Thursday, November 22, 2012

Foundations of Christian School Education

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Foundations of Christian School Education is an excellent and essential book to develop a philosophy of Christian education, which is a crucial undertaking for every Christian educator.  This book explores a diversity of perspectives on Christian education and teaching and was written by many authors with a wide variety of experiences and viewpoints of Christian education.  Foundations of Christian School Education was edited by James Braley, Jack Layman, and Ray White and has contributions by over 16 other authors, providing a myriad of insights on Christian education.

Foundations of Christian School Education begins by exploring Biblical and philosophical foundations of Christian Education.  This first section has the same title as its subject matter, Biblical and Philosophical Foundations.  In this first section of the book there is an important introduction to philosophy by Paul Spears, Introduction to Philosophy, which sets the stage for exploring the need and the function of a Christian philosophy of education. Next, Jack Layman looks at the Early History of Educational Philosophy, which lays the groundwork for correctly thinking about education from an accurate historical perspective.  Then, Jack Layman explores Modern Educational Philosophies, which have shaped educators and education, as we know it.  From here, Kenneth O. Gangel constructs the groundwork for Biblical foundations of education in Biblical Foundations of Education.  In conclusion of the first section of the book, Richard J. Edlin navigates us through Core Beliefs and Values of a Christian Philosophy of Education.

In looking more closely at the first part of the first section, an Introduction to Philosophy, we see the foundation of a Christian school education is the truth of Jesus Christ and His Word.  The importance of this solid foundation in Christian education cannot be over emphasized.  In the beginning of Foundations of Christian School Education, this is clearly stated, “We must identify our core beliefs and values, and we must reiterate our philosophical and biblical foundations (p. 1).”  It is this Biblical foundation that sets the Christian school apart and makes Christian education different from other philosophies of education.

Paul Spears notes the importance of having and understanding a philosophy of education in chapter one, Introduction to Philosophy, when he says, “Ideas about education are grounded in foundational beliefs that construct how humans interact with reality.”  Our worldview shapes what we believe, how we live our lives and how we teach. As stated at the beginning of chapter one, “Philosophy examines what underlying commitments we make regarding our beliefs and how our views come to be understood as knowledge, the concepts that form our worldview (p. 5).”

While many Christians resist the idea of philosophy and see it as contrary to scripture, taking Colossians 2:8 out of context, it is invaluable to develop and maintain a Christian Philosophy of education.  Christianity, as Paul Spears points out in Chapter one, deals with major life topics, questions and issues surrounding and including metaphysics, logic, aesthetics, ethics, and epistemology. Biblical truth addresses these philosophical topics and they are not contrary to what we believe as Christians and what we should teach as Christian educators. As is stated at the close of chapter one, “We as educators endeavor to teach our students truth, and philosophy endeavors to equip us with the proper tools to do so (p. 15).”

The second section of Foundations of Christian School Education, Psychological Foundations, addresses human growth and development and the way this shapes the learner and forms the tactics and methodologies of the educator.  Gloria Goris Stronks begins the first section of Psychological Foundations by examining The Nature of the Learner.  Barbara Bode follows up with The Nature of Learning.  Next, W. Philip Bassett and Eddie K. Baumann look at the all-important topic of Teaching Methodologies.  Section two of the book concludes with The Teacher, by Ellen Lowrie Black, and investigates the multitude of important roles that the teacher plays in education.  These roles include spiritual leadership, Biblical role model, reflection of Christ, mentor, and academic leader.  This vital chapter concludes by stressing the importance of a commitment to learning, the characteristics of effective teachers and the very helpful section listing the common mistakes of beginning teachers.

In the chapter on Teaching Methodologies, Philip Bassett and Eddie K. Baumann look at the all-important topic of teaching methods.  In this chapter the authors stress the importance of varying teaching techniques and methods and not using “the same tool” for every “job,” but the “right tool for the right job.”  The authors say, “Like good carpenters, expert teachers possess a number of tools, are competent in their use, and select those that are best designed for the particular tasks that need to be accomplished (p. 141).”

The third section of Foundations of Christian School Education, Instructional Foundations, looks at the process of teaching through looking at teaching philosophy.  In the chapter on Instructional Philosophy, by Marti MacCullough, teaching philosophy is the focus.  Curriculum is the main topic in the chapter on Understanding Curriculum Design, by Harro Van Brummelen.  Assessments are addressed in the chapter called Christian School Assessment: Philosophy and Practice chapter, by Timothy L Heaton and Brian Coon.  Character development is the topic of focus in the chapter on Moral and Character Development, by Milton V. Uecker.  And lastly, discipline is addressed in the chapter Discipline: Philosophy and Practice, by Jerry L Haddock.

In the chapter on Moral and Character Development, by Milton V. Uecker, the important issue of morality and character, which is often neglected by other philosophies of education, is addressed with some detail.  As Christian educators, we are to make a commitment to the goal of spiritual formation in our students.  It is not enough to stop at conversion.  The Christian must be growing and developing in his or her relationship with Christ and this includes moral and character development.  As stated in this chapter, “For the Christian school, moral and character education is inseparable from spiritual formation.  The goal of Biblical instruction is always a changed learner (p. 224).”  Milton V. Uecker also makes the case that we must understand affective development, articulate affective standards, describe character, create a caring community, provide a moral community, allow opportunity for moral action, make learning meaningful, facilitate critical thinking, provide time for personal growth, and consistently evaluate character education in our schools.

The fourth and last section of Foundations of Christian School Education, Cultural and Sociological Foundations, considers education from a cultural and sociological perspective.  The first chapter in this section, Understanding Cultural Context, by Daniel J. Egeler, stresses the need to understand the cultural contexts of education.  In the next part of section four, Exceptional Students in Christian Schools, by Sharon R. Berry, the very important topic of addressing students with disabilities and special needs is discussed with solid details and suggestions for accommodations and aid.  Berry stresses our responsibility as Christian Educators to these students.  In Urban Schools: A Christian Philosophy That Impacts Culture, by Vernard T. Grant, Grant looks at urbanization, poverty, and economics, which shape and effect education in the “urban environment.”  Next, Philip M. Renicks considers international schools in International Christian Schools.  In the last part of the fourth section, James W. Braley looks at Training World Christians

In the second to the last chapter of Foundations of Christian School Education, International Christian Schools, Philip M. Renicks looks at international Christian schools and the benefits they promote through offering schooling to missionary kids abroad.  This rich history of schooling is over 150 years old and has provided missionaries the opportunity to keep their families together while in the field.  As mentioned in the chapter, “[The] vision for keeping missionaries’ children on the field cannot be over emphasized (p. 310).”  Also in this segment, Renicks talks about the international Christian school whose primary goal is serving the international community.  “The international Christian school is often found in major cities that have a large concentration of international families (p. 311).”  The chapter concludes with an emphasis on the value of faith-based education stating, “Faith-based education has become an effective tool for reaching other cultures for Christ (p. 313).”

The last chapter of Foundations of Christian School Education, Training World Christians, by James W. Braley, closes by summing up the purpose of the book and “four important foundations for Christian school education—philosophical, psychological, instructional, and cultural/sociological—all built on the foundation of Jesus Christ and God’s truth (p. 319).”  Braley asserts that most Christian schools can develop “self-centered believers” (p. 320), but the task at hand is to develop “World Christians” and not “Worldly Christians.”  “[This] is an awesome task, but the Christian school is in the position of presenting ministry in such a way that the Holy Spirit can reach into the hearts and lives of young Christians and call them to a life of service.  It is the Christian school’s spiritual mandate and challenge (p. 330).”

Foundations of Christian School Education is a great read, especially for teachers just starting out in Christian education who are developing a philosophy of Christian education.  This book comes highly recommended and is a very practical tool to work on both hard skills for teaching as well as the philosophical, psychological, instructional and cultural/sociological aspects of Christian education.

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1 comment:

  1. In 1992 I had to take an upper division writing class for graduation at Southern University. I chose one in Origins. One of our little texts was on Creation. In it there were 10 theories of Creation listed. Why were they listed? Because enough people considered each one of them valid and that was THEIR explanation for what was written in the Genesis story and what was seen as one observed the earth. Being a Creationist is just as complicated as being an Evolutionist