4 Ways to Tell If Your Christian School is Truly Teaching a Christian Worldview

Today’s blog post is from Elizabeth Urbanowicz, a third grade teacher at my daughter’s alma mater, Wheaton Christian Grammar School in Wheaton, IL. I first met Elizabeth several years ago when I spoke at the school about “swimming upstream” — raising kids willing to swim against the cultural currents. After my talk, Elizabeth read a book I referenced, Total Truth, by Nancy Pearcey, and started a worldview club, training students to recognize and critique false and deceptive philosophies. She’s truly a kindred spirit and someone I am glad to introduce to you on this blog. Elizabeth has a B.A. from Gordon College and a M.S. from Northern Illinois University. She’s also a graduate of Focus on the Family’s Leadership Institute, and has studied under Ravi Zacharias and his team of apologists in the U.S. and U.K. She currently is working on an M.A. in Christian apologetics at Biola University.
 —Julie

 

Elizabeth Urbanowicz

I will never forget the moment one of my heroes informed me I was operating as a Secular Humanist educator. Dr. Del Tackett, creator of The Truth Project and the man who first introduced me to the concept of a biblical worldview, listened as I expressed my frustration about parents continually meddling in their children’s education. After all, I, the teacher, was the expert. Dr. Tackett looked at me, paused, and said, “Elizabeth, that is not a biblical model of education. God has given parents primary authority over their children’s education. They are allowing you to partner with them.”

Talk about a rude awakening! How could my theory of education not be biblical? I graduated with a degree in elementary education from a prestigious Christian college and genuinely believed I was offering my students a Christian education. But, I was wrong – and unfortunately, my error was not unique.

Christian schools promise to produce students who think biblically, but studies show many are failing miserably. A study conducted by the Nehemiah Institute found that the majority of Christian school graduates actually have a Secular Humanist worldview. Apparently, many Christian teachers are like I used to be. Though they may love Jesus, they think and teach like Secular Humanists, and are unwittingly transmitting this worldview to their students. I am fortunate to teach at a Christian school, which sent me to a variety of classes and workshops that exposed my Humanist thinking and taught me biblical principles instead. These experiences equipped me to offer the students in my classroom a distinctly Christian education. But, what about your Christian school? Are your teachers being trained to teach a biblical worldview? Or, are they unknowingly teaching a Secular Humanist one? And, as a parent how can you know? Here are a few ways to find out:

1. Partnership with Parents

“We have to break through our private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families.” So said College Professor and MSNBC Host Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry in a YouTube video, expressing society’s prevailing notion that it takes a state to raise your kids, not a family. Dr. Harris-Perry works at a secular university, not a Christian school. But stunningly, the attitude she expressed is sometimes embraced by Christian educators. Just as I falsely believed that parents needed to stop meddling in their children’s education, some Christian schools view their education system as the primary vehicle for instructing children, believing that the role of parents is secondary or even irrelevant.

God has given parents the primary responsibility for instructing their children….A school that truly offers a Christian education will partner with parents.

An acquaintance of mine experienced this attitude in her Christian school. When she learned that her school had assigned John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, she was concerned about the book’s mature content and anti-Christian message. This classic novel chronicles the life of the Joad family, which abandons faith in God and adopts a Humanist worldview instead. In the right context, the book could be used as a teaching tool to compare Secular Humanism with Christianity. However, the school assigned this novel as an independent summer read and gave parents no warning of the mature content or resources to help their children analyze the worldview presented. Yet, when this parent expressed her concern, the school made it clear that the teacher was the expert and that her concern was not valid.

God has given parents the primary responsibility for instructing their children. In Deuteronomy 5, Moses recounts God’s Law to the entire nation of Israel. And, in the following chapter, he turns to address Israelite families, placing on them the responsibility of teaching their children God’s commands. Paul echoes this responsibility in Ephesians 6:4, commanding fathers to bring up their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” A school that truly offers a Christian education will partner with parents. They will view their instruction as an extension of what parents already do at home. While they will not change their programming on the whim of every parent who expresses concern, they will invite parental input and view education as a collaborative effort between families and the school.

2. Biblical Integration

Most Christian schools claim to integrate Scripture into every discipline. However, much biblical integration is simply an add-on to the curriculum, not foundational instruction that promotes a biblical worldview. For example, I once talked to a teacher who integrated Bible into her teaching by having students copy passages of Scripture containing that week’s spelling words. This is not integration; it is an add-on. Truly integrating Scripture into a spelling lesson would require the teacher to explain to her students that God is a God who communicates with man through His written Word. Improving their written communication is a way in which they can reflect and glorify God.

If you are uncertain of the type of biblical integration used at your Christian school, ask your child questions about his or her academics. When helping with math homework ask, “What can we learn about God’s character from multiplication (fractions, measurement, etc.)?” When her class finishes a novel study ask, “What lesson does the main character learn? Does this message agree with God’s Word? How do you know?” At first, your child may dismiss your inquiry. However, if you consistently ask such questions, her ability or inability to articulate biblical answers will indicate the type of integration she is receiving at school.

3. Discipline that Targets the Heart

No matter how well your child behaves, there will come a point in his school career where he will need correction. A school that truly offers a Christian education will appropriately discipline your child for misbehavior, yet they will do so through the lens of the gospel. This school will help your child see the sinful state of his heart and point him to the grace that is freely offered in Jesus.

A school that truly offers a Christian education will appropriately discipline your child for misbehavior, yet they will do so through the lens of the gospel.

The predominant model of correction used in public schools is Behavior Modification, a system of reward and punishment built on the belief that all behavior is learned. This discipline system stems from an evolutionary paradigm that views children as material beings who can be programmed to behave certain ways. Though this theory directly opposes the biblical belief that humans are created in the image of God, some Christian schools use this model of punishment and reward to train their students.

My first years teaching, I would keep students in for the first five or 10 minutes of recess for misbehavior. I believed that after suffering the consequences for their actions, my students would be trained to behave positively. I did not seek to correct the heart issues behind their misbehavior and, not surprisingly, their behavior did not change. Today, I still discipline students by keeping them in for the first several minutes of recess. However, before implementing this punishment I ask questions designed to help students uncover the motives underlying their behavior. I then point them toward the forgiveness God offers. This kind of correction seeks to transform your child’s heart, not just his behavior.

4. Biblical Literacy

Imagine reading a novel starting with chapter ten, then skipping to chapter two, then five, seven, etc… Crazy, right? Yet, that’s precisely how many people not only read the Bible, but teach it! For your child to acquire biblical literacy, her school must teach Scripture as a metanarrative, one continuous and cohesive story. And, it must teach the Bible chronologically, so children don’t get confused.

Scripture is the account of God’s plan to redeem mankind. Therefore, the Bible curriculum at your school must cover the entire Old and New Testament, highlighting how each story fits into God’s redemption plan. For example, when teaching the account of David and Goliath, the teacher seeking to develop biblical literacy will not create a moralistic lesson that encourages students to face their own giants. He will help his students understand that God used this event to preserve Israel, prepare David to lead His people, and establish the kingly line of the Messiah. If your Christian school fails to teach Scripture as a metanarrative, it is not likely that your child will graduate with a biblical worldview.

Our culture is becoming increasingly hostile toward the Christian worldview, and now more than ever, Christian schools must equip students to think biblically and to reject errant worldviews. Your child’s Christian school may already be doing this. However, if you are uncertain, take time to meet with the school administration. Approach the meeting with a spirit of humility and grace, but be bold in the questions that you ask. You may be pleasantly surprised by the answers you receive. However, if it becomes apparent that your Christian school is not offering a distinctly Christian education, it may be time to change schools.

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8 thoughts on “4 Ways to Tell If Your Christian School is Truly Teaching a Christian Worldview

  1. Kolby

    Elizabeth,

    Thank you for writing this article. I have at least two concerns regarding current Christian Worldview Education.

  2. Kolby

    The first is that CWE addresses the minds of students adequately, but gives limited attention to what is happening in their hearts, that is, their affections, what they learn to love and desire. My concern is that an over emphasis on training their minds may lead to an expansion in knowledge (e.g. true belief), but not necessarily an affection for this knowledge. Knowledge and love for that knowledge do not always go hand in hand, unfortunately, and countless stories of ‘church kids’ who are no longer practicing Christians confirm this. How do we train students to not only know what is true, but love it? On this point, I recommend the work of James K.A. Smith. Here’s an article penned by Smith featured in CT: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/may/you-cant-think-your-way-to-god.html

  3. Kolby

    The second concern I have is that CWE often times engages in the project of information transfer, that is, passing on to students a body of information to be memorized and known, but does not adequately train students to be critical thinkers. My suspicion is that we require students ad infinitum to memorize how to respond to competing worldviews, but we are not actually raising critical thinkers, that is, students who are able to process the arguments for themselves in real time and give reflective, nuanced responses. We ought to train our students in the skills of problem solving and logic, not simply memorization. And I fear that too often CWE does precisely this. They teach students a caricature of some competing worldview, followed by their preconceived responses to it, without forcing their students to do some of the actual intellectually heavy lifting.

  4. Kolby

    In spite of these concerns, I am excited for your project at WCGS and glad to hear about your studies at Biola!

    Best,
    Kolby

  5. Kolby… I have read Smith’s book and agree with much of what he says. Certainly, worldview training will be of no use if it’s not offered within the context of a community, which exemplifies the love of Christ. However, I think Smith misses that worldview training, done correctly, focuses not just on the head, but on the heart. After all, false worldviews are always centered on an idol, a point Pearcey makes in “Finding Truth,” the sequel to “Total Truth.” So, even the training of our mind centers on the affections of our heart. If we love a created thing more than the Creator, we will embrace a false worldview to justify our idolatry.

  6. Jeremy Phillips

    This was a great post, and the main reason why my wife and I have decided to home school starting this fall.

    After reading Nancy Pearcey, Voddie Baucham, Greg Koukle and others, and given the attack on a biblical view of the world, it’s given me, as a father, a strong conviction on this.

  7. Elizabeth Urbanowicz

    Kolby, thank you for sharing your thoughts. You expressed concern that Christian worldview education “addresses the minds of students adequately, but gives limited attention to what is happening in their hearts.” I agree with you that targeting the affections of the heart is vital. And this necessity is expressed in these four key elements of a distinctly Christian education.

    1. Partnership with Parents – Affections and appetites of the heart are primarily cultivated in the home. Schools that promote a Christian worldview partner with families to further the cultivation these affections.
    2. Biblical Integration – Authentic biblical integration highlights God’s purposeful design in all Creation. This promotes a love for the Creator and an enjoyment of His Creation.
    3. Discipline that Targets the Heart – This discipline helps students uncover what they love more than God; the idolatry of their hearts that underlies their misbehavior. It points them to God’s grace and a deeper love for their Savior.
    4. Biblical Literacy – When students understand that the whole of Scripture is God’s plan to redeem mankind they can see more clearly the character of the God they serve.

    Education that is distinctly Christian targets both the mind and the affections of the heart.

    Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject.

    Elizabeth

  8. Tosha Rutledge

    I am homeschooling my 9yr. old son who has a mental disability, we are currently using a curriculum called Christian liberty press. I was just wondering what your views on homeschooling was. Do you have an insight as to what curriculum would be best. I know that God’s word is the most important thing we could teach to our son! Any information would be great! Tosha

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