Tasks v. Principles

You can really tell the difference between people who work a job and the people who know how a job works.

That difference is the difference between consumers and producers. Chris Jeub was the first guy to explain this to me in a way that made sense (particularly in this post –a most read) and it has become an essential buttress in my worldview.

My goal in life is to not not be consumer, but a producer. I want to be a giver, not a taker.

But the core expression of this hope is found in training. The question is often wrongly “Teach me how to do this?” rather than “Teach me how this is done.” The subtlety between these statements is an attitude that says “I want to know enough to get what I want and no more.”

That person will never be a producer.

But this raises an interesting question about training. The zeitgeist of education says that you teach principles then application, but in my experience, the unemployment rate of principles within the heads of their respective owners is ridiculously high.

The reason for that is obvious: principles only have meaning when placed within the context of a task.

Principles are discovered and established by questions and experiences. If a person doesn’t have questions or experiences, then you can give them all the principles you want (including those fancy bullet points and cool stick figure charts), but it won’t have an impact until the student gets questions and experiences.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t give principles to students who aren’t going to use them, but we simply need to be honest about why it feels like they don’t care.

Memo: They really don’t care.

So now we have a problem: (1) I want my students to be producers, not consumers. (2) I know that producers think in terms of principles more than tasks. (3) I know that the reason we care about principles in because of the tasks.

That brings us to the question: how do you bridge the gap between abstraction and praxis in a way that doesn’t sacrifice the value of either?

In my mind, the answer to that question explains the difference between lecturing and discipleship.

One thought on “Tasks v. Principles

  • March 8, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Well said. That is a principle my mentor at school instilled in me. People learn through practical problem solving. Principles are only helpful when the person has to use it. Then they take ownership of it.

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