Tidbit for the month
We heard the following true story first hand and thought it might encourage some parents who may sometimes feel insecure about their competence to teach some subjects. Our story took place in Victoria this year. A first year teacher with a particular subject specialty was given several classes of that specialty plus one class of a subject in which the teacher has some qualification. However, the same teacher was also given another elective (high school level) in another subject for which the teacher had no training, and for which there was no written plan and no textbook! Of course to the parents of the children, this teacher would be viewed as "the expert" just because this teacher is a paid professional. Needless to say, the children and teacher suffered.
Why a Christian Curriculum?
In this newsletter, we want to seek the Lord's wisdom on the meaning of a Christian Curriculum.
Our goal is to train children in such a way that they are strong Christians who can live in the world and not be of the world (John 17 :16-18). We want to "train up our children in the way they should go and when they are old, they will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22 :6). We want our children to be of a different "culture" than the culture of the world in which they live. When they are tempted or encouraged to sin, they should have the response, "That is not part of my culture", rather than the weaker, "My church does not allow that". A good Biblical example of our goal is Daniel.
Daniel is a superb example of a boy whose training prepared him for a tremendous attack on his faith. He was taken from his family, his culture, his language, his center of worship and his spiritual counsellors. Babylon tried to make him into a Babylonian in culture (and therefore religion) by teaching the literature and language of Babylon (Daniel 1 :4). However, by this time of Daniel's life, Daniel's convictions made his culture (according to God's Book) supreme, and even though he studied the pagan culture (i.e. religion) of Babylon, he used that knowledge only to excel in his service and to expose the wickedness of Babylonian kings. He never , in some 65 years of service to four kings, compromised his faith. Even when Daniel was given the "opportunity" to cease praying for just 30 days (Daniel 6 :7 and 12) in order to save him from the lion's den and certain death, he was steadfast to his culture, based upon God's Law, which included praying every day.
Two Cultures, Two Philosophies
When a person writes a textbook, his philosophy and culture will be a part of that textbook. This is the way God has made us, to express our very being in what we do and say. This cultural and philosophical teaching is more apparent in some subjects (e.g. literature and history) than in others (e.g. math and science) and later, we will discuss how the teaching comes into subjects. Before doing that, we need to emphasize the great separation between Christian culture and philosophy and the culture and philosophy prevalent in our day. We must realize that the average "man on the street", in addition to government leaders and university lecturers and authors, hold to a very non-Christian philosophy and culture. As little as forty years ago, the gulf between prevailing culture and Christian culture and philosophy was much narrower. Even non-believers started with some of the same basic approaches and views on life as the Christian. Today, the gulf is far wider. This conforms with Jesus' prophecy that the wheat and the tares would grow together. Some distinct areas of difference are:
Why Christian Curriculum
There are two simple reasons for Christian curriculum.
An author cannot portray any philosophy or culture other than his own. The godless philosophy of our day can infiltrate even mathematics because the godless author will not weave into his text the message that order in mathematics is a great miracle which must come from some higher power in the universe. But a major concern here is the subtle effect which comes simply because the author is godless and will choose problems, structure his work and do every small step in accordance with his culture and philosophy. In mathematics, this phenomena may be minimal, but it may not be. Some secular texts today include absurdities such as alphabetizing the names of the numbers from 1 to 10 in order to destroy any concept of order or absolutes in the child. If we realize the Babylonian nature of our culture, we can have a good eye for the attempt of Babylon to make its culture our culture just as Babylon attempted to make its culture Daniel's culture.
Christian text books are different from secular ones. A Christian author writing about history will intentionally look for God's plan and will look at people in history from God's perspective. The Christian author will use material about Christians who have made important contributions to politics, science and other areas whereas the secular author tends to ignore Christians at worst or fail to acknowledge the role of their faith in their accomplishments at best. The Christian author will look at every aspect of the physical universe as part of God's master plan whereas the godless author will take every opportunity to affirm that there is not a God or Creator whose Word is absolute. The Christian author will look for examples of the truths of God's Word in the past and in the present (e.g. morals, prophecies) whereas the godless author will ignore such truths even if he has to misrepresent history or science.
The way in which our children learn to view the world is heavily influenced by the textbooks/curriculum from which they learn. For example, if children learn about social reformers (e.g. people instrumental in stopping slavery) from non-Christian writing, they will never learn about the way in which God leads people to put His ways into practice and instead will come to believe the humanistic lie that man is his own deliverer and will eventually evolve to some higher form of being, capable of solving all human problems by his own genius.
The Christian author acknowledges integrity and its blessings along with sin and its effects in every age of history and in every country on earth. The author with today's philosophy portrays today's "enlightened" morals (e.g. promiscuity, homosexuality, lying, cheating) as the apex of evolution while ignoring the obvious evil effects.
Christian curriculums fall into two basic philosophies. Any particular family may find itself using all curriculum of one philosophy or a mixture which suits that family. A textbook may even blend the two philosophies. Our purpose is not to recommend one or the other but to give you a way to examine your own choices of curriculum and make decisions on what is best for your family. The two philosophies are:
We discuss this here to emphasize that both approaches will communicate the Christian philosophy and culture of the author(s).
The "Good Old Days"
We believe that God is calling us to be accountable to all the truth available to us from Him. That includes the wisdom of Christian experience over the centuries. Our purpose should not be to merely emulate an earlier day, but to improve upon it. For example, some Christians today lament for the "good old days" of the 1950's when TV and radio programs did not include profanity and nudity, violent crime was rare and drug abuse uncommon. We realize the necessity to improve on the culture of the 1950's when we see that the 1950's led to the 1960's, 70's and 80's! The 1950's culture contained the seed of its death because it enjoyed the blessing of a morality without acknowledging the source of the morality, God's Word and His grace through Jesus His Son.
Subjects Demanding an Australian Solution
Having made the case for a Christian curriculum, we are aware of the frustration of Australian Christians in finding curriculum appropriate for use in Australia and covering uniquely Australian subjects. We believe that the anti-American and anti-British sentiments of the Australian press may make this frustration even worse because so much of the Christian curriculum available is American. Australian Christians can be thankful that when the best Christian curriculum material for a subject is American (or English), the foreign culture and history they are learning is one important to Australia's history and to an Australian's life.
Because we believe that Christians are a different kind of people, we believe that use of Christian material is very important. Because of this, we would encourage Australians to look towards writing new Christian material for some subjects rather than spending effort in writing outlines or syllabuses which continue to use godless, secular material. While Australian material will be uniquely Australian, American material can be used as a starting point and example of what can be done by Christians.
Below is a brief listing of subjects which have lesser and greater requirement for an Australian curriculum. In this letter, we don't have space to carefully consider each subject area. Perhaps another letter will pursue this subject in depth. However, the following list presents a brief overview of which subjects most demand an Australian Christian curriculum.
We have excluded literature from either list because of the belief that the Christian/anti-Christian difference is paramount. For a Christian, the literature emanating from any culture must be carefully scrutinized. Most literature that is acclaimed by the world's standards promotes an evolutionary, humanistic philosophy (about which we are warned in Colossians 2 :8) that undermines the truth of the God's Word and His Will.
When choosing literature, our goal is not simply to avoid literature which is harmful to our children, but rather to choose literature which has a posiive Christian value in addition to reading practice. Positive values include learning about history, people, examples of Christian life and practice, science or technology.
We want to conclude by encouraging each family in the exiting opportunity God has given us as we allow the "Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth."