What is the purpose of curriculum in the Christian school? Is it “a body of knowledge to be transmitted (as ‘information’) by the teacher to the student” or as “the formation of character, or the getting of wisdom?” This key question is raised by Doug Blomberg in his newly released book, Wisdom and Curriculum: Christian Schooling After Postmodernity (available from Dordt Press.) He argues effectively that “academic excellence is only one of the excellences to be pursued, the academic disciplines only one kind of contributor to full-orbed discipleship.” I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment, yet the nagging question that came to my mind as I read this was: “How in an age of increased accountability, standards, and government oversight can we as Christian schools break out of the boxes we find ourselves in and focus more on wisdom through Blomberg’s model of play, problem posing, and purposeful response?”
There is no question that, to the degree that Christian schools are primarily focused on knowing as primary vs. wisdom as primary, we are both losing kids’ interest, but more importantly, not meeting the missions of our schools. In today’s technological age, knowledge has never been more readily available at our fingertips, but wisdom and living the truth of Jesus Christ is more elusive, yet is what kids really need. Blomberg wonders: “How would schools be organized differently if they were for the getting of wisdom in its various modes?” This is a terrific question that needs to be pondered by all Christian school faculties.
Too often we let our current structures dictate our course of action:
- We really would like to have a more personal relationship with students at high school, but don’t want to put the work into restructuring our factory model into smaller schools within schools where teachers connect with smaller numbers of kids over a longer period of time. What are we valuing?
- We really would like to have more time to talk about student spiritual development at parent teacher conferences, but instead settle for a three-minute one-way monologue with parents because we have to “cover the curriculum” and can’t spare the instructional time. What are we valuing?
- We really would like to encourage faith formation, but feel more comfortable grading neatness and work habits than thinking of creative ways to recognize demonstrated fruits of the Spirits in kids and encouraging them on their spiritual journey. What are we valuing?
- We really would like to work more closely with parents and churches with faith formation of kids, yet won’t set aside the time to figure out how we could communicate or work together. What are we valuing?
Blomberg does a great job of getting us to consider whether at the core of our schools we are valuing disciplines or disciples. He notes that while disciplines “concern subject matter, the latter requires being subject to the Master. A strength of the Christian school is that it is not neutral with respect to values, that it has a stake in the formation of character, in the forming of its students more and more daily in the image of their Redeemer, who is Wisdom incarnate. It proclaims the values of the gospel, that the goal is a life of service rather than success. The Christian school should seek to embody a different model of excellence from that which is dominant in schooling. ‘Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’ (Galatians 5:22) – are there any excellences greater than these?”