Last week, we talked about how the cultural conditions we are living in today are bringing about rapid changes in almost every dimension of life. These changes are causing significant disruption to our behaviors. One such change is the abundance of information that is now available.
There are countless benefits from the information revolution; we are better informed about things that are important to us, about history, science, medicine, events going on in the world, to mention only a few. Most of us embrace our new situation enthusiastically. Think about how often you “Google” something to get information you want. We love that we can communicate instantly with people around the world, or get an update on something you care about that has happened somewhere across the globe.
But access to so much information so quickly is also changing us. I know as a teacher, this has dramatically impacted what happens in the classroom as students now can “fact check” claims during the class lecture and look up alternative critiques or concerns about ideas being presented; not to mention the variety of new resources available for use in writing term papers or doing other assignments.
We have always assumed that more information would mean we would make better decisions. We believed that with more information we are less easily deceived, mislead, or taken advantage of. But what we have found is that as good as it is to have lots of information at our fingertips it really is a double-edged sword. With so much information we have to be more discerning about the information we collect, whether the source can be trusted, or whether important information is being intentionally left out or distorted. More information has made it harder to make good decisions not easier.
This highlights what has always been true but just more hidden in the past: that knowledge is based on trust. What is now clear is that we have always trusted someone if we say we know anything. When the cost of publishing a book was high, we trusted that someone was making sure what was being written was trustworthy. Books were only published by recognized experts in the field. But that has changed. The cost of publishing something is now so low almost anyone can do it. The trustworthiness of our sources is now strongly contested, and the very abundance of information once so empowering has become a stumbling block.
Educational institutions are being overwhelmed by the implications of this new reality. In a thousand ways, from educational philosophy to institutional structure to governance models to financial models, everything is impacted by these cultural changes. This has been painful particularly as they disrupt the deeply engrained habits and practices we have developed to do our work.
It’s tempting to look at what’s going on in culture and to wring our hands in despair in the face of all these changes. But if we believe in the sovereignty of God, then we must trust that God is ultimately in control of even these changing realties and that God’s work is being done in and through these changes. If that is the case then our task is to discern what the Spirit is doing and to join God in that work. That takes deep discernment because hearing the voice of God in the midst of change means that God may call us to change as dramatically as the changes in our cultural situation.
Over the next weeks and months, we are going to explore what these cultural changes mean for us as an educational institution. This includes what it means for the way we think about teaching and learning, for how we structure ourselves as an institution and the financial models we use, for how we do our work with the communities we are called to serve, and what it means for collaboration and communication. We are excited about what God is doing in the world around us, particularly in the world of education and the church; we are excited for the opportunity to be a small part of this work.