“Just follow the recipe.”
Years ago, when I was a first-year university student, I had the pleasure of studying something called Econometrics as part of my pursuit of an Economics degree. If you aren’t sure what that is, I’m afraid I can’t help you. I’m not sure I understood it even when I was doing it. What I can tell you is that the pleasure of doing that subject was only surpassed by having Mr Lee (not his real name) as the lecturer.
Mr Lee’s idea of teaching was to ‘teach to the test’. Unashamedly so. He had all these ‘model answers’ to the assignments and tests and exams and he repeatedly told us to ‘Just memorise the model answers.’ Any attempts to try to comprehend the blasted subject was met with an admonition and a reiteration: Don’t try to understand it. Just memorise the model answers. He guaranteed – guaranteed, mind you – that if we would just memorise the model answers, we would pass with flying colours.
I think I ended up with a High Distinction but I could not tell you anything about it. I have a vague recollection of some terms, like Standard Deviation and ... well, okay, one term then.
If Mr Lee’s teaching methods doesn’t provoke some outrage, I have to wonder why. In fact, in my small class of 25 students or so, no one objected to this style at all. On the contrary, most of my classmates welcomed this approach. I guess their aim was to pass the exams by whatever means necessary, and if there was a lecturer who was willing to provide model answers and guarantee a good result, then so much the better.
Call me a troublemaker. I never like Mr Lee’s style, even though I did end up getting a High Distinction.
Granted, there are certain areas in our lives where ‘just follow[ing] the model answer’ is the best way to go. When I buy an electrical gadget, I want to be sure that the maker has followed industry standards and not his own fancy. When I cook a new dish or try my hand at knitting a new garment, there is some assurance that the end result will be successful if only I follow the recipe or pattern correctly. If the final product is less than satisfactory, I almost always attribute it to not following the recipe/pattern properly; rarely is the recipe/pattern at fault.
What about in matters of religion? Should we just ‘follow the recipe’? If you think there are no ‘recipes’ in religion, think again. Consider the following: Pray x times a day; pray Prayer Y every day for x number of days; observing Special Days; do xyz; don’t do abc; etc, etc. The list is endless. Some of these ‘recipes’ come with promises/guarantees.
I’ve never been a good recipe follower especially when the observable results are less than satisfactory.