Saturday, June 26, 2010

Don't Cast Your Pearls Before Swine

Italics this post is adapted from an old post on my blog. There is no longer a link to the podcast, but I still want to give credit to the source of these thoughts.

Last year my pastor Rob Bell, taught on a well known passage (Matthew 7:1-6) full of quotes that some people love to pull out of context.

"Judge not, lest you be judged.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
Don't cast your pearls before swine."

The teaching hit me on several levels, not the least of which was education. To summarize we looked at the passage as a whole and realized it is about trying to control and change people.

The judging section is about trying to control people in a negative way by putting them down to elevate ourselves. We criticize, evaluate, and condemn to try to manipulate people to change to how we want them to be.

Jesus uses humor to make his point on how this does not work. (He would be a great host on late night TV using humor to expose societal and political problems).

Picture trying to help someone with a sliver while this log is in your eye. When we judge others they can often find a log in our eye and will not be helped by our criticisms.

The pearls before swine line is also humorous. Taken literally was this a serious problem in that day? It is a ridiculous illustration. Why? Because pigs are not able to perceive the value of pearls. That is the definition of a pig here: a person who can not see the value of what you offer. This definitely fits what we know about middle schoolers: they live in the moment, are self-absorbed, and have difficulty seeing long-term effects. 

Pearls are positive attempts to control and change people. It is when my best friend's dad bought him the best presents after the divorce. It is when we force a great idea upon someone who has not had time to digest it like we have. It is when we push technology on teachers who are resistant. It is when we give out candy in class and parents give money for good grades.

And what is the result? Pigs trample the pearls and you under their feet. If you force teachers to blog, tweet, build a PLN, or integrate technology will they do it? Sure maybe for awhile, but probably with a bad attitude and in the end they will "predict" and "prove" themselves correct that it is useless and pointless. They will bad mouth the tools and the messenger. They are not ready for it and are not willing or able to discern that it is useful.

Students are controlled by judgment and "pearls" all of the time. We try to motivate but the truth is that we can not force students to learn anything. Schools, teachers, and parents manipulate through punishments and rewards. So what is the answer?

I am leaning more and more toward an "unschooling" answer of allowing students to choose their own learning. Let students study what interests them as a starting point. Use their interests to branch out into new areas holistically. Expose students to interesting ideas, art, philosophy, and field trips. Teach with real labs with no pre-fabricated processes and results. Let students study real problems and propose solutions.

The discouraging thing is that with NCLB and standards this is a challenge to do. But I think it is the right goal to pursue.

The other factor is to build real relationships with students and reluctant teachers. Be passionate about your class, content, and PLN. People will be attracted to you and will want what you have. Athletes will work hard through boring drills for a coach that they respect. Most teachers want to be the best that they can be and will be open to technology integration if they can see it used effectively. They will be open to a PLN if they see how one works over time.

The key is to turn students and reluctant educators from pigs (people unable to discern the value of something) to people who desire to learn and want your pearls.

Michael Kaechele 
Twitter: concretekax
Hands On


  1. If we are really serious about allowing our students to pursue their passions shouldn't we allow teachers to do the same thing? A teacher that loves the content they teach will always be better than a teacher that doesn't care about the content.

  2. Bill, I totally agree. Teachers who teach their passions are powerful teachers indeed!