13 November 2011
What is Christian Education Really About?
by Dr Di Scouller
Note: This blog piece is inspired by Dr Di Scouller’s PhD – Back to the Future: An Investigation of the Curriculum Model Adopted by the Association of Classical and Christian Schools – awarded Sept 23, 2011 from Macquarie University in Sydney.
For many years the question “What is Christian education really about?” exercised me. I was clear as to what it is not, but clarity escaped me over what actually makes education Christian. Many excellent books have been written over the years, but one totally captivated me a few years ago and started me on my journey towards a PhD.
The idea of a classical and Christian curriculum took me back to my youth studying Latin under Professor Blaiklock. Here was a curriculum which offered genuine academic richness and rigour through in-depth study of sound literature, history, logic and rhetoric. Some of the teaching methods used and the choice of these subjects have lost favour in recent decades, but something about this curriculum model attracted me to investigate it further.
My research was set up as comparison between two Christian schools, one established by a particular denomination which uses this classical and Christian model. The other school, which is interdenominational, uses the government curriculum. Both had mission and vision statements which were very similar, indicating their sincere goal of providing authentic Christian education. Beyond those similarities the differences emerged, in governance and management issues, in policies of staffing and student enrolment, in subjects taught and teaching styles. Probably the major contributing factor to these differences lay in the somewhat exclusive nature of the denominational approach within the classical school community, as opposed to a broader more inclusive attitude in the other school. It must be said that classroom observations revealed sound teaching and learning in both schools despite considerable differences in approach. Both would also claim academic “success” for their senior students.
This study confirmed that there really is no single model of Christian education: one group believing a particular curriculum model designed to ensure youngsters become skilled thinkers is the crux, while the other believes that relationships of trust and respect are crucial for sound learning to occur. Does the curriculum model really matter? How do we best honour God in and through the education of our children?