TIME BOMBS – IN EDUCATION
Do you ever read something that contains a new thought, and then that thought begins to trigger little time bombs in your mind? That is, it continues to set off other new thoughts over the following days and weeks. Obviously that happens to me or I would not be mentioning it!
EDUCATION FOR THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
I read a statement which claimed that our current format for schools and education is the product of the industrial revolution. Leaders of formative industries needed to find a way to free adults from the responsibilities of caring for and educating their children so they could work in factories. So education, as we know it, developed as a by-product of the drive for economic growth and wealth creation. Most of the workers producing this wealth were parents working long days while their children were in school.
This cultural shift resulted in new and highly valued freedoms. Boys were no longer destined to stay in the trade of their fathers and girls began a path to more opportunity than ever before. I am grateful for all the wealth created; it has resulted in many benefits—better health, housing, food, literacy, democratic processes—the list could get very long.
However, this must have some implications for how we think about education. I for one have long felt that the primary responsible for educating, training, developing children lies with parents and yet our current arrangement places that responsibility firmly in the hands of professional educators. They are the ones who have our children for the majority of their waking hours. Our cultural and financial expectations push us to turn our children over to others at a very young age. We rarely know those “others” well enough to be confident about what they are teaching and whether or not they will model the values held by the parents. They in turn have been shaped by professional educators and the content of what they teach is usually mandated by government policy and educational specialist in the sphere of government. Is this a healthy thing?
Most Christian parents on either side of the Atlantic over recent years will have been concerned about several aspects of the education of their children. Recently, we have seen the shift towards sex education including redefining marriage, gender fluidity, normalising transgender medical procedures, etc. These subjects are important. However, equally or more important is the teaching of such foundational subjects as English literature, History and Science with a studied absence of any reference to God or any higher authority. Our children usually absorb the idea that human intellect is the highest authority and that morals and values are relative and evolving. Understandably, most Christian parents harbour some level of concern that the nature of their children’s education, if it is provided by State schools, does not build any sort of foundation of faith and is almost always actively destructive to Christian faith and behaviour.
WHERE ARE THE NEW MODELS?
At the same time, and paradoxically, the Christian community has a growing confidence in the intellectual integrity and consistency of their faith. Yet we have little or no opportunities to impart that confidence to our children. We are simply too busy to do that, and so out of practical necessity, we accept that professional educators will shape our children and to a great extent their beliefs. I conclude that we have to “swim against the tide” and develop more ways to educate our children in the beauty of our faith. We were created to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength”. Without concerted, God-centred education, our children will not be likely to obey this, “the greatest of all commandments”.
WHAT ARE WE MULTIPLYING?
These thoughts have led me to think again about how we help less developed nations. Christian missionaries and workers are often on the frontline of providing assistance, technology and finance to nations and peoples who are less developed. One of our assumptions is that they need schools like our schools. Many Christians have committed themselves to developing education systems in poorer nations. I have been to some of those schools and they can be wonderful. The teachers are trained in the best of education principles but are also spurred on in their spiritual growth and their Christ-centred living. But are we possibly imparting a system that is too vulnerable to follow the path of our developed nations? Should we be looking at ways to engaged parents more in the process of developing their children? Is the accepted format for education with at least five long days a week spent in school the best we can do? Is the system itself somehow flawed?
TAKING EDUCATION BACK FROM GOVERNMENT
I am convinced that centralised, national governments are not the appropriate authority for overseeing education. We will probably always want and need professional educators, but they should be directly accountable to parents. We will have to work out more ways to develop good standards and oversight without abdicating our God-given, parental mandate. There are some workable models in developed nations so we are not starting from scratch.
I don’t have any complete answers at this point, but I think change often begins with asking the best questions. Maybe you have some questions to go along with mine. Than after thinking about the questions we might start finding some steps towards a better approach to education, one that does not so thoroughly drive a wedge between parents and children. We are suffering because of this separation which may not always be caused by education, but there is certainly an educational contribution to it.
IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY
If we continue to pray the prayer the Lord taught us, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…” then perhaps He has some new ways for us to think about how His kingdom comes in the education and development of our children.