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O’Come, O’Come Emmanuel!

I grew up in a Christian home with a history of many generations of family on each side that would consider themselves followers of Christ.  Because we worshiped in a Baptist church, we never practiced all the liturgical parts of the Christian faith that many other denominations practice.  Needless to say, I didn’t know much about Advent.  As an adult, I have come to value some of these traditions of the faith, like Advent.   I have come to appreciate the desire to focus myself on what this holiday is declaring.  Christmas is a highly symbolic holiday.  I hope that it brings me and you to a place of worship.

I have no doubt that Christmastime is always a special time for most everyone and moreover so for those of us who are followers of Jesus. Christmas is celebrated all across this planet in a variety of ways. Families have traditions that are often passed down from generation to generation.

Sometimes the traditions are not even understood by younger family members but are practiced and celebrated anyway.  Churches and religions have traditions too. One such tradition practiced by many religions is the Advent Season.  But what does “Advent” mean?  The word “advent” comes from the Latin “adventus” meaning “arrival” or “coming,” particularly of something having great importance. The first coming of Jesus Christ was the most significant historical event that has ever occurred.  The “arrival” of the promised Messiah has changed the world forever.

You are probably aware that Advent is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas Day.  Advent means ‘Coming’ in Latin. This is the coming of Jesus into the world.  Many Christians use the four Sundays and weeks of Advent to prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas.
Interestingly, there are three meanings of ‘coming’ that Christians describe in Advent.  The first, and most thought of, happened over 2000 years ago when Jesus came into the world as a baby to live as a man and die for us. The second can happen now as Jesus wants to come into our lives now.  And the third will happen in the future when Jesus comes back to the world as King and Judge, not a baby.  Knowing this has given me a newfound love for an already beloved Christmas hymn, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel!’

As a believer I want to absorb everything this holiday represents.   I want t to look forward to Jesus.  I want to look forward to his birth.  Furthermore, I want to look forward to his coming again.  I hope that the symbolism of Advent will help me meditate more on what Jesus means to me and the world.  I want to better recognize his authority as the King of Kings.  I am thankful that I have a source of truth in a culture that doesn’t recognize the existence of Truth.  I want to revel in the miracle of the Virgin Mary’s giving birth to Jesus Christ.  And, I want to be able to share the good news and prepare myself for the teaching of Jesus Christ in anticipation of His return.  Will you join me in celebrating all that is yet to come because of what Jesus Christ did for us?


Head of School Blog

 

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education

Whom does the Christian school serve?

loyalty valueI would contend that the highest priority within the mission of the Christian school is service to God. We are created in his image and for his pleasure.  He desires our obedience, worship, and more. Actually, every aspect of life is worship.  In Christian education we should first seek to bring honor and glory to his name.

This honor and glory is demonstrated each time the education professional interacts with students and parents.  Thus, there is another layer to the question.  God has entrusted the care of his children to parents and they to the school.  God’s instructions to parents are found in His Word. Among the many notable passages are these:

  • “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
  • “He commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children” (Psalm 78:5-6).
  • “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children” (Deuteronomy 6: 6-7).

In our schools, we have applied the commands in scripture with descriptors.  We have used the metaphor of a triangle.  The three sides of nurture are the home, church, and school working in harmony and unison to train the child in the way he or she should go.  Training a child is a combined effort.

Some claim that this model is outdated.  It originated when families were more intact.  It was created when churches were more supportive of Christian schools.  It was created when schools were more closely tied to a particular denomination.  Some point to these changes and conclude that the model is no longer applicable. Perhaps that is true.  Perhaps it is not true, and instead it is a call to biblical renewal.

Other changes in the culture of the Christian school is the 21st century parent.  In a recent presentation, Gene Frost, head of school at Wheaton Academy, says that parents before the 1980’s could be described as loyalty customers.  He contrasts those parents with the post 1980’s parent, which he called the value customer.

Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services, CSI clarifies the two categories in his blog.  He says:

To oversimplify, the loyalty customer’s highest priority is for the Christian school to be scripturally rooted.  The loyalty customer is satisfied with the Christian education product as long as the school is clearly Christian first.  The positive aspect of loyalty customers is their non-negotiable commitment to the Christian school.  They tend to be loyal to the school through good times and bad.  Their tuition is not a fee, but a contribution to the cause in which they believe.  The negative aspect of loyalty customers is that they demand little from the school in terms of excellence.  They are satisfied, and their satisfaction can lead the school to conclude that an okay education is good enough.

Value customers’ highest priority is that the Christian school be excellent in academics, program options, and opportunities for their children. The value customer is not satisfied with mediocre educators or education.  The value customer’s commitment to the Christian school is more tentative, because there is a qualifier attached—Christian and excellent. They are Christian school parents, so there is a degree of loyalty, but the loyalty is always being tested over against demonstrated value.  Tuition is a fee, which value customers willingly pay as long as they are convinced of the value.  The positive aspect of value customers is that their demand for the best pushes school beyond complacency to continuous school improvement.  The negative aspect of value customers is that their commitment is not a given, but tenuous.

Schools that do not understand the new reality seem to flounder in frustration and fizzle out. The value customer seeks inspired leaders driving programs toward excellence, a school that identifies what it is best at and does it, a school with systems in place toward continuous improvement, and a school that preserves its mission while stimulating progress.  I would extend beyond this consumer transaction that there is a “special” ingredient that adds value that cannot be found in another circumstance.  The Christian school value customer must see Jesus Christ and a biblical worldview integrated into everything.

As a Christian school administrator I need to recognize that Christian schools have both loyalty and value members. I need to celebrate both and understand the needs of both.  I don’t really see them as mutually exclusive.  Of course a parent should expect high quality.  Of course, they should be loyal to the purpose of Christian school.  Doesn’t the ideal of full biblical integration call for excellence and a value superior to what can be found elsewhere?  It is sinful to give less than we can.

Where I divert from Dr. Frost and Dr. Blamer is that it is a consumer relationship.  Yes, money exchanges in order to compensate individuals for some part of their service.  However, a true Christian school recognizes that staff, faculty, parents, and students participate in raising the value of the school.  Without each of us doing our part in excellence, the Christian school cannot be all it is intended to be, a place that brings glory and honor to our Heavenly Father.


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Chesterton_quote

Education More Than Facts

All we are trying to do is teach our students what is real and true.  It is simple.  Well, maybe not.  But, it should be.  Without a confidence in what is real and true we become unmoored and hopeless. G. K.Chesterton, a Christian author, concurs, “ It is typical of our time that the more doubtful we are about the value of philosophy, the more certain we are about the value of education. That is to say, the more doubtful we are about whether we have any truth, the more certain we are (apparently) that we can teach it to children. The smaller our faith in doctrine, the larger our faith in doctors … (Chesterton, 1911)”

I would agree with his contention that without the presence of theology and philosophy at the core of the modern education, this inevitably leads to two mutually exclusive concepts of teaching and learning that are trying to co-exist.  He implies that this “constitutes a schism or schizophrenia at the very heart of the schooling:
“The truth is that the modern world has committed itself to two totally different and inconsistent conceptions about education. It is always trying to expand the scope of education; and always trying to exclude from it all religion and philosophy. But this is sheer nonsense. You can have an education that teaches atheism because atheism is true, and it can be, from its own point of view, a complete education. But you cannot have an education claiming to teach all truth, and then refusing to discuss whether atheism is true. (Chesterton, 1911)”
Chesterton regularly asserts, “The absurdity of the modern schooling’s attempt to build a university in the absence of universals. (1950) ” “Take away the supernatural,” says Chesterton (1911), “and what remains is the unnatural.”  “Education is only the truth in a state of transmission,” he wrote on another occasion, “and how can we pass on truth if it has never come into our hand?”

One consequence of this lack of truth or foundation in the school is what Chesterton called “standardization by a low standard, (Chesterton, 1928)” a dumbing-down of standards to a lowest-common denominator of prescribed mediocrity. In the absence of an integrated curriculum in which each discipline informs the other, each part making sense in the light of the whole, the modern academy has literally disintegrated itself into a plethora of fragmented particles, none of which is in communication with the other parts. “Everything has been sundered from everything else, and everything has grown cold. Soon we shall hear of specialists dividing the tune from the words of a song, on the ground that they spoil each other… This world is all one wild divorce court. (Chesterton, 1928).” When reading the reviews of Chesterton’s statements on education I was reminded of a conversation I had about Common Core.  First, I must say that I am ambivalent about Common Core.  Since I am in a private Christian school, we do not have to and have not adopted the state standards built around the National Common Core.  However, as professionals, we look at it, study it and see if there is anything to glean in our pursuit of excellence.  –Pardon the digression.  Amongst the many complaints I hear about the Common Core is the lower expectation and the indoctrination of a false and convoluted understanding of the world.  

In a recent blog I recently read, “Ironically, in exorcising the unifying spirit of theology and philosophy from the core curriculum, the modern academy has doomed itself to fractious fragmentation, in which each discipline has exiled itself from all the others. In excommunicating theology and philosophy, the modern academy has paradoxically excommunicated itself from itself!” (imaginative, 2014).  “Because the elementary school doesn’t teach theology,” wrote Chesterton, “it must be excused when it doesn’t teach anything. The bias of the modern world is so enormous that it will allow a thing to be inefficient as long as it is also irreligious.”  Isn’t this where we are?  

The modern fervor from almost any secular university and center of learning is against religion and is antagonistic and militant against Truth.  They vehemently oppose a unifying Truth.  Instead they prefer a hollow education to one that is “informed by the underlying meaning inherent in the truth-claims of religion or philosophy (imaginative, 2014).  I would agree with Chesterton (1950) when he says that this is education at all: “Every education teaches a philosophy; if not by dogma then by suggestion, by implication, by atmosphere. Every part of that education has a connection with every other part. If it does not all combine to convey some general view of life, it is not an education at all (Chesterton, 1950 p. 166).”
A cohesive and integrated view of a broad education is contrasted with the “disintegrated” education of the relativist:
“There is something to be said for teaching everything to somebody, as compared with the modern notion of teaching nothing, and the same sort of nothing, to everybody.” (Chesterton, 1950) Whereas the former conveys a philosophy by which one can understand the cosmos, the latter “is not a philosophy but the art of reading and writing unphilosophically [sic].” The former teaches its recipient how to think; the latter prevents its victim from thinking.”

I think my argument can get lost in the condemnation of a modern education.  Forgive me if that is true.  Because indeed, I am really espousing that there is an alternative to this hollow education.  Sure, the modern common school can have a robust amount of classes they offer with sparkling Chromebooks and magnificent edifices to their glory.  But, remember at the core it is missing key ingredients.  It is akin to the shiny genetically modified apple that is the perfect red with a shiny peel; but the substance is manufactured to look like the more nutrition realty.  The triumph of a Christian school is unfortunately, the tragedy of modern education, perceived with such brilliance by Chesterton, is that it has left us perilously ignorant of who we are, where we are, where we have come from, and where we are going.   In a Christian school Truth is at the core.  Truth is the mission.  The integration of philosophy and Truth is the essential ingredient that makes a Christian school what it is.   Those pupils and graduates of a Christian school are not lost and are not blissfully unaware that we are heading for the abyss.  In fact they have a perfect navigation system for life and have hope.

References:
Chesterton, G.K.  (1911).  Illustrated London News, May 13, 1911
Chesterton  G.K. (1950). The Common Man, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1950, p. 168-169
Chesterton, G. K. (1928) Culture and the Coming Peril, being the text of a speech delivered by Chesterton at the University of London in 1928; reprinted in the Chesterton Review, Vol. 18, No. 2, August 1992
http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2014/02/chesterton-and-the-meaning-of-education.html

 


Head of School Blog

 

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