Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tensions in Education

As an educator and a product of the American educational system, I have an interest in what we are doing, where we are going, and what we are trying to accomplish. Looking on the web at various universities and graduate programs, I read about strategic visions and again run up against the "education as product" issue. Granted, we have to make our goals clear, they must be clear to us, but the goals I am seeing sound more like production than development of people.

Along a parallel line in my mind, I am asking questions about how Christians should be and are "doing" education. We have so many Christian colleges and universities with varying degrees of academic excellence and spiritual discipline. The more I think about these things, questions bubble up:

Can an institution be "Christian"? This troubles me because it labels the product, e.g. a "Christian education." What is it that precisely makes it Christian? What do Christians do differently? (Let's talk about this later, but I suspect that it has more to do with required chapel, curfews, dress codes and media regulations than education.)

Where is excellence in Christian education? Where is excellence in our faith? What does excellence have to do, if anything, with how we teach or train young people. (Not our Christian young people, but any young people.)

As Christians we are called to love one another and our enemies. Where does that fit with excellence? If we are developing young minds, are love and striving for excellence mutually compatible?

If our goal is to be among the faithful, how do we find the balance in the educational world? We serve Love and we serve Truth. Those are not exclusive one of the other. But how does it mesh with competition and perfectionism?

These are a few of the ideas that surface when I meditate on what we as educators are striving to accomplish. Any thoughts are welcome.


OldMommy said...

Life at college is not the real world. Our students are considered adults while they live with very little discipline and even less responsibility. Worse, administrators are disdainful of parents who remain involved with their young "adults," even though they may be footing the bill. Christian parents are often looking for an institution where authorities reinforce the parents' standards, and with good reason. Secular schools may have authorities antagonistic toward faith.
The best schools would teach their students how to think, how to discipline themselves, and how to shoulder responsibility even when it's not fun. The best parents would, too. But for now, a piece of paper often allows a graduate to gain entry into a workplace where they may learn these things, as they spend years paying off their student loans.

Jarm Del Boccio said...

In answer to your question, "What makes a school distinctively Christian?" I would say: teaching with a Christian Worldview. That means according to the truth, the revealed will of God in Scripture. If that is truly done, all the other things you've mentioned will fall into place.
I'm always inspired by your contemplations, Karen!