Monday, February 22, 2010

Some Thoughts on Education

"The Young Schoolmistress" by Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin

In many earlier civilizations, there were not schools as we know them today. Young people were 'discipled' into adult-hood by their parents, grandparents and community. When they knew what their parents knew, and were able to do what their parents had done, their education was complete and a new generation was prepared to raise the next generation. (Examples of such societies would be ancient Israel or early Native Americans.) Many today would view these societies as ' primitive' compared to the highly developed societies of today, but such should consider what justifies this view, and what real advantage in quality of life have been gained by our supposed progress.

Other societies did have schools, usually for the purpose of educating young men for a set purpose - such as being a lawyer or doctor. Young men often learned a trade from their father, or were apprenticed to another tradesman. After being taught what to do, they were evaluated by the quality of their work - their ability to do as their teacher had done. Young women's education was mostly in the home where they were trained to be capable in domestic affairs.

America 's educational system really is a fairly recent one. Some of its elements are based upon the ancient Greek system of education. But one of the most important things to note about today's public school is that many of its elements come from philosophies based on the Darwinian theory of evolution, which began to be widely disseminated in the late 1800's. The Darwinian theory of evolution does not view man as God's creature, made as male and female, in God's image to have dominion in the earth. Instead, it considers man to be an independent being of highly developed instinct and ability, who is continuing by stages to evolve to higher levels of instinct and ability. Based on this theory, man is to be understood by his instincts, grouped according to level of development of those instincts, and then educated in a way that appeals to the instinct of the stage and prepares to move on to the next stage. John Dewey was one of the foremost applicators of the Darwinian Theory to the process of education and his educational theories are widely influential today.

Unlike Darwin, the Christian believes that man is divinely created, male and female, in God's image, but fallen through sin. Man, being in God's image, has mind, will, and emotions - all of which are to be exercised to their fullest capacity in glorifying God, and all of which are corrupted by sin. The Christian educational process therefore, involves seeking to undo the effects of sin on the mind, will and emotions. It does this first, by leading children to the knowledge of their Creator and exhorting them through instruction and discipline to repent of the rebellion of their personhood (mind, will and emotions) against God and His laws, and accept the free redemption of their whole being which has been accomplished by Christ. It does this, secondly, by seeking to naturally cultivate the mind, will and emotions to their fullest capacity, so that the redeemed person will be equipped to live out in the world the purpose for which they were created and redeemed by Christ.

When considering what form this Christian education should take, Christians should not think that they need to use the forms of the world. "The world" system is controlled by the evil one, in opposition to Christ, and is "passing away" (1 John 2), while Christ's kingdom is advancing through His obedient people. If Christians want to raise their children to live out the redemption of Christ in the world and advance his kingdom against the enemy, sending their children to be trained in the enemy's camp is not the recipe for success! Far better form them to be trained by those who love Christ's kingdom and are preparing them to advance it in the world - not by weapons of warfare but by the knowledge of the gospel, deeds of love and the capturing of every thought and to make it obedient to Christ.

The Christian view calls for an education based upon and driven by the word of God. It does not demand classrooms or grade-levels. It demands men and women of wisdom and discipline, who love the Creator and Redeemer, who love the knowledge of the truth, who are willing to pour their love and knowledge into their children's lives, and who exhort them through word and discipline toward the obedience of faith. Believers of vision should be willing to start from these foundations and build upward in forming educational methods. To take the forms and methods of Dewey, and other Christ-less philosophers, and 'sanctify' these methods by injecting into them Christian elements, is a mediocre attempt at best. Instead, Christians should look for the methods which best fit the Scriptural commands for training children.

According to the Scriptures, fathers and mothers are held primarily responsible for the education of their children. (Deut. 6:7, Psalm 78:5) In Proverbs, children are commanded to listen to their father’s instruction and to not forsake their mother’s teaching (Proverbs 1:8; 6:20). In the New Testament, fathers are commanded to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Parents should see the education of their children in the fear of God as their privilege and their responsibility. If a school is to play a role in a child’s education, it should be seen as merely supplemental. The current public school system in America has stepped far out of its proper bounds in efforts to control the education of citizens’ children. Government-funded education is not a child’s right, nor is the education of children the government’s responsibility. The education of children is the parent’s responsibility, and if they should choose to seek the assistance of a trained teacher for their child’s education, they must make that choice with wisdom and discretion. Therefore, if a trained teacher or tutor gives themselves to the education of children other than their own, they should see themselves as assisting the childrens’ parents in educating their children, and not as a servant of an institution which aims to train children after its own philosophy regardless of the parents.


When an earthly government becomes oppressive, Christians who live in it may have to submit to elements of the secular education system because of law. Obedience to civil law should be practiced as Christ commands, but always second to obedience to Christ. Necessitated obedience to government requirements should not be an excuse to give in to the system altogether. Christians should remember that they are engaged in a battle for the knowledge of the truth. They should make the most of every liberty and opportunity to train their children in a Christ-honoring manner, so that their children will come to honor Christ and teach their children to honor Him - in reading and math, science and history, grammar and logic - 'for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen'. (Romans 11:36, ESV)

(a response to someone's comment on children needing to learn how to be "salt and light")

I do heartily believe that Christians are to be salt and light in the world. However, as regards children, I think that they should not be sent into the world on their own until they have a firmly developed faith in Christ, and a personal desire to be salt and light. Until then they should be learning how to interact with the world alongside their Christian parents, under their leadership. Think about building a structure- while the structure is in progress, it should be sheltered because it is incomplete and not equipped to face the elements. Children who are sent out into the world (i. e. the public school system) to be 'salt and light' while they are still early in the process of forming their worldview are often not ready to do so. Instead of influencing the culture, because they are so impressionable, they are influenced by it. In the end, their potential to influence the culture for Christ has been lessened. Children should see their parents engaging in their world in an active Christian way. Parents should be teaching their children to do the same while in the home, preparing them for the day when as young adults they will be leaders in their own homes and communities. Build the ship, then put it out to sea.

2 comments:

Merran said...

Thanks for the insights and history. I heartily agree that parents should be VERY involved in their children's education.

JColby said...

There are a few things that I have encountered about education in the ancient near east and Israel. There were scribal schools active in the first and second millennium. Archeologists have found clay tablets of abc's and practice texts. However, that was only for scribes and not all young people. As for ancient Israel, scholars debate on the source of Israel's proverbs. Some say they are from scribal schools or wisdom schools; however, some argue that proverbs originated in the family and the clan. While there is not much evidence either way, Solomon probably collected proverbs locally from the family/clan and internationally. When you read the prologue to Proverbs (chs 1-9), the father/grandfather stresses the importance of passing on wisdom and the son taking hold of it. If the origin of some of the proverbs is the family then they may have been used in education. Education for Proverbs is education in wisdom.