Monday, October 13, 2008

Buildings without Foundations

In the wake of testing frenzies like No Child Left Behind, some educators are pushing for a view of education that instead emphasizes "mind-training." One example is the CES (Coalition of Essential Schools) network.

One of the program's advocates, Deborah Meier, says educators should have a different standard of success:  
"I'd like evidence that [high school graduates] can exercise the 'five habits of mind' in assorted ways, that suggest their understanding of the nature of science, history, math, literature, the arts—but not any particular coverage. And I'd like to 'measure' their ability to engage publicly with such subject matter in contemporary contexts, including perhaps vocational ones" (posted on Bridging Differences).
At first glance, this sounds like what we do at CC: develop skills, not hurry through subjects. But as classical educators, we teach three skills needed to study any subject: grammar, or gathering knowledge; dialectic,or understanding knowledge; and rhetoric, or wisely using knowledge. Grammar means foundational knowledge.

As a Christian, the goal of education is to teach mankind to discover Truth, to teach others to know God and to make Him known. 

It is impossible to teach God’s Word effectively without understanding creation and human nature. Understanding the physical universe requires a foundational knowledge of math and science.  Understanding human consciousness requires a foundational knowledge of language, history, and literature. Without grammar, dialectic and rhetoric lack a solid foundation.

Consider, every study ever done by the National Assessment of Educational Progress has shown that American are at the bottom of the world's educational curve and at the top of the self-esteem curve. If you think being puffed up by knowledge is bad, try being puffed up by ignorance.

Our task as Christian educators, pastors, and parents is to examine all of our educational choices in light of Scripture rather than the latest emotional influence, for we will be presented with many options in this age of global technologies. This warning applies to everything we think, learn, and believe.

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