A New Christian School Model?

Christian school model much of what is found in secular schools, but how do we go about changing this? As beginners, I propose that we must make Christian schools accessible through new funding opportunities, strengthen the philosophic leadership of our schools, and build real community.

I have just submitted a book for publication claiming that our nation needs a new model of public education. My proposed title is Education Reform: Confronting the Secular Ideal. Through the book, I claim that education is religious by nature, and thus, a public education system that separates the school day from faith will necessarily fail to achieve its goals. Bottom line: I propose that the best public education will be delivered by religious schools. Thus, we must turn from our “secular” paradigm of public education to a “plural” paradigm of public education in which private religious schools can join the public system and receive voucher funding.

With that said, I don’t write about the unfortunate secularization of religious schools. I note that religious public schooling offers the potential to engage the deeper beliefs, values, and motivations of children within the educational environment, but many Christian schools have a long way to go to fulfill their potential. I find that Christian schools follow much of the secular education paradigm. However, this should not be unexpected. After all, haven’t most Christian school teachers and administrators learned their professional skills from a secular perspective? Didn’t most parents attend secular schools and thus expect Christian schools to look similar save for bible classes, chapel, and school prayer? Further, rather than wrestling to define the concerns of a Christian education, don’t most Christian colleges focus on preparing teachers for public school certification?

We must have a new beginning; we can’t merely continue to use secular texts and model secular methods. I have long seen the degree to which financial pressures shape Christian schools. At a financial disadvantage to public schools, they reflect relatively small numbers of students, and thus, they fail to gain the attention of publishers, university programs, etc. So my first efforts have been to attempt to level the financial playing field by reconceptualizing public education to include religious schools. I believe the next critical steps are to provide stronger philosophic leadership for Christian schools, and to strengthen the church/home/school community.

I envision the first concern to be filled by pastors and/or those specially trained as philosophers of Christian education. Unfortunately, pastors, too, have been shaped by a secular paradigm. Whereas religious leaders were once given a liberal arts education that made them the leaders that society looked to for guidance, they are now (thanks to modernity) generally just trained in “religious” subjects. However, I believe pastors complimented by trained philosophers have a role in Christian schools to provide philosophic oversight to complement a more technical Administrative oversight. Perhaps the growth of Christian schooling will broaden the training of pastors, and lead to the growth of programs to train Christian school philosophers. Together, these teams can help shape Christian schools to more thoroughly engage education from a Christian perspective.

Now as to the second of my “first priority efforts”: we must build community. Not just “feel good community,” but committed community built around calling and accountability. Too many Christian schools operate virtually independent of church and parental concerns. It is difficult in our individualistic society, but we must remember that we are all members of the body of Christ and are gifted to serve one another as brothers and sisters. We must recognize and tighten the bonds between us. Families have the primary responsibility to educate their children, thus schools should see themselves serving with delegated authority under parents. However, those called to lead and teacher also carry a level of authority related to their callings. Thus, parents, pastors, and school personnel must work closely together to nurture and equip children to know, love, and serve God with all their hearts, minds, and strength.

Lets re-envision Christian education. As a start, talk with a homeschool parent. Free from “traditional” education models, many of them began years ago asking what a Christian education was all about. God has given them some great ideas… That will be the topic of my next book!
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