by Kim Aasland (December 2017)
I am a big believer in Christian schools. I myself came to know the Lord at a Christian school as a high school junior, having had very little prior exposure to the gospel before that time. My children have all attended Christian schools and I have only taught at Christian Schools. My commitment to this form of education springs directly from my educational philosophy, which I will describe in this paper. I believe that education should be God-glorifying, inspiring, creative, empowering, focused on the whole child and celebrating the global nature of the gospel.
First of all, education should be God-glorifying. So many educational philosophies are based on an existential or at best agnostic point of view. Of course, public schools have no freedom to talk about God. However, unless people are in a right relationship with God, their learning will be blocked on one or more levels. If they don’t acknowledge God as the source of truth, then their knowledge of what is true will be in some ways always be incomplete. Christian schools offer the amazing opportunity for biblical integration, through helping students with “ connecting and contrasting all knowledge to their biblical worldview, the integrating core out of which and integrated Christian will think and act “(MacCullough 30). Teachers in Christian schools actually get to spend way more time with students each week than youth pastors. Thus we have a much greater opportunity to help students learn to trust in God and walk with Him by integrating the Bible into what we teach and by demonstrating faith in how we live. The greatest gift we can give another human is to help them come to know the Lord and grow in their relationship with Him. Thus, in order for education to be truly effective, I believe it must be God-glorifying.
Secondly, I believe that education should be inspiring. What I mean by this is that teachers should develop and promote a love of learning in their students. As I teach, I constantly have this question in my mind: “Why should I care?” This is not my question, but the question that I know my students are asking themselves. I work hard to bring connections of world history to the students daily lives so that they can be inspired to see how learning history will help them create a better future for themselves and others. Thus I do have some aspects of Progressivism or Constructivism that I follow. I believe that “ Learning is rooted in the questions of learners that arise through experiencing the world. It is active, not passive” (hccs.edu). Students who care about what they are learning and can make the connections with their own lives will become lifelong learners.
Thirdly, I also believe that education should be creative. God Himself is the Creator all and we are made in his image; thus I believe our creativity is an aspect given to us by Him. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them” (Gen 1: 27a). We all have had the experience of involving ourselves in a project and bringing our own creative process to it which make that experience so memorable and meaningful. As C.S. Lewis writes, ““We do not want merely to see beauty… we want something else which can hardly be put into words- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” When students can involve themselves in their learning through creative means such as acting, drawing, retelling, art, etc. they are not only more likely to remember what they have learned, but also more likely to care about it. Donovan Graham writes of education as being a creative process in his Teaching Redemptively because he sees learners as image bearers. “We form ideas and make things out of what God has created, placing value judgements on what we have created” (89). If we bear the image of God, we will desire to create, and that desire to create will help our students to learn.
Fourthly, I believe education should be empowering. What I mean by this is that my teaching should empower students to own their education and to learn how to learn. In this 21st century world, the rote memorization and repetition of facts of Essentialism is no longer a helpful paradigm. The reality of the era we live it is that students can and do look up all manner of facts on the internet with ease and sophistication. Thus, the memorization of specific data is no longer nearly as essential as is the ability to assess sources of data, analyze quality of data and to think critically about the content of materials. I am very happy, thus, to work for Judson School which focuses on Knowledge, Understanding and Wisdom (judsonschool.org). For this topic, I think the concept of understanding through critical thinking is particularly important. Teaching students through “real books” as opposed to textbooks, another Judson value, enables them to learn to wrestle directly with an author’s words and thoughts to come to their own conclusions and convictions, rather than memorizing those of the author of a textbook. As believers, we must be empowered to sift through what comes our way, and hold on to what is good, like the Bereans who “were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). This will not only promote understand and ownership of learning, but will also provide students with lifelong tools for guarding their hearts in Christ and being discerning about the philosophies of the world.
Fifthly, I believe that education should be focused on the whole child. Jesus Himself told us that the most important goal is to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ (Luke 10:27). Thus it is clear that the mind is not the only aspect of being human that God cares about. He also cares about our hearts, our souls and our bodies. To focus on the mind only, in my opinion, is to elevate the human mind above all other aspects of being human, and thus is almost a form of Humanism. Clearly, biblical teaching places a great deal of emphasis on a person’s heart and soul and body as well as their mind. I think that in an effort to answer the Enlightenment, the church has veered to far into trying to make biblical learning “scientific” to the detriment of focusing on caring for the condition of our hearts and souls. I also have concerns about Gnostic tendencies in the church today, in which people seem to think a salvation prayer is a ticket to heaven and thus they can do whatever they want with their bodies. I do believe that focusing on the whole child is essential to Christian education to combat the negative aspects of humanism, enlightenment and gnosticism.
Finally, I believe that education should be focus on the global nature of the gospel. In the book of Revelations, John saw “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev 7:9). The gospel is for all peoples, and thus it is essential that education focus on celebrating and ministering to every culture. I believe that unique aspects of God’s character are reflected in every culture and thus it is very important that we are good cross-cultural learners. Furthermore, if the gospel is to go forth, we must learn to relate to cultures other than our own. Judson provides an ideal setting for this in that students are daily with people from other cultures and backgrounds. It is important as a teacher that I draw on this background and celebrate it, asking students to speak about their own cultures in light of what we are learning in history and to think about how it relates to them and others. Given the groanings of the world today in terms of terrorism and hate crimes, we as Christians should be known by our love. Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
My educational philosophy is very much based on my faith in Christ. Because I am a follower of Jesus, I believe that education must be God-glorifying. I am called to inspire my students. As one created in the image of God, I must be creative and encourage my students in their creativity. As a believer, it is important for me to empower others to discern truth. I want to focus not only on students’ minds but also on their hearts and souls. Finally, as one who is part of the global community of Christ followers I believe that my teaching should encourage students to respect, honor and enjoy other cultures.
“Best Private School In Pasadena, CA.” Judson International School, www.judsonschool.org/.
“Educational Philosophies Definitions and Comparison Chart.” Hccs.edu, Educational Philosophies Definitions and Comparison Chart.
Graham, Donovan L. Teaching Redemptively: Bringing Grace and Truth into Your Classroom. Purposeful Design Publications, 2009.
Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2007.
Lewis, C. S. The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. Eerdmans, 1972.
MacCullough, Martha E. Undivided: Developing a Worldview Approach to Biblical Integration. Purposeful Design Publications, 2016.