There’s just one me. Uniquely made and irreplaceable. Like everyone else, my perspective on the world is shaped by a special sauce of experiences. The life I’ve lived has determined who I am, where I am going, and what I must do. My work is set before me, but my work in the realm of ideas is not entirely my own.
In the posts to come, I’ll share a lot of thoughts that have been expressed by others. I’ll give credit where I can, but there’s so many who have gone before and paved the way for us to have divergent discussions on learning, that I can’t acknowledge them all. Please accept my gratitude and apologies.
The Theory of Practice
The tagline of this blog is Reinventing Christian Education. I know that sounds like I’m claiming to have revolutionary ideas. But reinvention doesn’t necessarily require a lot of new thought. In fact, we already know a lot that’s good and true. What’s lacking is consistency of practice. The task at hand is to take our theory and put it into practice in a way that’s consistent. We can either engineer good practices from right theory, or bless existing practices in the name of what we believe. But does the latter actually work?
If we uncritically borrow our practices from public schools, we also import the implicit purposes that are baked into them. It’s quite the opposite of starting with God’s purposes in creating us and developing our practices to meet his desired ends. Christian schools almost always get this backwards. They apply Christianity as a badly peeling veneer to the existing factory model of education. The Christian faith doesn’t properly adhere because its purposes run perpendicular to the purposes that undergird standardized curriculum.
What are the ends of curriculum standards?
In my last post, I denounced nationalism as something that is entirely un-Christian because of its divisive assumptions. Standardized curriculum as a practice has at its core a nationalist goal or telos.* By importing curriculum standards, we unwittingly affirm nationalism–servility to a section of humanity, not Christian service to all of it.
Can’t we just repurpose learning standards?
They’re not something that can be baptized and made holy. Their not-so-implicit purpose is subservience to the state. Children are to be standardized into the kind of citizens that best serve the country, which is in competition with the rest of the world.
Another implicit claim of standardization (deserving its own post) is that learning is a one-size-fits-all affair. Learning the same things in the same sequence at the same time in the same way with people of the same age implies that we’re either all the same or that our differences should be eradicated. Neither fits the Christian call to serve in accordance with a specialized calling and gifting. We are custom made and our learning should reflect that. Therefore, truly Christian schools should abolish standardization. Every person, regardless of age, should pursue their own calling by directing their own learning, and not be hampered by anyone else’s educational agenda. Anything less is less than Christian.
It bears saying again that reinventing Christian education is not about pushing novel ideas. It’s about developing and spreading practices that are consistent with what we believe, namely that we are made by God to pursue his purposes in being allegiant to him first and doing what he has prepared for each of us to do.
Questions: Can standardization be redeemed or is it hopelessly contradictory to God’s purposes? What do you think of self-directed learning? What other practices would you add to the culture of Christian education? What would you remove?
P.S. James K. A. Smith has helped to clarify my thought about the implicit purposes that come with practices. Currently reading his book called Desiring the Kingdom, which discusses Christian education. Haven’t gotten to the part about recommended practices. I’m eager to see if our conclusions overlap.
*If you question this claim, consider for whom and by whom standards are created. Also, why the push for national standards when state or local standards could suffice?