Monday, June 29, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 2 (7)


What should be taught?

Education should equip a community to pursue truth. In John 14:6, Jesus says He is the truth. Isaiah 29:14 and 1 Corinthians 1:19 (NIV) explain the futility of education when Jesus is not taught as truth: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

As for children, Jesus says, “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me” (Matt 18:5, NIV). But how does He respond when we send our children to a situation that unnecessarily tempts His littlest ones to sin?

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matt 18:6, NIV). We need to carefully choose whom we entrust our children to for the better part of their childhood years.

Jesus quoted Isaiah when chastising the Pharisees: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Matt 15:8, NIV). Modern church leaders should take care that they don’t encourage Christians to place children in schools where teachings are “but rules taught by men.”

Hebrews 4:12 (NASB) says, “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Throughout American history, Christians have engaged in the battle to keep God’s word central to education and to the home.

Robert Lewis Dabney, a preacher, statesmen, and General Jackson’s chief of staff, was a staunch defender of Christian precepts during the time of Dewey, Freud, Marx, and Darwin. Even though he lived in the southern United States, he saw the direction of the European enlightenment and its effects on the world 50 years before C.S. Lewis, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Dorothy Sayers began issuing their words of warning.

He makes some amazing statements about the connection between the Old Testament and the New in light of the modern attacks on the family and its role he witnessed.

Dabney asked if a scientist can give the “genesis of earth and man without indicating whether Moses or Huxley was his prophet?” Our thoughts come from somewhere. We can think like other men, or we can try to capture our thoughts unto Christ. Jesus declared that we are either for Him or against Him. We might as well tie a stone around our neck and drown ourselves if we tell our little ones anything else.

These are hard words from modern Christians for modern Christians.

(1) Robert L. Dabney, Secularised Education, 6, (accessed 12 January 2009).

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 2 (6)


Who should provide instruction? (final)

Hosea 14:9 (NIV) reminds us that “the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” God trusts us to raise transform tiny babies into eternal heirs reigning with His Son. Surely He will not abandon us to complete the task alone. Do we really believe the Holy Spirit exists to equip us? And are we really alone if our church is helping us to remain steadfast in our duties?

Unfortunately, the church is quick to give parents excuses. It is a rare church school that offers parents classes on teaching their children to savor every gift of God and to study the Word and His World as a family. Even the most successful of Christian head masters often choose secular curriculum because they reason it is what the local schools use, and their students may switch schools, and they don’t want to be embarrassed by their students’ inability to fit in.

Proverbs 22:6 (NASB) instructs parents to “Train up a child in the way they should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The way they should go is described as growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18, NASB).

Parents, with the help of the church, are instructed to do the time-consuming, diligent work of discipling children to wage war through prayer and to confront arguments that try to destroy their family’s ability to take every thought captive to Christ. Thinking as a Christian can only be learned by spending large quantities of time with other Christians.

Romans 12:2 (NIV) says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

Mathew 7:24-26 (NIV) says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”

Christian leaders—and especially parents, the primary biblical educators—need to ensure our children’s teachings and teachers are built on the Rock.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Living Science

I continue to be intrigued by the idea of teaching science by stepping outside and opening our eyes to the wonders of God's creation.

Curiosity took an odd turn last week. At one point I went outside to see what my boys were doing. They were sitting in the car sweating to death. In a bit of shock, I asked what they were doing and were they stupid or what? William wanted to know if he looked good all sweaty and David informed me that they were going to open the doors if they thought they were going to pass out.

After telling them never to do that again, I thought of all the dangerous things scientists do when curious. The boys weren't in nearly the same danger as Sally Ride or Chuck Yeager since they could open the door whenever they wanted to. The test had no long lasting effects like Marie Curie's uranium studies. So, in a way, it was a fairly safe thing for curious boys to do.

Later, David melted butter as an ingredient to the brownies he made. He could have burnt himself if the pot turned over or as he pulled the brownie pan out of the oven. There's risk in just eating dessert that is too hot, but smells too good to wait to eat. He also grilled his own hot dog. I often burn myself when I'm too lazy to grab a fork after I microwave or heat up a small meal.

That night, we watched a video on the Federal Reserve System and then read a book on money as a commodity. Cooking brownies, cooking boys, cooking books...There just seems to always be science going on at this house.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 2 (5)


Who should provide instruction? (cont'd.)

Most of Timothy deals with studying for God’s glory in order to disciple our families to capture all thoughts to Christ. Titus 1 admonishes fathers to care for their families in a manner similar to Timothy. Both letters instruct that we cannot be church leaders when we can’t even teach our own children to live for God’s glory.

1 Corinthians 15:33 (NASB) reminds families that we can’t fool ourselves into sending our children to pagan schools to evangelize. Paul says, “Do not be deceived: ‘bad company corrupts good morals.’” In fact, we are instructed to train our children’s character so they will confidently “let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1Tim 4:12, NASB).

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV) explains to the church, “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” It is qualified in Ephesians 6:4 (NIV) as, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

So the role of the church was to equip the adults to train their families to work in unity as they transformed culture. Without the help of the church, an entire body of believers, an already difficult task becomes even harder.

1 Kings 12:26-30 (NIV) relates Jeroboam’s efforts to rewrite history so the chosen people would be faithful to him instead of to God:
“Jeroboam thought to himself, ‘The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.’ After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there.”
“It is too much for you,” said wicked Jeroboam. Of course it is too hard to do anything without God, especially to obey Him. 2 Corinthians 3:5 (NASB) says, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” Even so, we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us]” (Phil 4:13, NKJV).

Parents easily rationalize excuses for not training their children: “I’m not smart enough.” Of course you are not, so study with them.

“My kids won’t obey me.” Well then, you ought to lay aside all other activities in your family until they do.

“I wouldn’t know where to begin.” C.S. Lewis said, “The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come.”

(1) C.S. Lewis, “Learning in War-times,” The Weight of Glory, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 60.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

To All 1 Smart Dads

Happy Father's Day!!

Smart Mamas, Smart Kids: take time today to show how much you appreciate the husbands, fathers, and grandfathers in your life. We couldn't do it without them.

I like the way this writer talks about homeschool dads:
As homeschooling moms it is so easy to get caught up in the day to day lists that we loose sight of the fact that our husbands work very hard so we can teach our children at home. I am so very grateful to my hubby.

I have seen him sacrifice so much just so his kids could get what they needed. This weekend is a time to celebrate all those dads that give so much. Thanks!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 2 (4)


Who should provide instruction? (cont'd.)

The ideal role of families in teaching and mentoring is a command and a promise in Scripture. Robert Lewis Dabney wrote this:
Malachi, in his last chapter, prepares the people for [the] long silence of revelation by two works, of which one is a promise, and the other a precept. The command is (Malachi 4:4) to walk by the law of Moses, God’s servant, and to keep the statutes and judgments given, through him, for all Israel. The promise is, that in due time the Messiah’s forerunner, coming in the spirit and power of Elijah, shall usher in the solemn, yet glorious day of Christ, by his preparatory ministry. This was to be, therefore, the next prophet whom the church should expect. But his work was to be prominently a revival of parental fidelity and domestic piety. ‘He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.’(1)
The Jewish family, who dwelled with Emmanuel, was expected to faithfully teach the next generation, preserving God’s word for the world. Dabney continues:
The next recorded message from the heavenly skies is that of the Angel Gabriel to Zacharias, given in Luke 1:11-20. The heavenly herald begins just where the earthly prophet had ended, with the promise and work of the forerunner, who was to be Zacharias’s son. “And he shall go before him [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (v. 17). That this work upon fathers and children was to be far more than the removal of domestic alienations; that it was to include this, but also to embrace a salvation of their children, and the docile seeking and reception of parental instruction by the children. […] This is the connecting link between both; it is the hinge in which they meet and combine with each other.(2)
Matthew 10:24-25 (NIV) describes the role of a student and teacher, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.” (Also see Luke 6:4). But continue reading verse 25: “If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!” Our children will follow their teacher. We are warned to be very cautious about teachers.

Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV) teaches us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The student will be like his master, so they need masters who can obey Matthew 28:19-20, and not the latest educational fad.

(1) Douglas W. Phillips, ed., Robert Lewis Dabney: The Prophet Speaks (San Antonio, TX: The Vision Forum, 2003), 27.
(2) Phillips, Robert Lewis Dabney: The Prophet Speaks, 27-28.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Underachievement and the Recession

I read an interesting article in USA Today this morning. It's called "The permanent recession," by Laura Vanderkam (click here to visit her website). This is the tag line:
"It’s no secret that America’s educational system doesn’t stack up well with the rest of the world. What’s not as front and center is that this underachieving has a dramatic economic toll, too."
She starts with some of the same basic statistics I've shared with you before (hers are more recent) about international competitiveness and biased perceptions of school quality, but then she brings everything back to relate to a subject most people care a lot about these days: the economy.

Here are a few big ideas:
" test scores for the top 10% of American 15-year-olds are far below those of the top 10% in other rich countries such as Finland and Switzerland."

"Economists know from years of analysis that people who do better on standardized tests grow up to be more productive workers."

"...if U.S. children did as well as students from nations such as Finland, our economy would be 9%-16% larger."
Assuming the numbers are sound, what does that mean?
"...our schools are costing us $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion every year. Just for comparison's sake, as of late May, economists thought the recession would shave 3.7% from our economy."
Ms. Vanderkam suggests that what we really need is a more challenging education - even, or maybe especially, for the brightest students. She reminds us that achievement needs to mean something, or that diploma will be nothing more than a piece of paper.

I don't want to dwell on the negative, though. To all of you who work hard with your children toward excellence, keep up the good work! What this article says to me is that what your families and my family are doing is very important. So hang in there! You can do it!

Go Outside and Open Their Eyes

Last month I was discussing how to teach science to grammarians with a very smart man who said,

"Teach them to go outside and open their eyes."

A smart mama at a Parent Practicum asked a similar question that I didn’t answer very well, as it caught me off guard. I should have responded with a quote we had just gone over in the Practicum from G.K. Chesterton. "We are perishing from want of wonder, not want of wonders."

With my penchant for naming things, I take for granted that others may struggle with studying the natural world. I forget that my boys can identify birds, fish, mammals, constellations, and weather patterns because their parents can identify those same things. I will argue to the bitter end that it is more spiritually satisfying to be able to say, "Look at that heron trying to swallow that bass," than "Look at that bird try to swallow that fish."

As a classical educator, I reject studying science solely by doing. Naming and doing go together. I can either contrive lessons that explain the natural world by using a lab described in a textbook or we can actually just go outside, open our eyes, and explore. My family is fortunate to live on a lake with lots of woods around. A fox visiting our dog food bowl is normal. Fishing and birding are regular activities. Even when we lived in a suburban yard, we still took walks on golf courses and parks, so experiential science, enjoying the wonders of creation, is just what we do when we are outside.

Today, the dog jumped into the lake intending to swim across to greet some people on the other bank. He is too friendly. I was in the kayak, so I started to chase after him. William ran along the bank to see if he could help me, while the David was swimming his usual laps to the dam and back. I caught up with Ranger, grabbed the dog’s collar and hoisted him onto my kayak.

As I turned around, there was our heron friend pinching a very large bass in his bill. As I drew the boy’s attention to the heron’s struggle on the shore, the dog also saw the wonder and was very eager to help the two foot tall aviator. William watched the pattern of the current so he could meet me, remove the dog, and secure him to his chain. David tread water while we waited to see what would happen.

The fish won, well kind of. He died while being unsuccessfully gulped. The heron coyly ate a few greens and flew off without apologizing for his greedy behavior. An hour later, the dead fish floated on the current past our dock. David commented, "There’s the bass our heron killed."

Earlier in the day, David and I visited some older neighbors who are really into gardening. They took the time to give us lemonade and cookies while we walked around the yard naming and smelling and touching perennials. A rose may be as sweet by any other name, but if you want to buy one to plant in your own garden, it helps to tell the horticulturist what you are looking for.

Now how do you bring dogs, herons, fish, currents, kayaks, gardeners, backyards, perennials, and boys into the school lab?
- Leigh

Homeschooling in America

A little late, but check out this blog post someone forwarded to me. It's by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Click on the title to read the whole article.
A Major Force in Education -- Homeschooling in America
Posted: Wednesday, June 03, 2009 at 5:16 am ET

The U.S. Department of Education has released its periodic review of schooling in America, and it offers a revealing look at the growth of homeschooling. The picture of contemporary homeschooling offers some real surprises and raises some new questions.

"The Condition of Education 2009" is produced by the National Center for Education Statistics, and it contains a wealth of statistical data. [...]

Homeschooling was the choice of families for 2.9 percent of all school-age children in the United States in 2007, involving 1.5 million students.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 2 (3)


Who should provide instruction? (cont'd.)

The Abraham covenant required individuals to know their commitment and duties to God (through the covenant), their nation (Israel), and the world (blessings to the world). Abraham’s faithful instruction to his family is reflected in the elderly Joseph’s ability to say, “God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Gen 50:24, NIV).

Joseph learned this from his family, not Potiphar’s Preschool or Pharaoh’s Academy. Daniel, another young man separated from his family, was influential in the Babylon school because of the character his parents had instilled. Now think about this. How many moderns can identify the sayings of their great-grandfather or know how the world is influenced by their family?

Deuteronomy 6:7-9 specifies that parents must constantly, consistently, and contextually bear the responsibility for educating their children. According to Kenneth Gangel, “Hebrew parents were continually to whet the intellectual appetites of their children…They were to sharpen their minds, prompting questions which would create teachable moments so that instruction in the faith of Israel might be given.”(1)

The home was the central place of instruction.

During the fifth century B.C., things changed. The synagogue became a fixed location for teaching Hebrew theology, and scribes like Ezra and Nehemiah began special houses of learning for adults.

Hebrew was taught to those who spoke Aramaic so the faith could continue to be passed down. The Hebrews could no longer read or listen to Scripture because of the exile and the dispersion; instead, they thought in the language of other cultures. Today, we think in the language of non-Christian cultures.

As a reaction to Greek paganism, “houses of the book” were opened for younger children. According to Robert Ulich, “The old custom of teaching children within the family seems to have degenerated” during the Second Commonwealth (515 B.C.-70 A.D.).(2)

(1) Kenneth O. Gangel, “Toward a Biblical Theology of Marriage and Family,” Journal of Psychology and Theology 5 (winter 1977): 60.
(2) Robert Ulich, A History of Religious Education (New York: New York University, 1968), 13.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Classical Grown-up

When they're little, children pretend to be grown-ups. Teenagers want to be treated as grown-ups. College students think they are grown up. 

Then it happens: when they graduate, they want to be children again.

At least, that's how it worked for me. School may have been a hassle, but the learning has just begun--and the deadlines are less flexible, the stakes higher. 

I will be starting graduate school this August, and this month, I've begun to receive the requisite forms: student loans, immunization records, mandatory health insurance, and so forth. 

It's a whole new vocabulary (grammar) to learn. What is a subsidized loan? What makes it different from an unsubsidized one? What is a PPO? What is a Health Savings Account? 

It's a whole new set of data to organize and process (dialectic). Is it better to pay out of savings, losing the interest I would have earned, or take out a low-interest subsidized loan? What are the costs and benefits of a low copay compared to a low monthly premium?

It's a whole new batch of decisions to make and explain (rhetoric). I chose to enroll in this policy because of A, B, and C. I took out X number of student loans with the anticipation that I will pay them off in Y number of years as long as I follow Z plan of action.

And I thought learning the Periodic Table was difficult. 

I guess it's back to "kindergarten" for this reluctant grown-up--without the naps. Does anyone have children in the "let's play house" stage who might like to trade with me? 

Just thought I'd ask...

...because everyday adventures can be classical opportunities too...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 2 (2)


Who should provide instruction?

For over two centuries, Americans began and ended their day with family devotions. That meant that someone in the family knew how to read, so someone was capable of teaching the rest of the family how to read the Bible.

Now we have whole families that have never read together, and most adults do not willingly choose to listen to lectures, let alone the two- to three-hour sermons, political debates, and literary discussions that provided entertainment for early Americans. Imagine every family in your church reading Scripture every day and spending three or more hours listening to your pastor teach each Sunday.

The famous Lincoln-Douglass debates were seven hours long. Can you imagine your congregation standing for seven hours, munching on sandwiches and sipping tea, while Lincoln debated Douglass or your pastor taught? Are we even physically or mentally capable of doing so? The average American family watches an average of five hours of screens a day, so apparently we have time to worship and pray and study; we just choose not to.

Less than 15 percent of Americans home school or enroll their children in Christian schools (13), yet more than 70 percent claim to be Christians (14). Our great Christian universities are rarely any different than their state counterparts. Christians often campaign to have prayer in school, but then they will not say to which god they would have the children pray. They seem to be encouraging state-led idolatry.

We say we would die for Christ, but then we are not willing to sacrifice to raise children for Christ or to sacrifice time and money for Christian schools. Christian leaders are eager, yet frustrated in their efforts to instruct parents so they can successfully recover a Christian worldview for their children. God is ready to equip us with solutions, but we are so immersed in our culture that we miss what He is saying to us.

(13) Office of Innovation and Improvement, Statistics About Non-Public Education in the United States, U.S. Department of Education, 2008, (accessed 12 January 2009).
(14) Barry A. Kosmin, Egon Mayer, and Ariela Keysar, American Religious Identification Survey, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2001, (accessed 12 January 2009).

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

2009 CC Educational Summit

In late May, I arranged an Educational Summit so leaders from a variety of organizations interested in advancing home-centered education could meet to learn more about one another. About a dozen people joined the Classical Conversations’ staff for two-and-a-half days of introductions and conversation. 

The attendees are listed below, and as you’ll see, they represent diverse interests. Not only were noted home schooling leaders invited, but also leaders from schools, curriculum developers, and secular policy groups. As we got to know one another, it turned out all were committed to Christianity and were active church members, even if the organizations they represented were not.

It discourages me when folks with like missions don’t even know one another, and I am even more discouraged when they do know one another and won’t get together unless everyone has the same qualifications for worship. I wanted to use this event not only to tell potential new friends about Classical Conversations, but also to reassure them that I can work with them even if we don’t have the same vision for completing the mission. 

We were all interested in promoting ‘Free Families’ (Alan Schaeffer’s term) or ‘Freedomship’ (Andrew Pudewa’s term). The Heritage Foundation promotes Constitutional studies from a secular perspective, and the CiRCE Institute equips classical school educators. 

Even though neither of those activities falls under the vision of Classical Conversations, we share the same mission – empowering parents and reducing government influence – and I wanted to know more about them and how we can help one another.

Our association that weekend was more beneficial than I even knew to ask for in prayer. Besides sharing their organizations’ strengths, the presenters all demonstrated through their intellectual and ethical integrity why they are leaders. One of my staff quipped that hanging out with them was like being allowed to play basketball with the pros. We all left knowing more of the richness and mystery of God’s Word and eager to think closely about how families work.

I can’t describe the delight I felt in being able to discuss family, church, and government roles and responsibilities with so many people who spend the greater part of their day thinking about effecting change in education. We by no means agreed on everything, but we were all challenged to broaden and deepen our search for Truth.

We ended the Summit committed to work with one another, and we are beginning to explore ways to do that. Most of the organizations have materials that Classical Conversations will promote, and they in turn will let their constituencies know about Classical Conversations. Also, I have been invited to policy events and to speak to much broader audiences than home schooling parents.

My goal since I began Classical Conversations has been to broaden beyond committed Christians the excellent education the classical model promotes. Those committed to parent-driven education are looking for more options. I believe that the classical model can be recovered in private schools and that parents can be integrated into and respected by institutions if both are given a vision for academic excellence.

Classical Conversations will remain strong in its sole mission: to enable students to know God and to make Him known in all their endeavors. On the other hand, I am a bridge builder and am very comfortable working with anyone who will challenge the status quo. Those pursuing truth easily engage in conversations about Truth. Pray for me that I will represent Him well, and thank Him for the folks that attended. We are already planning next year’s Summit.


Attendees of the 2009 Classical Conversations Educational Summit

Monday, June 8, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 2 (1)


The church is responsible for equipping families to cultivate Christian culture.

In 2 Corinthians 10:2-5 (NIV), Paul says this:
I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
This verse makes me ask certain questions as an educator. If we are to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ, how does this translate into Christian education? What does the Bible have to say about education? Is there such a thing as non-Christian education? What form does the Bible use to instruct? Who instructs whom? How do they teach, and what do they teach? How do today’s Christians educate biblically?

The Bible tells believers that we have been commissioned to complete an important task – to reconcile the world to Christ. We do so be acknowledging that He died for us, that He wants to dwell with us, and that He will return for us. He is even named Emmanuel – God with us. So how does the Bible instruct us to fulfill this great commission of discipling, teaching, mentoring others? What is Truth education and how extensive is it? Does it only require a good Bible study?

In this paper, education is examined through three major premises: the biblical understanding of family as primary educational institution; the holistic view of education as knowledge, understanding, and wisdom; and the idea of theology as habitus, an integration of all of learning with theology as its formative mistress.

These premises answer essential questions about who should provide instruction, what should be taught, and what is the goal of education.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved

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Friday, June 5, 2009

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tiananmen and Justice

Tomorrow Today, Thursday, is the twentieth anniversary of the student protests at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. (Here are a few websites with more information about June 4, 1989: BBC On This Day, Wikipedia, The Economist).

NPR just published an article about three student leaders who survived and what they're doing today (Student Leaders Reflect, 20 Years After Tiananmen).

One works in IT, publishing online: '"We publish [on] different sensitive issues and send millions of e-mails every day into China. Also, we can learn how to transform totalitarian regimes into democratic countries," Shao says.'

One works in the media: '"I couldn't wait to get this technology into China, into universities and TV stations. It's incredibly empowering. The mass media, eventually, is a democratizing, liberalizing force," he says.'

And one is a pastor. '"Democracy is not my job. I am not a revolutionary. My job is to save souls and spread God's gospel, to let the love of Jesus Christ melt the hatred in China," Zhang says.'

Which one is doing the most important work?

Well, I'm going to let you answer that. But this story reminds me how often we forget God's commitment to restoring justice. Read Isaiah 58: "'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?'" (3). 

"Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?"(6)
"Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am'" (9).

He may not bring justice the way we think, or in our timing. But that doesn't mean He's forgotten, or lost count, or misplaced His copy of the law.

So as we remember acts of injustice and tragedy and are tempted to get bogged down in politics or the pursuit of justice on earth, let's not forget the real, final Judge whose justice, unlike ours, is perfect.

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 1 (3)


As our secular culture has become increasingly entertainment-driven, to the point that literacy is no longer required, our school systems have become confused in their purpose and are no longer developing literate students. According to Peter Drucker in Post-Capitalist Society, institutional schools fail because they are being asked to socialize rather than to teach.(1)

Family, church, and communities are designed for socializing. Schools should not be expected to replace the family or the church.

Columnist Charles Davenport, Jr. summarized the core values in the 2007 Guilford County, N.C. school budget report as “diversity, empathy, equality, innovativeness, and integrity” instead of reading, writing, and arithmetic.(2)

As Linda Cannell, professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, said in a discussion with a Doctorate of Ministry class on global church-based theological education, “Schools are our most educationally impoverished institutions.”(3)

Parents of elite private school students may conclude that my thesis does not apply to their children. My response is that their standards of literacy are too low. For example, read the following paragraph from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense:
Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which would supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing but Heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other: and this remissness will point out the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.(4)
This pamphlet was written to be readable for the average twelve-year-old in Colonial America, since they were comparable in responsibility to today’s college student. An interesting aside is that over half the people who purchased Thomas Paine’s Common Sense were either indentured servants or African slaves.(5) Few modern adults, let alone a sixth grader, can read this document well enough to explain its arguments and conclusions.

Parents need to recognize that our current literacy standards are just too low.

Before the 1900s, American teenagers taught children of all ages in one-room school houses (after their parents had taught them to read) and raised the most literate culture ever seen on the face of the earth. They used very inexpensive and highly effective techniques.

The twenty-first century has its own issues, but good learning techniques never change. We should be able to recover America’s historic proficient literacy rate of over 90 percent by using just a piece of chalk and a slate.

To recover a literate culture, Christian leaders need to give families the tools to teach an image-based culture to think about an abstract God.

(1) Peter F. Drucker, Post-Capitalist Society (New York: Harper Business, 1994).
(2) Charles Davenport, Jr., The Greensboro News-Record, 2007.
(3) Linda Cannell, Ed.D., “Global Church-based Theological Education,” (Boston: Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, 10 March 2006).
(4) Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776, (accessed 4 June 2008).
(5) John Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Public Schooling (Gabriola Island, B.C., Canada: New Society Publishers, 1992), 13.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 1, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 1 (2)


Neil Postman devotes two chapters in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death to analyzing literacy rates from the colonial era through the 1900s. He says, “And although literacy rates are notoriously difficult to assess, there is sufficient evidence that between 1640 and 1700, the literacy rate for men in Massachusetts and Connecticut was somewhere between 89 and 95 percent. […] The literacy rate for women is estimated to run as high as 62 percent in the years 1681-1697.”(1)

He proceeds to give details of the American Lyceum movement throughout the 1800s, on which Alfred Bunn, a visiting Englishman, remarked, “It is a matter of wonderment…to witness the youthful workmen, the over-tired artisan, the worn-out factory girl…rushing…after the toil of the day is over, into the hot atmosphere of the over-crowded lecture room” to hear intellectuals speak for hours.(2)

Postman lists the number of copies of various books sold in cities as a percent of the population, indicating that every adult bought and read books.

Postman goes on to explain how the age of show business has made banning books completely pointless – no one even wants to read books anymore. He believed that our love for the “technologies that undue our capacity to think” would make us into a culture that would lose its intellectual appetite and subsequently its ability to process difficult ideas or large quantities of information.

In 1985, he prophetically assessed our current educational predicament well, since entertainment and pleasurable distractions from literacy are plentiful today.

(1) Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Penguin, 2005), 31.
(2)Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, 40.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

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