The Character of Education- October 25, 2013

Over the next few months Richie will be expanding on why we must embrace Christian education as a non-negotiable.  In this article, I bring a perspective on how we are to think differently about education than the world does.

A group of business people agreed to be surveyed about the strengths and weaknesses of their community.  The responses varied greatly and while some identified a specific area as a strength there were others that identified the very same area as a weakness.  In the end, each person was asked to identify the top two segments and the bottom two segments of their community.  I found it very interesting that the greatest consensus among the group was in the best and worst of their community.  As a group they identified the quality of life they enjoy as the best while their local education system was deemed the worst.

The concern from this group is that their local education system is not developing a skilled and knowledgeable workforce which would attract potential employers to the area and create economic development.  However, as they drilled down to the needs of employers it became apparent that knowledge and technical skills are a second tier concern.  The first tier is comprised of characteristics like work ethic, honesty and showing up on time.

What do these observations have to do with who we are as followers of Christ?  Let’s consider this question from three perspectives. 

First, the ultimate objective of education for the Christian is not acquiring knowledge and skills so we can all get a good job and make the economy work.  R. L. Dabney said “Education is the nurture and development of the whole man for his proper end.  That end must be conceived rightly in order to understand the process, and even man’s earthly end is predominantly moral.”  Dabney is teaching us that man’s end and therefore his education must be related to the glory of God.  The Westminster Confession of Faith teaches this same truth:  The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  Our teaching and our learning is to the glory of God.  When we teach with the glory of God and a proper world view in mind; work ethic, honesty, the conviction to show up on time and yes, technical skills and knowledge will follow.  These are the fruit of our mission to glorify God.  Thus secular education will never completely meet the expectations of the marketplace which leads to our next point.

Christian parents must own the education of their children.  They must take responsibility for their children’s education. Whether parents elect to educate their children through home education, private education or public education it is the responsibility of the parents to educate their children.  I am not arguing for one method over another here; however, each comes with its own challenges. It is not the responsibility of the state or any other institution to educate our children - it is ours.  This means parents must be engaged, taking their responsibility seriously, teaching, reviewing and helping with homework, providing accountability, encouraging their children toward discipline.  As the God appointed authority over our children, parents are the most influential people in their lives.  Therefore, we must connect all learning in the lives of our children to the glory of God. If parents abdicate their responsibility to educate their children I am certain someone else will take over.  Douglas Wilson writes in The Case for Classical Christian Education: “God is our life.  In Him we live and move and have our being.  If He had not created the world, we would not be here (and hence could not do our math).  If He had not created the world, there would be no oranges, and hence we could not discover that two oranges plus two oranges make four of them.  The fact that the scriptures are the center of all Christian education does not mean that the students and teacher walk around the classroom two inches above the floor with a strange luminosity surrounding their heads.  It means that the students are learning how to present their bodies, brains and all, math puzzles in them and everything, as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God.  Such an approach to education is surprisingly earthy, and yet the earthiness is not pointless, as it is in a secularist context.”

Lastly, as followers of Christ, education is not a destination but rather it is a lifelong pursuit.  We are to be lifelong learners and this does not mean we are merely acquiring knowledge along the way. Unfortunately, some of us are good at learning the words without ever learning the tune.  We must guard against the temptation of learning the lingo without personalizing the meaning; reciting bible verses without living them out.  As we have studied recently knowledge is a virtue to be desired. We do not acquire this knowledge to simply catalogue it away but rather that it may change us and others for the glory of God. 

Let us see education as much more than a means to get a job.  Let us fulfill our role as parents in the education of our children.  Let us all be lifelong learners.  God will be glorified in this!


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