The Vocation of a Lifetime

John Piper, article, “Teaching, Schooling and Reading” (September 1, 1974):

The person who has learned to read well is never dependent on living teachers to educate him. The growth of his mind and the betterment of his wisdom and his behavior is not connected with his being in or out of school. Because almost all the greatest thinkers of history have shared their wisdom in writing and because these great books are almost all available to be bought in stores or borrowed from libraries, the person who has trained himself in good, active reading and who cares about growing wiser, does not need live teachers or college classes, or daily assignments, or threatening exams. Instead, as a good reader and as one who is not enslaved to the television and radio, he has a lifetime of growth ahead of him.

It is of the utmost importance that college students stop trying to fill their head with facts and start trying to form the habit of fruitful, active reading. Almost all the facts will be forgotten. But the skill and discipline and love of good reading will go on bearing fruit 30, 60, 100 fold. It is a tragedy that on graduation day so many students look back with a pang of longing that they are leaving the place of so much discovery and stimulating growth, instead of feeling themselves at the end of a training period which has now fit them for an adventurous lifetime of stimulating reading and discovery. It is a dreadful deception that learning and mental growing are strictly associated with school. Good reading should be the vocation of a lifetime. Schooling — at least my classes — is a concentrated training process to help prepare you for that vocation.

5 thoughts on “The Vocation of a Lifetime

  1. So true and so well said Tony. Thanks for your constant enthusiasm for this wondrous activity of reading that opens new worlds for us and introduces us to things that may never occur to us on our own – somethings new, some old.

  2. But – one thing even the best books can’t give, is the discussion of ideas that can take place only between two human beings. Reading Calvin won’t by itself give the wisdom to read him with profit, and save one from one’s biases and blind-spots. It really is “not good [that man] should be alone” – especially when ideas and doctrines are involved. Christians need one another if they are to learn & to grow and to avoid error.

  3. […] Tony Reinke quotes Piper who says that, “It is of the utmost importance that college students stop trying to fill their head with facts and start trying to form the habit of fruitful, active reading. Almost all the facts will be forgotten. But the skill and discipline and love of good reading will go on bearing fruit 30, 60, 100 fold.” […]

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