(This post is part of a series – let me encourage you to read the previous posts that precede this post for helpful context – scroll down to view #1 & #2.)
What most influences the Christian school when constructing a curriculum? Is it state or provincial standards? The recommendations of national discipline area groups or cross-continental professional groups such as ASCD or NSDC? Is it what is readily available from Christian textbook publishers? Or do schools start from their mission, consider what they know about the learners of today, and reflect on how to instill the characteristics described in the Through Lines in the previous post and a wisdom about the purpose of life that is “foolish” by this world’s standards?
I would submit that most times Christian schools are pressed with many other needs and that due to lack of knowledge, will, expertise, or simply time, there is not sufficient energy given to the construction of Christian curriculum that leads students toward wisdom. Schools who choose the secular curriculum/standards route run the risk of not defining the intent of the information for the learner and refining down the amount of material expected to be taught. I have worked with many schools to help them consider and determine what are the most significant student learning outcomes and then to incorporate Essential Questions that deal with those concepts and lead students toward Biblical wisdom. Much work needs to be done as this approach requires deep understanding by teachers of the mission of the school, and time to work on curriculum refinement and assessment building. Schools that choose the Christian textbook route run the risk of not developing a deep understanding by teachers of the outcomes and in some cases the Christian learning outcomes are tacked on and superficial.
One of the problems we face in Christian schools is that we have inherited or co-opted a public school approach to curriculum that separates knowledge into boxes. In a new and thought-provoking book entitled Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education, Stratford Caldecott points out that we have accepted a dualistic way of thinking and living: “The divisions between arts and sciences, between faith and reason, nature and grace, have a common root. In particular, our struggle to reconcile religious faith with modern science is symptomatic of a failure to understand the full scope of human reason and its true grandeur…the fragmentation of education into disciplines teaches us that the world is made of bits we can use and consume as we choose. This fragmentation is a denial of ultimate meaning.” (pages 12, 17) He suggests that the key to meaning is the re-enchantment of education through which we see the beauty, purpose and design of the cosmos, indeed a search for the Logos – the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, in whom all things cohere. (Colossians 1:16,17). Knowledge for its own sake or to glorify man is misdirected and God-denying. True education toward wisdom starts with the Creator and is incomplete if it does not have a spiritual foundation that reveals who is to be praised and honored for this beauty. Thus we must continually bring the unity of Christ back to a discipline based structure in many of our schools. How are we training youth to approach all learning in ways that reveal the unity of all things through Christ? How should we go about this task? Are there better ways than others?