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.
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.
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.
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.