Wisdom from Wrongness

My kids love the TV show “The Magic School Bus.” I can still hear Ms. Frizzle in my head saying, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” The freedom to learn (and thereby succeed) is often found first in failure. So, in honor of the first completed week of school, I have two subjects on my mind: wisdom and wrongness. At first glance they may seem polar opposites but Ms. Frizzle taught me that they are reciprocally interconnected.

Plutarch was correct in suggesting that, “The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.” I am proud of our teachers that encourage creativity and stimulate their students. In a time period where standardized testing might persuade some to “teach to the test,” I am honored to know those who continue to believe learning includes both knowing facts and how to find the answers. I applaud the teachers reminding our youth that while they may fall short in some areas they may excel in others. The geniuses are not just in “reading, writing, and arithmetic” they are also in the arts and the trades. These teachers embody the Hebrew senses of the words wrongness and wisdom.

Sin in Hebrew derives from archery. It means, “to miss the mark.” We are fallible. Saint Augustine stated, “si fallor, sum” (If I am mistaken, I am). What he means is that being human encompasses being mistaken. We must be careful to ensure that we do not teach our youth that getting something wrong is equivalent to having something wrong with us. We must encourage our children to make meaningful mistakes from which to learn. Standardized tests taint our understanding that we can learn from failure. To fail does not mean one did not learn nor that one is not talented elsewhere. The Catch-22 is that though we are inevitably sinful we must not define ourselves by our underachievement. We do not need to be perfect; that’s what Jesus is for! He is substitutionally perfect. Additionally, He is the one who gifts us with the Spirit of Wisdom.

That is why wrongness correlates with wisdom. Acknowledging our shortcoming allows us to be empowered by God’s grace of wisdom. The interesting thing is that wisdom in Hebrew can also be translated as skill. Wisdom is not just about “book-smarts.” In actuality some of the first people empowered with wisdom in the Bible were craftsmen that beautified and built the Tabernacle.

So, whether you are an educator or a student, embody the truths that missing the mark doesn’t make one a failure and that wisdom comes in various personae. As we fuel Plutarch’s flame of learning, correlating wisdom and wrongness, consider the lyrics  from “Try” by Pink which says, “Where there is desire there is gonna be a flame; where there is a flame someone’s bound to get burned. But just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die; you’ve gotta get up and try, try, try.”

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