What Makes Christian Education Christian?

December 10, 2008 | Applesauce
By Deborah Carpenter

A student is not above his teacher, and when he has matured, he will be like his teacher. 

From another perspective, the worldview from which teachers teach is the worldview students will have.  Of course, students have more than one teacher, and it is difficult to say which teacher’s or teachers’ worldview each student will develop.  Further, worldview is influenced by family, friends, media, etc.  Students are individuals with the ability to be independent thinkers, and they do not always develop the worldview of their teachers, but teachers do have an incredible amount of influence on the training of young minds. 

Many Christian schools have mission or vision statements that declare in some way that students learning from and/or developing a Christian worldview is of utmost importance.  By its very statement, students learn to think in a very specific manner.  What the vision or mission statement is saying is that the courses offered will be taught from a Christian perspective in such a way that the students will see the subjects Christianly.  This idea is commonly called biblical integration. 

Challenge Number 1: In order for the students to view the subjects in a Christianly manner, teachers need to view the subjects Christianly.

Why is it that many schools set biblical integration goals?  Many schools ask teachers to write a certain number of biblically integrated lessons, include at least one integration point in every unit, or include a biblically integrated assessment in every unit.  These are all very good goals, but what is being implied by this kind of goal setting?  (And, what is being implied by the schools that do not have any integration goals?) I would wager that many teachers are being asked to set integration goals because they are not biblically integrating.  They are not helping students interpret the subjects using a biblical perspective.  I would even wager that that has to do more with the fact that many teachers themselves do not view the subjects they teach biblically than a lack of time to “cover all the material” with biblical integration points. 

If this is the case, and teachers do not view their subjects biblically, then it can be very difficult to fulfill the school’s mission or vision to have students learn from and/or develop a Christian worldview.  I do not believe that this disconnect occurs because Christian schools are not hiring solid Christian teachers.  In my experience, Christian school teachers know what the Bible says.  The difficult part has been for teachers to see and take the biblical principles they know and apply them to the subjects they teach. 

For instance, the Bible does not specifically address issues like tides, ecosystems, grammar, fractions, and population policies, but it does have biblical principles that correlate.  For many of us in Christian education, we were not brought up to view everything like tides, ecosystems, etc. in a biblical way; we have not been trained to think that way, and often, we don’t know how to go about developing that mindset.

Christians’ Number 1 Mandate: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  Matthew 22:37

In order for our students to think biblically and critically, we must learn to think biblically and critically.  In most school systems, state and national standards are designed to list what students should learn by certain grades.  Christian education strives to take learning a step further and challenges students about how to think.  For example, students not only learn what tides are, but how they have been designed by an intelligent Creator (the ultimate life-giver) to oxygenate the ocean in order for life to exist in the ocean.  He does so for His own enjoyment as well as ours.  Students not only learn that some countries, like China and India, struggle with over- population issues, but how one’s worldview, one’s perspective on the sanctity of life, affects the kinds of laws that will be created in these countries.  Recognizing that man does not invent math but discovers it affects how one views numbers, their use, and their purpose.  A Christian perspective is a worldview that can give an answer to the why questions.  Why should we “go green”?  It is not that we want to save the planet for the planet’s sake; we have a mandate to care for the Earth.  This is a mandate given for our best interest, and we respond out of obedience.

It is my belief that Jesus Christ can change the world.  Christian education is, or should be, about that as well.  A colleague of mine asked why every Christian school teacher was not invested in teaching from a biblical perspective.  There are multiple reasons, and these reasons may affect how a teacher goes about becoming invested.  A few common reasons are listed below:

1.  Teachers may not understand what Christian education is.
2.  Teachers may be unfamiliar with the mission and vision of the school they work for, or how to incorporate the mission or vision into the classroom on a practical level.
3.  Teachers may not be aware that they think secularly about their subjects.
4.  Teachers may know they think secularly, but not know how to develop Christian thinking about their subjects.
5.  Teachers are concerned about the time it will take to develop biblical thinking.
6.  Teachers are concerned with how much time it will take to integrate biblical ideas into their lessons; it may take away from time to “cover the material.”
7.  Teachers don’t care, and have no interest in developing biblical thinking or biblically integrating.

Challenge Number 2: If you do not think biblically and critically about your subject, do something about it.

The nice thing about taking time to develop biblical thinking is that once you start to see things biblically, you see much more of the big picture, it becomes more natural, and it takes a little less time to actually find the integration points in future units and lessons. 

There are many practical things that teachers can do to think more critically and biblically as well as teach more biblically and critically.

1.  Pray. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can understand the things of God, which include the works of His hands (Science, Social Studies, Math, Language, Music, etc.).
2.  Read. There are a lot of great resources specifically focused on Christian worldview, other worldviews, and biblical thinking.  A few outstanding resources include J.P. Moreland’s Love the Lord Your God with all Your Mind, James Sire’s The Universe Next Door, Darrow Miller’s Discipling Nations, Nancy Percy’s Total Truth, and C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.
3.  Think.  Take the time to actually think about the units and lessons from a heavenly perspective.  What does the unit/lesson tell you about the character or nature of God, creation, mankind, moral order, and/or purpose?  The more principles you see, the more likely you will be to implement these principles, which increase the students’ ability to see Truth.  Those interested in more practical tools, worksheets, and ideas on biblical integration should go to www.biblicalintegrationideas.com, www.closethegapnow.org,or www.transformingteachers.org.
4.  Implement. You may not integrate biblical thinking into every lesson, but bear in mind, the more you implement, the more the students will be challenged to see and think biblically.  Students are likely to see less than you teach.  So, statistically speaking, you need to integrate more than you actually want the students to know or retain.

Christian education is not the job for everyone.  It is a wonderful way, however, for those who want to impact the world for Christ to do so.  For those that don’t feel equipped to do this well, there are resources that can help.  For those not interested, perhaps a secular position would be more appropriate.  I must warn you, though, once you see God at work, once you see His hand in science, math, social studies, etc., you will never see or be the same again.  May God be glorified in our classrooms.

Deborah Carpenter is the Middle School Math and Science Teacher at Highlands International School in La Paz, Bolivia.
Feel free to contact Deborah at carpentertwins@hotmail.com.
 

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