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The human memory is an amazing thing. It is essentially unlimited in capacity, yet, the storing and retrieval system is exceptionally buggy, unless carefully trained and disciplined.

One of the hardest lessons I have to keep learning as an educator, and then need to pass on to my teaching assistants is to document every significant conversation with a student, especially if you are making an exception to the syllabus or other policy. Either you or the student (or both) will misremember (accidentally or deliberately) key details of what is agreed upon. As soon as possible after the conversation, I try to send to the student an email laying out the terms of the discussion and ask them to reply to it confirming their agreement to the terms…if I don’t forget because of the next ten things that intrude upon my attentions before getting back to my computer.

When we fail to document it, students will inevitably only remember the aspects that are beneficial to their convenience and/or grade, and swear on everything they hold sacred that nothing else of consequence was said. And students of today are exceedingly quick to run up the chain of command with any perceived slight to their Ming dynasty egos or sense of fairness. In today’s corporate model educational system, the first question by the chain of command is a request for documentation. When it comes to he said/she said, they will usually side with the student if it is a minor issue, just to make the whining go away. Right or wrong, this is the reality, and we must learn to live with it proactively.

While this may be a relatively new degree of severity in the academic environment, it is hardly a new phenomenon in human history. There is good evidence that writing was developed specifically to keep track of business/trade agreements to avoid misunderstandings, real or convenient.

Given this, even God got into the act of documentation. His covenant with Israel was documented in writing, first by His own Hand for the Ten Commandments, then by the scribes of Moses for the rest of the 625 laws He gave. When it came time for His Son to redeem the world, He not only had the living testimonies of eyewitnesses spread the word, He had these eyewitnesses record the Word in writing in the common tongue of the day, before that generation died out, so that the record would be both fresh and enduring. Our souls are far too valuable to Him to let this message get corrupted by our memory, rationalization, or scheming. This ain’t no simple matter of a due date, it is Eternity, and a Relationship.

Document, document, document. Even God does it.


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