What are the purposes of schools and what should we be doing as Christian educators in the name of education?
I will proceed to acknowledge and respond to the statements within the construct that follows. I will respond to the second part of the question first, with the caveat that what schools are purposed to be and what they are in most cases do not correlate substantially. The professed function of any school is to "educate," and that is understood to mean several things simultaneously: Historically the locus has been to transfer knowledge. That has led to a construct that I would describe in the vernacular of my formative culture- as analogous to a chicken in a bread pan pecking out dough. This allows for the nurture of human beings worst traits and minimizes others. Competition and validation become their raison d'être. Schools function to validate privilege, but at best this is a provisional validation. The terminal reality of the ways schools work is that human beings are objectified, and the hopeless are discarded and the cream is skimmed. Then the cream is indoctrinated to validate and perpetuate the model. Yet the school itself is the culture in which one rises and another sinks. One sees this most pointedly in the education of Christians in most secular settings. the Christian divorces his faith from his pedagogy and adheres to the model.
The educational system of a society can be seen then to function as a means of reinforcing, perpetuating and legitimizing the constructs of that society. Formal education is instrumental in maintaining the status quo of a culture. Resistance to change in schooling is ultimately derived from an attempt to perpetuate the status quo. The Christian educator has a higher standard than this. Our calling is to be stewards of a new generation of minds that are formed in the image of God and must be transformed by the renewal of those minds.
Christian education seeks to transform the systems and bodies of knowledge of the world by subjecting them rigorously to the supremacy of God in all things. We need not fear the knowledge of the world, because, where it is true, it is a revelation of the glory of God in creation. As such, it can be appropriated into a thoroughly Christian grid system. In some cases knowledge must be rejected, in others compatible areas will be embraced, and in most cases, where a syncretistic milieu is evident, the "True truth" of God will transform the impurities and redeem the data.
Christian educators must rally in the name of true education to promote a more diverse way of teaching and learning that serves the many and destroys the fewest possible. Education is a paradigm of change and change is as destructive a force as it is a creative one. Educators must strive to move from objectifying learners to accord them their due status as subjects, not objects. To accomplish this, educators must thoroughly acquaint themselves with the ideological and political obstructionist structures that serve to impede educational reformation.
Educators, in the name of education must also learn to apply research knowledge in the classroom environment. This research must be filtered through the grid system of a thoroughly biblical worldview, and the only possibility of this occurring is by the mediation of a highly developed Biblical literacy. As the authority and rule of life, we must hold up every theory, paradigm, and "fact" and let the light of scripture shine upon it to sear and purify it or to destroy it.
Teachers are not technical production managers. Critical self-reflection, where precritical presuppositions are challenged in a nurturing environment is an important methodology for the educator to practice. This leads to learning, not indoctrination. It also works in two ways, as non-Christian notions are cast down by biblical arguments and as new understanding enlightens the mind. The biblical process of taking off the old man and putting on the new attain in the life of the mind especially. Christian truth is the caged lion that can defend itself if it is released. Indoctrination, on the other hand, enables an atmosphere that is currently too thin for most students to breathe to become a dereified air of mutuality and collaborative inquiry. Teaching and learning ( and truth) become personal and relational, not objectified and enacted transactions.
So this is what schools have become- I will now proceed to dream a bit in describing a schooling that provides society with a whole being who knows place, has and owns identity, reads the world critically, and is serious in their relationship to others and their worlds.
The new school is an environment where all students are smart and successful, as the definition of failure and success are redefined in the light of the cross, which is foolishness to the Greek mind.. Teachers, students, and parents have quit asking, "How smart are you?" and today ask, "How are you smart?" I advocate the implementation of a multiple intelligences-based curriculum, where students could become more aware of how they learn best. The classrooms have come alive and this takes place as students learn to utilize their avenue. this seems to me to be in keeping with the multileveled approach the scriptures take toward education. Visual stimuli, psalms, oral presentation, metaphor, and sojourn in circumstances through time and pain form the approaches God uses in time and space to teach his lessons well. The Ml approach is compatible with cooperative grouping, hands on learning, and performance-based assessment. Teachers and students have found that learning does not always books; but can include movement, singing, group interaction, and visual stimuli. But this is only a tool- albeit a powerful one. However the real changes must come in how the teacher comes to create a learner based environment.
As I have written elsewhere, learning is not authenticated until the learner understands, retains the learning, applies the learning in a real world context and bears fruit. Use good questions to deepen understanding. Conversation is key. One does not own knowledge in any given discipline until it can be articulated. Questions should be open ended, exploratory, emotionally and intellectually stimulating and succinct. Learners are distinct and unique a multiple intelligences approach simply provides more avenues for learning.
For the Christian, success must not be rewarded by old game show greed type structures. These kinds of rewards actually choke learning. Trophies for trivia is a shortsighted solution. Bribes are distractions that take the attention of the students away from the real rewards of empowerment by learning. The cream rises to the top and the losers sink- and the school becomes the theater for the conflict. Competition must move towards cooperation.These are geared to the emotions of conquest, failure and the quest for goodies; The school must provide a distinct cultural alternative to a culture that is fraught with these symbols of domination and aggression, which are rooted in the fallenness of man..
I am not a prophet but I have read enough of futurist writing to know the possibilities. I want to be a part of the solution so to speak. The ability to read the word and the world will be even more important in a society that resembles those that Paul Romer or Peter Drucker envision. The need for Christ centered interpersonal interaction to offset the droning of society will be critical. New communities of light (the church) in the knowledge society could conceivably drive the education community to new heights of importance in their realized role as agents of redemption. It is in the best short term interests of the social sector managers who are joined at the hip with the existing power structures to continue in a transmission mode. The new school will be the focal point that will join discrete communities into joint master communities. Transformation begins in the new school that declares that all truth is God's truth.
Christian higher education has the distinct purpose of fully integrating faith
and learning in a Christian worldview context. It does not acknowlege a dichotomy
of sacred and secular. True truth is God's truth, and a Christian school must
endeavor to equip students to understand that "belief" is not inferior
to "fact", in fact all faith is compatible with proper reasoning and
in this context, faith is transformative of the culture. The Christian school
will help its students understand the times and to know what to do.
In any discipline, the methodology of the integration of faith and learning involves determining what is compatible with the Christian faith, what needs to be transformed, and what is to be rejected outright on the basis of scriptural understanding. One must be ready to confront one's understanding of scripture, but never to bend the knee to "facts" interpreted in the non-Christian milieu. In education, this involves critiquing educational theory and cognitive science in the light of Christian truth. Students would be required to develop their powers of critical thinking and evaluation of theories based in the non-Christian world in assignments and projects in an over fashion. It is imperative for students to understand that no theory is developed in a vacuum- identifying the worldview that informs the theory is paramount in determining what is compatible with Christian thought.
Learning in such a school focuses on what transforms the learners-indeed, learners must help construct the learning process. God does not open the brain and pour information into his disciples. I subscribe to a hedonism of learning- learners should derive pleasure from the learning process. Student relevance not only allows the learner to form and define an identity, but by linking the subject matter to the learner's real life, place is also validated. The school is characterized a pedagogy of respect. Everyone involved is brought together with a richness of difference and the commonality of purpose, which is ultimately learning for god's glory and our good.This does not abrogate the requirement for each to stand in his own critical construct in which precritical judgments are eliminated.
It becomes the teacher's main purpose to be nurturing persons and ideas by authorizing every student to take possession of the stewardship of their lives and thoughts, to value their intellectual power as created in the imago dei, and to make known their own real and powerful presence in the world. We must recall that the etymology of the word "authority" is based in the French root, an old French word that means "to make grow, originate, promote, or increase." Bureaucracies cannot take that power the teacher has away. Educators need to provide a forum where student voices can extend to the edge of their current vision and where they are welcomed into their own God-given authority as stewards. This will allow for a discarding of imagined autonomy and restore a biblical mandate for the living of life.
Grace is not merely theology, we are to be people of grace. That involves having the students best interest at heart, considering others to be better than you, and service means putting their needs above your own. An important aspect of equipping students to stand in the world is to be a willing and able model for them in the classroom. To model Christian integrity and passion is a high calling, both in the area of academic excellence and personal leadership.
We can work to realize this by making the classroom a place that will enable students to say what they see and know through their reflection, their research, and of course through their reading and listening to the Holy Spirit as he speaks. This is much different approach than the derivative way I was taught- to learn to recount the teacher's take on the author's take on the subject at hand. The curriculum must be fluid in order to open the way to the creation of new knowledge, to enhance the skill and the efficacy of the student. Or as Friere put it, ". . . to begin always anew, to make, to reconstruct, and not to spoil, to refuse to bureaucratize the mind, to understand and to live life as a process- live to become. . . .". the key for redeeming this purpose is to place the focus of becoming in biblical terms.
As Paul outlines in Romans 6, we do this by reckoning the reality of God's truth, rejecting the reign of sin and faithlessness, and rendering every part of our lives as instruments of righteousness to God. God has placed us between the dialectic of Heraclitus and Parminides in giving us the means of choosing to be a force of change, of becoming. For this to occur, students must be treated as subjects rather than objects of education. Notions of efficiency based on short term products with limited intellectual challenge must be replaced with active, or rather interactive learning. The process of certification is replaced in the process of authorizing curiosity, exploration, and richness of the intellectual life. Our God is a God who sees in us grand potentialities and we must become sharers in that heroic vision. The weight of glory awaits us. Seek and yea shall find.