While I was employed at a Christian school, I wrote a philosophy of Christian education. I’m happy to share it with you here, but please keep in mind that it is written from the perspective of one employed at a Christian school. It is not meant to advocate for the installation of Christian values or philosophies in secular schools. I have also made minor updates and edits since I originally wrote it in order to further clarify some of my thoughts.
Philosophy of Christian Education
As Christian educators our goal is to prepare students to hear and respond to the “still, small voice” of God. 1 Our job revolves around applying methodology and utilizing curriculum which enables to do so. Along the way, we must heed the words of Colossians 2:8, which warns believers not to be taken captive by “hollow and deceptive philosophy which [is dependant] on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” This paper discusses the six core values2 of a Biblical philosophy of education and my personal application this philosophy in the library media center.
Core Value 1: Centrality of the Bible
A simple definition of education is “the act or process of acquiring knowledge.”3 For Christians, Ultimate Knowledge and Ultimate Truth resides in God’s Word and in thefact that Absolute and Universal Truth became flesh among us (Hebrews 1:1).4 We consider the Bible to be the authoritative source for all Truth and instruction (2 Timothy 3:16). Though the Bible may not give factual knowledge about every subject taught in schools, it is the “framework of all inquiry”5 in that it provides principles and guidelines for our entire lives- including our intellectual and educational lives. It also shows us how subjects like math, science, and the arts fit into the world God created.5 In fact, the Bible allows us to see that nature reflects His character, and students can learn more about God by learning about His creation. 7
However, despite the fact that creation displays God’s characteristics and the fact that people sometimes receive divine revelation directly from the Lord or from other believers, a lot of what we know about God comes from the Bible- a book. Without adequate reading and comprehension skills, believers are left with one less means by which to discover who God is.8
Core Value 2: A Biblical Worldview
Christian educators recognize that learning is not independent of faith or a belief system. What we (and our students) believe or do not believe (our worldview) influences the way in which we learn and interpret knowledge. It is extremely important that Christian educators “critique our worldview in the light of Scripture to ensure that God’s revelation, not our cultural prejudices, is at the root of our worldview and educational foundation”.9 Perhaps even more importantly, we must teach our students to do the same or we risk implying that knowledge and faith can be mutually exclusive and cannot be integrated. They must understand that there are no “secular/sacred dichotomies.”10
This kind of critical thinking is a Biblical imperative.11 In fact, Jesus Himself says in Mark 12:30 that it is the most important command in all of the Bible: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (emphasis mine). By applying critical thinking to our learning experiences, we (and our students) are obeying God’s commands and thereby committing an act of worship.12
Core Value 3: The Importance of Parents
God has placed a great responsibility in the hands of Christian educators. However, the ultimate responsibility for educating a child lies with the parents. Christian schools partner with parents to assist them in this responsibility and should make every effort to encourage parental involvement and walk side-by-side with parents as they seek to give their students a Christian education.13
Some secular philosophies of education discourage parental involvement. For example, public school librarians are often bound by state privacy laws which prohibit them from telling a parent which book(s) their child has checked out from the library. A librarian in a Christian school is likely not subject to such laws, but may feel like she is violating professional ethics if she allows parental access to circulation records. There is no easy answer in this situation, and Christian school librarians must work in accordance with their schools to create policies which allow for both student privacy and parental involvement.
Core Value 4: The Importance of Teachers
At the heart of a Christian school are its educators. Most educators are gifted people with a passion for learning, teaching, and demonstrating the love of God to students. However, we are also humans and sinners. Our worldviews are not always necessarily Biblical. We don’t always have the right answers. We, like our students, need time and space to learn and grow. An educational philosophy in which schools ask their teachers and administrators to commit to personal and professional growth and give them ample time to do so (professional development) allows for the intentional development of Biblical worldviews.14
It is also crucial for teachers to receive professional growth and guidance from their administration in order that all staff are on the same page in terms of their school’s own philosophy of education. Widely differing philosophies of education between teacher and school could result in a lower perception of effectiveness by teachers, administration, and/or parents. At worst, extreme differences in philosophies may be so blatant that students may pick up on the discord and perceive it as a lack of unity or lack of authority.
Core Value 5: Nurture in the Christian School
A Christian school educator has the responsibility to nurture students by helping them develop community and their God-given gifts and talents. However, although children are made in the image of God, like their teachers, they are also “deeply scarred by the Fall and impacted by sin.”15 A nurturing Christian school environment takes this into consideration and structures its instruction, physical environment, and discipline around this reality.
A nurturing educational environment takes into consideration the wide variety of learning styles and multiple intelligences that students possess. The teaching styles and methodology of Christian school educators should reflect those differences. Since Jesus was the ultimate Teacher, we can look to him for clues to effective teaching methodology.
Jesus was not a one-style-fits-all teacher. He varied his approach and delivery. He often used metaphors to describe Himself and His character (“I am…”; see John 6:47-51, John 8:12, John 10:9-12 John 14:5-7, and John 15:1,4).16 He also used similes (“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed,” Matthew 13:31), analogies and parables17. This does not necessarily mean our teaching must always include the use of literary devices. Rather, like Jesus, we should take the time to adapt the way we teach to the situation, the concept, and the audience.
Another way in which Christian educators can nurture our students is by practicing grace in the classroom. In Reclaiming the Future of Christian Education, Robert E. Green uses the term “hospitality” to describe grace given from teacher to student.18 Practicing grace and hospitality in a classroom does not mean that students experience a lack of discipline or consequences. Rather, the cultivation of classroom grace takes the form of a “free and fearless space where mental and emotional development can take place”19 [emphasis mine].
A fearless classroom is a classroom in which students are not afraid to fail or to take risks. They understand that there are consequences for their wayward behavior and academic shortcomings, but they understand that these consequences are in place in order to help them grow and develop, not merely punishment for punishment’s sake. In terms of taking risks, they are not afraid of ridicule from their teacher because their teacher demonstrates love and charity when they fail or are hesitant.
During the first year in my library, we instituted a policy which began as one of convenience, but unexpectedly became a sign of grace and hospitality to students. Students are required to pay ten cents per page when they print from the computer. We often had students print without any money and we would hold their papers until they found money or convinced a friend to loan it to them. I began to tire of the stacks of held papers that grew on my desk each day so we started “library tabs.” We allowed students to print their papers without money, but kept a “tab” and required them to pay us back by the end of the year. As students became aware of this policy, we received many grateful responses from students. They were no longer scared of “mean librarians” who withheld their homework because they literally didn’t have a dime. We also saw a decrease in the numbers of students who stole papers without paying for them. They responded to grace by becoming more righteous.
Core Value 6: Responsive Discipleship
“Graduates from Christian schools are their schools’ living report cards.”20 A successful Christian school is one that produces students who desire to and are prepared to live out the Great Commission of making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). In order to make disciples of the people of our world, students must be able to identify and understand “false perspectives. Only then will our students be able to speak coherently with people who are wedded to those false views and lead them toward the light.”21We cannot fall into the trap of sheltering students in order to “protect” them from non-Biblical perspectives. Rather, we must engage our students in conversations about what Truth is and how to dialogue with those who believe differently.
Engaging our students in this kind of conversation requires a curriculum allows us to do so. When curriculum is effectively structured, students understand that our world demonstrates God’s glory, and they are both invited and motivated to “respond with their whole lives”22 which includes evangelism and the sharing of their faith. Effective curriculum is guided by Biblical principles and “curriculum content and experiences should be chosen…[with consideration given to]… the relation of the Bible to the discipline.”23
Putting this into practice in the library starts by making available materials which present a variety perspectives. Undoubtedly, a Christian school library should contain a large amount of materials and resources written from a Christian perspective, but it should never be be made up of exclusively Christian resources and viewpoints. Such a library would be harmful to students by presenting them with a false reality of the world. The goal of a Christian school library should contain materials “which present both Christian and secular worldviews in a balanced manner, with the goal of using the secular materials to engage students in learning activities which ultimately lead to the discovery of Biblical Truth.”24 In doing so, our students are not just drones who have been indoctrinated with Biblical Truth. Rather, they are “Christians who think-”25 students who are versed in a variety of both secular and Christian viewpoints and choose the Biblical perspectives as their own.
As Christian school educators we must constantly remind ourselves that our jobs are more than the means by which we earn our paychecks. Developing and understanding the reasons our philosophy of education reminds us that educating students is something God takes seriously and so should we. Becoming a good educator is not something we accomplish once and then move it. It is a continuous process of learning and growing both academically and spiritually. It is something we must consciously do and by doing so we are worshipping God.
1. Greene, Albert. Reclaiming the Future of Christian Education . 1998-01, 1998. 257. Print.↩
2. Foundations of Christian School Education . Colorado Springs, Col.: Association of Christian Schools International, 2003. 69. Print.↩
3. “Education.” Dictionary.com . N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Aug 2010.↩
4. Philosophy of Christian School Education. Videodisc. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Associaiton of Chrisitan Schools, 2005.↩
5. Graham, Donovan. Teaching redemptively. Colorado Springs, Col.: Assn. of Christian Schools Intl, 2003. 189. Print.↩
6. Foundations 70.↩
9. Foundations 73.↩
10. Graham 189.↩
12. Greene 61.↩
13. Foundations 74.↩
14. Foundations 76.↩
15. Foundations 77.↩
16. Literary Devices in the Bible: Metaphor.” Circle. Curriculum and Instruction Resource Center Linking Educators, 2010. Web. 29 Aug 2010. <http://circle.adventist.org/files/nadspiritual/Metaphor.pdf>..↩
18. Greene 235-242.↩
19. Greene 237.↩
20. Foundations 79.↩
21. Foundations 79.↩
22. Greene 257.↩
23. Greene 257.↩
24. Gonzalez, Lisa M. “Collection Development Philosophy.” Library media center policy. Valley Christian Schools, 2009.↩
25. Foundations. ↩