I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4
Truth is sometimes very easily discerned: 2 + 2= 4, always. Of course sometimes it can be a bit more difficult, especially in judgments. When I am deeply involved in an incident, I know that my view or interpretation of the event will be skewed. This happens more often than we care to admit. Our spouse says something and we take it the wrong way. An acquaintance gives us a look and we impute evil motives to that look. It happens all the time.
We see the same pattern in our children, don’t we? We observe a situation that is perfectly innocent and our child comes running to you with a report of what a horrible thing their sibling did. Are they lying? Often, their report is how they experienced the event, which includes a lot of interpretation of the event. So no, they are not trying to deceive, they just interpret their experience in a skewed way. Here is an example. While watching kids play dodge-ball I saw a student bend over to pick a ball. In doing so, she was hit in the head with another ball. Immediately, she accused someone of throwing the ball at her head- on purpose! I explained to her that the ball had already been thrown when she bent down. “Oh!” she said and ran back to the game.
One of the most difficult balances we must manage as parents, is to make sure our children know we love and trust them and at the same time correct them and continue to point them to the truth. Your child gives you a report and you are sure it is a true report, until you hear another side.
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. Proverbs 18:17
What side do you take? The side of truth, always. Our job as parents is to teach our children to walk in the truth. This means we help our children discern facts and then examine their own lens of interpretation. This is difficult. It requires wisdom. If our child’s view is always supported and never challenged, he begins to pursue only what is “right in his own eyes” and finds ways to justify himself- always. But our joy comes when we see our children pursue truth and walk in it.
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
The title of this article may have caused you to take a second look. But fear not, I did not mean “end” in a way that would mean Christian Education is ruined. I mean that Mary’s response should be seen as the End, meaning the Goal of Christian Education. Let this sink in: Christian Education is a function of discipleship whose end is faithful submission to God’s Word. Education is not simply to make students know things. But this applies to all schools, for the truth of the matter is that ALL schools are about discipleship.
As a Christian school, our entire faculty and staff are members of local churches and are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. As such, we teach children to follow the Lord. There is no other statement in Scripture or outside of it that so perfectly and succinctly models a disciple’s response to the Word of our Lord as Mary’s: “Let it be to me according to your word.” This is what a response of faith looks like. A seemingly impossible promise is given, but because it is God’s Word, the person receiving it responds in humility, faith, hope, self-denial and gratitude (Mary’s song comes soon after).
At Providence Academy we strive to fulfill our Mission which is to make Godly Leaders. Often we think of leaders as those who “take the bull by the horns” and charge ahead to make things happen. Leaders are active, not passive. But we must look to Scripture in how we are to mold leaders. In all positive examples of leadership, the leader who is not passive among men is passive before God. God speaks, the leader obeys.
At a secular school, the end or purpose of education has nothing whatsoever to do with God. The result is that children are being trained as disciples of secularism. This is a worldview that denies God’s active role in the world. It doesn’t deny an existence of God officially, but it does so unofficially by teaching that He doesn’t matter. Rather than faith, the secular disciple is taught to doubt. Rather than being passive in response to God and active in the world of men, the secular teaches children to be passive to the voice of experts and governing authorities and active in the world of self-fulfillment.
While your child is at Providence Academy we seek to train them to think and reason from a Biblical Worldview, but more importantly we want them to imitate the virtue of Mary. We want them to say, “Let it be to me according to your word.”
The Common Core is a plague to me. Being the Headmaster at a Christian school seems to give me authority to answer all questions regarding the Common Core. No matter where I go I get asked my opinion. The truth is, I am less inclined to worry about the Common Core the public schools will be required to follow and more interested in having the Providence Community think more about what our Common Core should be. What should your child know?
Before answering that question, we should remind ourselves that all education is training for the sake of a community. The purpose of Athenian education was to make a fit citizen of Athens. Spartan education was to make proper Spartans out of their children. For whom or what are we educating our children? Or better, for what purpose are we educating our children?
We know the answer for the public schools:
The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.
-Mission Statement of the Common Core State Standard Initiative
Now we know the purpose of the American Education Establishment. Many who even agree with the ends of the system, argue that the means to that end are a problem; that we are not successful in reaching the stated ends. In other words, the Common Core is a problem because it won’t be successful. I, on the other hand, firmly believe that the political “solution” to our educational problems are not real solutions at all. I believe the real problem with our system is that the end or purpose is not worthy of human beings created in the Image of God. The Public Schools will always fail because they will not redirect their ends.
As to the success of the American Educational System in reaching their ends, I agree with what the late Chuck Colson said:
. . . American education is doing an excellent job at its stated objectives: creating economical and political men and women who will find their niche in the materialist economy and bow their knees to the system of political power, believing that every ill can be amended and every need addressed by economic and political means. The economy is limping, but growing. So is government (without the limp). Politics has become a year-round sport. And the evening news reminds us, day after day, that, at the end of the day, the only things that matter are the bottom line and the opinions of those in power (including themselves). I disagree with the naysayers: American education is doing just fine . . .
The Goal of Public Education as reflected in the Mission Statement of the CCSSI is to successfully train America’s children to be individual, economic (taxable) units. Of course, no one would deny that it would be good to have students gain employment, but is the above Mission Statement worthy of our children?
Next month, I will begin to explain the purpose of an education at Providence Academy.
When your children leave home, what do you hope they will be like? This is a great question for you to consider in all seriousness. Give it real thought. Write it down. Review your thoughts often. The next big question is how do we help them become what you hope?
All people become what they habitually do. Let me repeat- all people become what they habitually do. How does an athlete become one? People become athletes by habitually training their bodies for their sport. How does a musician become one? People become musicians by habitually practicing their craft. How does a sluggard become one? People become sluggards by habitually exerting the least amount of effort in all they do!
All people habitually do what they love. Let me repeat- all people habitually do what they love. The trick to educating our children, that they may become the kind of person you hope, is to train them to love the right things. As sinners, we don’t naturally love the right things. Our children need the grace of God to work in them, and as directed by God’s Word, we are to train them in His discipline. We need to teach them more than information. We need to teach them to love.
Students often struggle with doing hard work. This is good, for nothing great is accomplished without hard work. But no one likes hard work at first. The options will be to teach them to hate hard work or to love it. We teach children to hate hard work by not making them do it. We give ways out or never expect it from them. We teach students to love hard work by insisting they go through the struggle and attain the goal on their own. When this is repeated often enough, people learn to love work.
It’s fall and school has begun. I usually think of football 24/7 around this time, but as I am writing this article my mind keeps turning to You’ve Got Mail, the late 90’s romantic movie starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. -Joe Fox, You’ve Got Mail
I know it is not New York, but the beginning of every school year has emotional connections for about anyone who ever went to school. I smell cut grass in September and I want to put pads on and play football. I see a ball on the ground and I want to ask for “small baby bouncies” and kick the thing over the heads of all my classmates. I hear the words of a teacher reading aloud and I am brought back to my third grade class. My teacher would have us lay our heads on our desks after lunch and read story after story of daring adventure, undaunted courage and even stories of love and loss.
You probably have your own memories, some good and perhaps some that are not. Whatever the memories, let us pray that our students are receiving and making good ones here.
And finally, because we want to hear from Kathleen Kelly (Joe Fox’s romantic interest) who, along with my wife, practically swooned over the thought of a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils, a quote:
I started helping my mother after school here when I was six years old. And I used to watch her. And it wasn’t that she was just selling books, it was that she was helping people become whoever it was (that) they were going to turn out to be. Because when you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does… (emphasis mine)
It is fall and school has begun. Thank you for allowing us to partner with you in educating your children.
If we want to learn how to paint, we stand beside the master who knows more than we do, whose example can show us far more than can be put into words… If we want to learn how to be noble, good, great of soul, courageous, wise, we cannot begin with ourselves. We must find a teacher.
– Anthony Esolen
What happens to a society that refuses to acknowledge the need for teachers? This is a great question, because I would argue ours has. And no, this is not a comment on Scott Walker and the Teacher’s Union. My contention is that our society believes it needs teachers for things like Math, Social Studies and Language Arts, but we do not acknowledge the need for students to be taught by Master Teachers to be noble, good, great of soul, courageous and wise.
Of course in our pluralistic society there will be concerns as to who such a teacher would be and what is meant by noble, good, great of soul (Soul? Does such a thing exist?), courageous and wise? If there is no unified understanding of these virtues or even if a person is or has a soul, how can we find a teacher? How can we become noble and wise? How can our society function?
I believe much of the problem with our society is the lack of a unified understanding of goodness and virtue, and corresponding to that, a lack of understanding with what is wrong with us, both individually and corporately. From a secular stand-point, it seems that individual humans are reduced to bio-chemical machines and our problems can be solved by better drugs, better environments and better programing. What seems to be going on in our society is that our “leaders” keep trying to implement these better things. To quote T.S. Eliot:
They constantly try to escape from the darkness outside and within By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.
For us (meaning Providence Academy) we believe our Master Teacher is Jesus. His life, death and teaching reveal to us what it means to be noble, good, great of soul, courageous and wise. There are a few ways we practice the Master’s Teaching. First, we readily acknowledge that we are not good, yet we need to be. We need a teacher who is good, and there is only one who is good. Jesus is the Master, not us. And so, just like the good and noble John the Baptist who would repeat to his followers, “I am not the Christ” and instead pointed to Him, our teaching is the same. As we follow our Master Teacher, Jesus, we continually point to Him and invite our students to follow Him as well.
Secondly, as we teach and discuss great works of literature and study great men and women in history, who are examples of courage and wisdom, goodness and nobility we judge these examples through Christ and His Word. Horatio on the wood bridge, fighting to save the lives of his fellow soldiers and Rome itself, is a shadow of Christ. Horatio’s courage is noble because it can point to the courage and nobility of Christ’s courageous fight on the wood of His Cross to save His people from sin, death, hell and be a bridge to the heavenly kingdom.
Finally, we believe, as Andrew Kern (one of Providence Academy’s founders) said, “Students are not things to be measured, but souls to be nurtured.” Ours students aren’t merely being prepared for college, or a job, but being prepared to be a fit citizen of that Heavenly City we pray for daily. Eternity is in mind. Virtue and Wisdom is in mind. The Lord saying to us and our students one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant” is in mind.
We need the Teacher.
What is the purpose of Education in America? Do you get the sense that it is all about getting into college so your children can get a good job? Wonderful. We raise our children so they can achieve the goal of being an employee. Whoopee! Or, in my more sarcastic way of putting it, our educational system is meant to make our children individual, taxable units.
From an essay by Stratford Caldecott
We have assumed that, if it is not merely a cage to keep our young people off the streets, its purpose is to train workers in the great economic machine, the same machine that we hope will produce endless growth. But we cannot know what education is for, since we have no idea any longer what man is for, or what a human being actually is.
As Frank Sheed once put it: “This question of purpose is a point overlooked in most educational discussions, yet it is quite primary. How can you fit a man’s mind for living if you do not know what the purpose of man’s life is?” We need a philosophy of education based on an adequate “anthropology” or picture of man, if we are to put education back on the right track.
Tim Keller in his book, Counterfeit Gods quotes the 19th century, German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who sees the future of the West as leaving the true God to worship a new one.
What induces one man to use false weights, another to set his house on fire after having insured it for more than its value, while three-fourths of our upper classes indulge in legalized fraud. . . what gives rise to all this? It is not real want–for their existence is by no means precarious. . . but they are urged on day and night by a terrible impatience at seeing their wealth pile up so slowly, and by an equally terrible longing and love for these heaps of gold. . . . What once was done “for the love of God” is now done for the love of money, i.e., for the love of that which at present affords us the highest feeling of power and a good conscience.
But what alternative is there for America? We have abandoned God in the public sphere. There is no unified anthropology. There is no purpose for Man. There is only individual and national security which comes by serving Mammon.
We need Christian education. We need to “fit a man’s mind for living” according to the purposes of God. Our children are meant to seek and know truth, to do and be good, and to love and display beauty, for the glory of God!