards. The truth is, however, that if you watch the direction of our media and advertising, you will see that one of their main goals is to tell you exactly how to think. And it is not just how to think concerning a product or television watching option. They want to tell you what to accept ethically and morally. And all the while they are doing this, they are screaming intolerance towards those in the evangelical Christian world that attempt to instruct on moral and ethical issues.
So, we must teach our young people and old how to think. We must teach them how to listen to what messages are really being conveyed and then how to compare them to their worldview for consistency. We must, above everything else, teach them that ideas have consequences. That is the most important message that we must share.
I have heard discussions on how issues of morality cannot be legislated. I would say that someone is always legislating their course of morality. The question is what course of morality are we being steered towards? Look closely at the messages and ideas portrayed through our television shows, movies, music, news reports and other forms of media and you will find that you and I are being led in a certain direction. The role of all Christians is to make sure that we don’t fall for the bait! Our Christian worldviews can easily be contaminated with secular/worldly ideas and we may not even notice. Be alert and teach our young people to do the same.
Dorothy L. Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” in A Matter of Eternity, ed. Rosamond Kent Sprague (Grand Rapids, MI: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1973), 110.