Russell and Duenes

Education from Down in the Gulch

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I’m no Renaissance Man, but I constantly and vigorously seek to improve my own liberal arts education, as that has been traditionally understood. I do this for several reasons, a main one being that I want to be able to go ever broader and deeper as a teacher for my high school students. It is a labor of love, and I think they benefit from it. I have thought for some time now that many of our Christian schools are not highly interested in this “deeper and broader” kind of Christian education, but are more interested in the cultural ideal of a “college prep” education, with Jesus being a part of it. We have not done a good enough job of educating ourselves as teachers and administrators so that we have a much grander vision than the culture-at-large of what kind of a person a Christian citizen ought to be, and thus, how we ought to educate them toward that end.

Douglas Wilson touched on this issue in a remark he made today: One of the reasons the Church is in the straits it is in today is because so many of our leaders received such a truncated education. You can’t enjoy the vista that a true liberal arts education provides if you received your highly specialized education down in a gulch. You can love Jesus down in the gulch, but you still can’t see very far. Not everyone needs to have the panorama, but somebody should. Not everyone in positions of leadership in Church must have access to this vista, but a good number of them should. If we just blow this off, then the result will be seers who can’t see and teachers who can’t talk straight (Is. 29:10).

He’s speaking of the church and higher education, but this applies to primary education at Christian schools as well. I wonder how many Christian school administrators and faculty “have the panorama” of a Christian liberal arts education and a passion to see many of their students not only receive, but earnestly long for the same? How many people who are “calling the shots” at Christian schools have been given a solid, biblically orthodox, liberal arts education – immersed in the Scriptures and the great writings of Greek, Latin, and European history – whether through an institution or through self-study, and thus, are well-equipped to think deeply, wisely, with historical perspective, and biblically-informed vision in theology, literature, philosophy, political theory, government, history, psychology, anthropology, ethics, economics, law and education?

Now, please hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that our Christian schools are directed by stupid people who have no expertise. Rather, I’m saying that our leaders are often people who may have expertise in a special field, but don’t have “the vista that a true liberal arts education provides.” And honestly, we have blown this off and said that it doesn’t matter. We may even secretly think it to be “elitist,” and therefore, anti-Christian. We talk about people having “a vision for education,” but what does that really mean? Does it include planning curriculum around providing a true liberal arts education for our Christian students? Does it mean having the same vision that is currently in vogue, using faddish techniques, rather than having a knowledge of pedagogy that takes its cues from the Bible and from the long history of Western Civilization? What is the trajectory upon which we have set our educational agenda? And where will that leave our students ten, twenty, thirty years after they’ve left us? Will they be equipped to think and act well, not just in their vocational sub-speciality, but in their role as a Christian citizen?

Surely more important than knowing “where our kids are at” and being “relevant to them,” is knowing where they should be going, and having the theological nerve to educate them toward such an end. Teaching technique is being emphasized way too much, and the education of the teacher himself gets short shrift. If the administrators, teachers and board members who lead and direct our Christian schools have been lamed by a truncated education, and most of us have, then how will we pass on something larger and grander, and dare we say, more honoring to Christ than what we ourselves possess? It certainly won’t happen by continuing to tell ourselves that having such well-taught Christians making important educational decisions is irrelevant.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

June 9, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Posted in Duenes, Education

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