Written by Mr. Triemstra, on June 4, 2021
Why Christian Education – Part 3
In the last blog post I folded Christian practices and deeply learning the Christian story together because attending to scripture is an essential Christian practice. The 16th century church reformer John Calvin used the metaphor of spectacles, glasses, to refer to scripture. Wearing glasses clarifies what the world around you looks like. Knowing the story of scripture gives clarity about what this world is, who made it, what our relationship to the creator is, what our relationship to the creation is, how we should live in this world and where things are going. In other words knowing the story of the Bible makes all the difference. Students need to know that the story of the Bible is relevant to all of our personal and communal living.
If knowing the story of the Bible makes all the difference, it should not surprise us that it changes the way we a) perceive the subjects we are teaching and learning and b) do teaching and learning. In other words it affects the content and perspective of the subjects we teach and the pedagogical practices we use. I will give an example for both. In Geography we come at the subject matter from the perspective of wonder at the diversity of physical and cultural variety that is present in God’s very good creation. It is marvelous to explore the various land forms, the flora the fauna and the incredible cultural variety present in the world. We celebrate this with our students and give praise to God for it. We also discover the brokenness of creation. We see the effects of human sin on the physical world in sometimes shocking environmental destruction often due to human ignorance, but also due to greed. We see the effects of human sin in cultural expressions and patterns. We begin to imagine how it could be different if we collectively lived in the manner Jesus would have us live.
We can refer to a Christian perspective of a subject matter, but it is much harder to talk about a distinctly Christian pedagogy. Still, Christian teachers should be able to discern if certain teaching practices, pedagogies, are consistent with the Biblical story. For example, there is an approach to education (never used in kindergarten by the way – and that should tell us something) that views the child as an empty vessel in which content is poured into. This is problematic for two basic reasons: it assumes that children come to us empty and it assumes that children are merely rational creations – brains on a stick- rather than emotive, affective and worshipping creatures.
Instead look at the approach taken in the Christian curriculum we use in the junior grades.
The teacher will lead the children in delighting about a particular aspect of creation, will investigate it, will give by engaging in activities that show care for it and will be still in wonder that God made it and demonstrated his love for creation in its createdness and in his redemption in Jesus. Even though this pedagogy was designed by Christians one could imagine it being used by teachers with a wide spectrum of belief systems. Nevertheless, this is a pedagogy consistent with a Christian understanding of creation and the child.