Christian Philosophy of Education As we go through our day by day lives in a very secular world, I believe it is very easy to question ourselves as Christian educators. We ask ourselves if we are doing our jobs exactly to God’s calling. Are we striving to teach the truth? And with that, what is truth? According to Gaebelein in his book The Pattern of God’s Truth, “All truth is God’s truth. ” As educators we are called upon to cultivate “Christlike minds” (Moreland). This is quite the task, especially given our surrounding circumstances and constant secular environment.
Not only are we, as educators surrounded by this secularism, but our young, adolescent students are as well. So, how do we accomplish such as task of guiding these young minds to the truth? How can we lead them to have “Christlike minds? ” What should our philosophy on education be as a Christian educator? Well, we can start with the first and greatest commandment, “Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). This commandment, among other things, is a great place to start and feed off for all the elements of a Christian philosophy of education.
My personal understanding of the crucial elements of a Christian philosophy of education starts with love, and continues by teaching with grace and truth through both the teacher and the learner. Because human beings are made in the image of God (Graham), we also must be motivated and rejoice in this fact. We must keep in mind that all of our students are perfect in the way in which God has created them. Although, this also means each student will have different individual personalities and qualities that we must learn to love and embrace.
Therefore, the question is: what motivates each individual child; the question is not what motivates the class as a whole. Discovering these motivations of each individual student is part of a Christian educators calling. The students are always discriminating, choosing, and acting purposefully in order to maintain some kind of control over what is happening around them and to them. This pursuit is part of bearing God’s image, since He created us with the capacity to think and act like Him.
He has also given us (the teacher) the task of helping to manage and develop the creation. This is a huge role of a Christian educator. We should not expect each student to be perfect in our own eyes, for it is not our eyes that matter. We must put our trust and faith in the fact that every little piece about each child has a purpose and reason behind it. We, as Christian school teachers, need to learn to “love with all our heart… soul… and mind. ” In order to do this we must first have the Christlike mind in which Moreland speaks about in Love Your God With All Your Mind. The mind,” Moreland argues, “is the soul’s primary vehicle for making contact with God” (p. 67). Christians must nurture strong habits of the mind. As we step into our classrooms and our students enter closely behind us, we must remember that they are each God’s children, not just “subjects” (Graham). They are living perfect images of God. Of course we cannot look past the fact that each child is raised in a different home environment, which can create variation as well; although this must too be taken into consideration in the classroom.
Students should be viewed as individuals in the image of God who are thinkers, decision-makers and actors. They all have diverse intelligences, gifts, and emerging theories about the world. All of this begins as young as the kindergarten age level and we cannot look past this truth. At even such a young age, their special gifts, talents, and desires will begin to blossom and it is our job to help identify these and provide motivation for the children to continue to develop and thrive in these areas. Although, it is also important to remember that we are all fallen creatures.
All fallen creature includes these young minds and they should be seen with a need to develop comprehensive wholeness and integrity in order to reach their highest potential in all human ways, as well as the highest potential to God’s purpose for their lives. As Christian educators, we are called to promote and support learning in those areas. True teaching is a sharing of realities, likening the teaching process and weaving connections between their teachings and understandings themselves and the world around them.
If we do not make connections for the students to the world around them, many times these precious gifts graced upon them will be overlooked or passed by because the young minds may not be able to recognize them. Some areas of observation might be seen as open doors to see or perceive and understand something of God and His motion as reflected through the created world and the Bible. Other areas might be seen as open doors to respond, apply, express and practice in ways that are consistent with biblical values.
When these areas are discovered and embraced, many times they can address the major developmental needs in the spiritual, intellectual, physical, social, and emotional realms of the student’s life. Identifying these areas is helping the students begin their walk with the Lord and their own calling. The teaching-learning environment should be receptive to the nature of human nature as it was originally created in the image of God. This means it should acknowledge students as creatures of God (again, not simply as subjects in a room) by engaging and stimulating the full range of their gifts.
Teachers should seek to develop connections between different learning styles and motivations. Teachers should also strive to create understanding in their students of these beautiful differences. By differing teaching approaches, it will acknowledge and affirm the diversity of intelligences and gifts shared between the learners. It is important to accommodate to all the ways the Lord has provided, rather than limiting approaches to one or two. As Christian educators we should behave in an interactive manner with students remembering to function as facilitators and mentors.
It is important that the student is encouraged to make his/her own choices and appreciate as well as understand the consequences of those choices. When a student brings up a question it should be valued and addressed constructively and at any time possible biblically. With all these factors, we must go back to the main idea: love. Love the variety in your classroom. Christian schooling is partly identifiable by its use and views of biblical teachings that reflect on the role of the teacher, the nature of the learner, and the organization and atmosphere of the school.
In the book Teaching Redemptively by Donovan Graham, Graham gives scenarios of different “Christian” schools. Most Christian schools today are looked at and understood as very strict lawful environments. It is perceived that rules are created and standards are almost set so high as so no one will succeed. Many times rewards are given out for high grades. Privileges are based upon the ‘good works’ of the students. Students’ education only applies to the direct outcome of fill in the blanks and paperwork. This goes back to the idea that teachers must accommodate to all learning styles.
Not all students succeed in a pencil and paper environment. Graham, after giving his different “Christian” school setting scenarios, speaks of a grace-filled classroom where teachers model their humanity, struggles and triumphs that Christ has brought them. This again shows the importance of making connections from the classroom to the real world. Graham also believes that students that are taught to think actually, tend to live out Christianity. In other words, rather than a set of rules and systems, students are dealt with individually, and in Christ like fashion.
Students are given the freedom to make choices, yet they learn biblical consequences to those decisions. Reflecting on the previous paragraphs, this goes back to embracing each child as a child of God and as an individual. A school cannot expect each child to perform identically in the same fashion. A school cannot expect all children to be excellent at paper tests with simple recall of “facts. ” If a school expects this, then the school is not following what the Lord has called upon the educators to do.
Albert Greene, in his book Reclaiming the future of Christian Education, emphasizes that the facts taught in our schools should not be simply neutral but must be motivational. The facts should lead the student to a deepening awe for the Creator, to thanks, love and service to Him. A school that has a strict system, is a school that does not embrace God’s creations. According to the book Foundations of Christian School Education the Christian school should be concerned primarily with helping students become true disciples of Jesus Christ.
To do this, they must not only understand the gospel but must learn to see the created world in a way different from that of the culture around them. They must learn to embrace and love the differences. Christian schools should be places that teach, model, and apply the grace of the gospel. Many Christian schools teach the facts of the gospel from the beginning. And yet a gap often exists between what is taught and what should be modeled and applied. Christian schools should preach the grace of the gospel as well as model the law of the gospel. This falls in the educator’s hands.
It is important to understand first what grace really means and more importantly what it does not mean. Grace is the broad term for all that God does to save us. Grace is not a commodity and should never be thought of as so. It is a common misconception that grace might mean lenience or kindness. Lenience implies going easy on offenders, such as pardoning a thief. Unlike mercy, lenience is in the wrong. Kindness is what makes one happy, even if it is not best. Pampering and spoiling a child may be kindness but it is not grace. Often what is best for us makes us unhappy.
Sometimes grace must hurt. It hurts the giver as well as the receiver. Although we must remember grace is what is best. For us, Jesus suffered deeply throughout His life into His death. True grace produces people who work hard and sacrifice lovingly for each other. It also defines sin and goodness biblically, and defines those who see every day as a chance to build the kingdom of God. Each part of salvation is a grace, a gift. Love is a gift and forgiveness is a gift. And this all goes back to my understanding of what a Christian school teacher’s philosophy of education should rely on… love.
Grace in the classroom can be accomplished if we start with this great commandment: “Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). This commandment is the stepping stone for a successful biblical classroom environment. It is what separates a secular classroom from a God driven classroom. The essential elements of a Christian philosophy of education start with love, and continue by teaching with grace and truth through both the teacher and the learner.
Bibliography -Foundations of Christian School Education. Colorado Springs, CO: ACSI, 2003 -Love Your God With All Your Mind. J. P. Moreland. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1997. -Reclaiming the Future of Christian Education. Albert E. Greene. Colorado Springs, CO: ASCI, 1998. -Teaching Redemptively: Bringing Grace and Truth into Your Classroom. Donovan Graham. Colorado Springs, CO: ACSI, 2004. -The Pattern of God’s Truth. Frank Gaebelien. Colorado Springs, CO: ACSI, 1997.