I have a problem: I start way too many books that I never finish. Every few months I need to remove the stack of unfinished books piling up on my nightstand and find them a better home. Unfortunately, an empty nightstand only leads to new books showing up there to be perused, skimmed, browsed and occasionally read. One of the books that is currently at the top of the stack is “Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective” by Paul Spears and Steven Loomis. It’s a weighty read but one that is encouraging me to think about Christ-centered education from various perspectives.
On my last post I proposed a simple perspective: we learn so that our “trust may be in the Lord.” (Proverbs 22: 17-21). The trust does not come naturally to us in our fallen state so we need to learn how to place our trust in the Lord. Today’s perspective on Christ-centered education is: we cannot learn to trust without authentic, Christ-following teachers. The Bible is full of teacher/student relationships: Paul and Timothy, Eli and Samuel and of course Christ and his disciples.
There is a challenge to this model in a formal schooling environment. Spears and Loomis point out that most teachers are trained today following the pragmatist philosophy of John Dewey (who I vaguely remember studying a long, long time ago!) in that “the good of education could be molded from technical means”. Sorry to get too abstract here but the implications are huge for the classroom. “There are tremendous social costs when teachers are trained as technicians and not as scholars.” It seems to me that an over-emphasis on the techniques of effective pedagogy can cause us to forget the high calling that teaching represents. More than “scholars” even, teachers are shepherds. “A Christian foundation (which reveals to us the most fundamental aspects of humanity) gives us the best opportunity to successfully develop schooling… in a manner which promotes human flourishing.”
What is human flourishing? What does the Bible say about all of this? In Philippians 4: 8-9 Paul says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” With “think about such things,” Paul is calling his followers to this flourishing by engaging with ideas that are virtuous. He doesn’t stop with an intellectual pursuit; he calls his followers to “put into practice” what they have learned. In Christ-centered education, this is the high calling of teachers. At Edify, we are grateful to serve and encourage those who have this calling.