Educational Integration

March 27th, 2012 | | 2 Comments
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The first in a three-part series on Christian education.[1] As I am a pastor by training and an educator by hobby, I am certain my reflections will be limited and misguided. I invite correction by those with greater wisdom and experience. Please comment below.

 

“Teachers, don’t you care if we drown . . . in a sea of humanism?” (cf. Mark 4:38).

 

Much of modern education is self-avowedly steeped in liberal humanism. In America, since the time of Horace Mann and John Dewey, public education has been a conscious tool of indoctrinating the unsuspecting masses in American, capitalist, egalitarian, progressive thinking.[2] In this regard it has been remarkably successful. The aims are humanistic, viz., to become productive workers (or what we sometimes call “earning a living”) and to produce responsible members of a liberal society. And the means are humanistic, as we would expect from those who deny biblical anthropology, such as total depravity and even the notion of sin. Unabashed (and ultimately fruitless) behaviorism, uncritical acceptance of technology, the emphasis on merely human effort, and democratic egalitarianism are all examples of this.

 

The question, though, is whether or not this thinking has seeped into much modern Christian education too. Undoubtedly the answer will vary from school to school. Yet I suspect that frequently it has. We adopt the framework of this liberal-humanistic project, and then integrate a Christian worldview into it. In its best sense, of course, biblical integration means that the whole worldview, and its ensuing activity, is thoroughly biblical, informing and directing all that we do. In practice, biblical integration often means using the standards, practices, philosophy of secular humanists—and then sprinkling a smattering of verses and activities to redeem the process for the sake of Christ. We have done little more than shave her hair and cut her fingernails; at heart she remains thoroughly pagan (cf. Deuteronomy 21:11-13).

 

I would suggest a different approach. Biblical integration assumes a (liberal-humanistic) educational framework into which one inserts biblical thinking. What is needed instead is educational integration: starting with a biblical framework (cf. Proverbs 1:7) and then inserting the best of modern educational practice and philosophy. To paraphrase a friend and colleague who put it better than I: we need to turn our paradigm and communal praxis upside down and seek to redeem educational theories by subjecting them to biblical critique and wrestling them into submission under the lordship of Christ within the Scripture-formed community. In other words, we need educational integration, not biblical fragmentation.

 

The challenge of any reorienting (disorienting?) theory is praxis. To what extent do we abandon the “traditional” model and adopt a wholly new, radical approach? I am not sure I have the answers. Few things are less helpful than suggesting a paradigm shift (without a clutch) and then refusing to offer practical steps to take. And yet I fear I must leave this task to better, wiser educators. Until then, may God take every thought captive to the obedience of the Teacher (2 Corinthians 10:5).



[1] For more on Christian education, see my article “The Principled School” in Christian School Education.

[2] See, for example, Stephen L. Carter, The Dissent of the Governed: Law, Religion, and Loyalty (Cambridge, MS: Harvard University Press, 1998): 35-48.




Peter Worrall says:

well said – I agree with the sentiment and teach graduates of Moody’s El. Ed. program similar ideas. I also think the term integration is flawed as it is commonly understood as something we do. Integrated is a descriptor of how reality already is. Biblical integration, theological integration, or educational integration as a term does not bother me as long as we think we are observing something that already exists and not ontologically developing a new category by human action.

Harold Klassen says:

Changing the “direction” of integration makes a radical difference. I spent a lot of years trying to fit the Bible into the classes I taught and the the results were always unsatisfactory. The verses I used didn’t fit well or were missing entirely. God and His ways are far too big to fit in the confines of any curriculum. However, when I realized the importance of fitting all the different parts of God’s world that we were studying into the big picture of what God is doing, things began to make sense.
I’ve not considered changing the name of the process, but the direction of integration certainly needs changing. I’ve collected resources for teachers at http://www.transformingteachers.org including the Visual Valet which gives some assistance to anyone–student or teacher–that seeks to think Christianly and bring God’s world and God’s Word together in a mind and life-changing way.


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