Second-Hand Education

Have you ever received any really great Second-Hand Education? When we think of education, we think in terms of getting it first-hand from a primary source. We receive it from a parent, teacher, book, seminar or webinar. But have you ever thought about the fact that you receive lots of your education in a second-hand way? Exactly what does that look like? 

girl and boy sitting in front of brown wooden coffee table

Photo by Zun Zun on

Well, when one of my brothers would come in late and get grounded for a week, I learned to keep the curfew that was set for me. When I would read in the newspaper about someone going to jail for a crime, it would reinforce the teaching I had received about not breaking the law. When I would hear about someone else’s experiences, either in person or in a magazine, I would learn about what to do or not to do in a given situation. Every now and again though, I have had the opportunity to receive some really great Second Hand Education.

The first time was when I was in the sixth grade and my older brother was a freshman in high school. He got rheumatic fever and once the initial hub-bub was over about it, he was stuck at home for three months. He needed to remain inactive and could not go to school. His teachers had to come to the house after school to teach him. 

I didn’t sit in on all of his lessons, only the ones that interested me at the time. I loved his Latin teacher and listened dutifully while she taught him tenses and grammar. Those lessons helped make learning Spanish and Italian a breeze. They also gave me the ability to understand a bit of French, Portuguese, and Romanian, all Latin based languages.

When his biology teacher came, I would listen as he talked about cells and their makeup. Sitting on the sidelines gave me a leg up when I went to high school and took Biology and then Physiology and Anatomy. Those lessons gave me the preparation to walk into my high school classes with some advanced knowledge.

The next opportunity came when he was getting ready to go to college. He had chosen a major that would require that he read a lot of books. He decided to take a speed reading course and he started on it. I would sit with him in his room when he was learning how to speed read. First, words would be shown to him on the screen, then phrases, whole sentences and finally paragraphs. I learned how to take my finger and run it down the page and retain information. That skill became invaluable in college and has benefited me my entire life.

The last time I benefited from really great Second-Hand Education was when my best friend went to Seminary. She was required to take a lot of interesting classes and she would call me and tell me about what she was learning. She would then send me any books I was interested in and I could then pursue that subject on my own. That experience gave me a knowledge and depth of information on many subjects I would not normally have studied. 

Some of the best parts of my education have come in a second-hand way. Even though I was not the person primarily being taught, I still benefited greatly by another person’s knowledge, skill, and generosity. The information I learned has been extremely useful along the way. I don’t know about you, but I will take education any way I can get it…even if it comes to me in a second-hand way.    

What about you? Have you had some experiences where you benefited from some really great Second-Hand Education? Let me know, I would love to hear your stories!



Of Professors or Prophets…Who Should You Trust?

One of the first classes I took at the University was “After the Revolution, What?” It was an upper level Political Science course taught by one of the Chicago Seven. For those of you who don’t remember, there were seven men – political radicals, who were accused of conspiracy to riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. We were to read the books assigned and talk about what life would be like after the political revolution in America. The books assigned were politically to the far end of the left and the discussions were along those same veins. There was even an exercise you could participate in if you wanted extra-credit. One weekend a prison camp was set up and the students were to be the prisoners who had been condemned by the leaders of the revolution. I chose to skip the exercise as I didn’t want to entrust myself to the T.A.’s who were going to be the guards. The next week in class there were several disgruntled students who had been prisoners. Apparently they were not treated well; the young women were especially unhappy with the treatment they had received. 


photo by geralt, courtesy of Pixabay

Within a week or so of taking the class, I realized that I did not agree with the things that were being taught and that I was reading about. There was little talk in class of non-violence when it came to getting your political agenda across. It was perfectly acceptable to force your will or political views upon the population by whatever means necessary, including force.

My first term I was also asked out by a visiting professor and I went on the first date. I did not want a second date and avoided the man; however he would call my dormitory and would conveniently show up where I was many times. I would not say he was a stalker, but whatever the category is right below stalker, he fit in. After two semesters there, I transferred to a different college.

Were all of my professors like that? No. I don’t recall any other negative experiences with my professors in college. Most of them taught their classes and had at least a minimal interest in seeing their students do well. But my first semester taught me a few lessons.

The first was to not accept as truth everything I was being taught. Some of what I heard was an agenda that was being pushed by a professor or his assistants. Just out of high school, I did not have a grip on how to disagree with them in an intelligent fashion and so I stayed quiet. But I did not believe what they were saying and just read the books and took the tests. They could teach me facts, but they didn’t necessarily teach me truth.

The second lesson I learned was not to trust a person just because he or she was in a position of authority. Everyone did not have my best interests at heart and there were more than a few educators out there who had the moral equivalence of an alley cat.


photo by falco, courtesy of pixabay

By the time I was seventeen, I had a good understanding of right and wrong. I knew that forcing someone to assent to your beliefs by violence was wrong. I  didn’t have a thorough understanding of the Scriptures, but I knew they contained some universal truths that I could rely on and trust. I could use what I had been taught as a filter to sift through the new things I was hearing in class. Was it okay to treat people like animals in a prison camp? No. Was it okay to pursue people for your own selfish purposes? No.

Just as it was then, so it is for me today. I know that I can trust the Scriptures to teach me about moral basics like truth, justice, mercy and love. I can listen to a speaker and use my filter to see if the person is at trying to educate me or if he or she is trying to get an agenda across and is skewing the facts in order to prove their point. 

What about you? Who would you trust…the professors or the prophets?





Will Cursive Go the Way of Cuneiform?

Cursive is on the chopping block in several school districts today. Common Core has taken it out of the curriculum and forty-one states do not require it being taught. Many educators do not believe we need to teach children cursive and that the time could be used to teach them more relevant subjects. So it got me to thinking, will cursive soon go the way of cuneiform?


Cuneiform was developed by the ancient Sumerians between 3000 and 3500 B.C. It was the primary script in Mesopotamia for over thirty centuries and was used by at least eight different people groups including the Assyrians, Hittites and the Babylonians. If you lived in one of those cultures, you might have thought that the use of cuneiform would continue on indefinitely. However, about 100 B.C. it was abandoned in favor of the alphabetic script. 

In the 19th century, British archeologists discovered about 30,000 cuneiform tablets near the Assyrian capital of Nineveh but they had no idea how to interpret them. Scholars worked on deciphering the tablets but it was slow going. They could make out the names of kings, but that was about it until Henry Rawlinson, a British soldier assigned to the Governor of Persia, decided to scale the Rock of Behistun. Darius the Great had written an autobiography and had it carved into the rock face of the cliff in three different languages. Rawlinson copied part of the cuneiform in 1837 and then went back in 1844 and copied the same part of the inscription in another language. By comparing both scripts, he and other scholars were able to piece together parts of the language. By 1872, a noted cuneiform scholar, George Smith, was able to translate the Epic of Gilgamesh. Soon other translations followed and men were once again able to read cuneiform.


Will it be that way with cursive? Within another century, will there only be a few people who will be able to read it? Will people have to dig out a primer on The Palmer Method in order to read an old letter from a deceased relative or examine documents written before the twentieth century? That begs the question, should we continue to teach cursive? Do we really need the skill in our society today?

As long as a person is required to sign his name on a legal document, cursive will be necessary. Perhaps students should take an elementary course in cursive in the third or fourth grades so that they are able to at least sign their names when required to. Other than that, hours drilling them in forming loops and circles might not be so productive.

Do I hate to see the skill go away? Yes, but I can understand why many educators do not see the value in it anymore. Children are taught printing at an early age and then keyboarding; those are the skills they will need most in their lives. Children need to be educated and prepared for the digital society they are living in.



http://www.ancienthistoryencyclopedia., “Cuneiform”, article by Joshua Mark., “The Rock of Behistun.”