Friday, May 05, 2006

Christian Education

One of the more influential trends in evangelicalism in the last decade has arguably been Christian schooling-be it homeschooling or private Christian schools. In an article titled, “Confessing our Weaknesses,” World Magazine founder Joel Betz notes some of the failings and shortcomings that exist is Christian education. He remarks it is important to examine these, especially as Christian education has largely received a pass on critique due to its own foundation as an alternative to “failing” secular education. It seems sometimes that if something has the label “Christian” on it and is a response to secular culture, it is immune to most scrutiny.

Belz provides a short list of such critiques and two of them especially caught my eye.

2. In our support and development of textbooks and curriculum for our new programs, we have sometimes backed materials that were just as propagandistic on our side of issues as were the materials that so infuriated us from the secular side.

3. We have too often offered parents nothing more than a "cleaned up" version of secularism. We've removed the ugly parts, but the product we've offered hasn't always been thoughtfully Christian—even though that's what we said we were offering and what we charged tuition for.

These, I believe, are two very trenchant remarks. They speak to a cycle of education theory that has probably not received enough deep thought: Christians complain of secular indoctrination and poor academic standards in public schools, and react with their own form of indoctrination and artificially propped up academic standards.

Indoctrination does not produce deeply rooted disciples of Christ. And, in my opinion, there needs to be a great deal of good thought poured into what it means to teach pre-college academics from a Christian worldview. What does Math or History look like from a well-rounded Christian worldview? Do we just learn about Christian history or about history with tools from the Christian worldview?

Being involved with a study center ministry that offers college classes done from a Christian worldview, I am especially aware of the failure rates of Christians on secular campuses. A survey conducted by CCCU recently showed that over 99% of evangelical students attend non-CCCU institutions-that means they attend secular universities and colleges. Barna recently showed that between the ages of 18 and 30, 58% of evangelical students leave the church.

Wrapped up in those stats are plenty of students who have attended Christian schools or who have been homeschooled. These are no panaceas.

The solution is NOT to stop sending Christians to University; it is to learn how to mature and deepen the Christian lives of students before they get there.

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