Reformed Thinkers on Education: Introduction

Dear Reader,

This is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed philosophy theology of education. You can find all the posts here.

Though I have been blogging for a while on a reformed Christian approach to education and slowly developing my own philosophy of education, I am realizing that there is a body of material I have not interacted with and should.

I have come to this enterprise with my own particular bent, coming from  homeschooling and having used Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education. Most of these other authors come from Christian schools often with a classical bent, or at least influenced more by the Christian classical movement. My goal over the next months is to read and distill what they have written.

I have a few convictions that I come into this enterprise with. One, born of my readings in various approaches to homeschooling, is that every philosophy of education says something about the nature of man and his ultimate purpose. I believe that the Bible is the “only infallible rule for faith and life.” The wording is from my  denomination’s membership vows and it is important. “Only” here modifies “infallible.” God’s Word is our only infallible rule, but not the only place we may go for guidance. I do not believe the Bible will give us all the answers to all the questions we have. I do not believe, for instance, that it tells us which diet is right. But, given that questions about education are ultimately questions about the nature of man and his purpose, we should expect to get a lot of insight from the Scriptures. Lastly, we need an approach to education which accounts for every child, not just covenant children. I find it quite odd actually that most Christian approaches are just for kids from Christian homes. Anyone who teaches can have non-Christian children under their care. This is certainly true in public schools but also in Christian schools unless they strictly limit enrolment. It can even be true in the home for those who take in foster kids or watch others’ children. There may be differences in how education is applied and received by covenant versus non-covenant children, but our statement of what education is should be applicable to all people.

One of the thinkers I will be looking at is Peter Ton. His master’s thesis, “Is Classical Christian Education Compatible with a Reformed Christian Perspective on Education?,” following Vriend, lays out a few schools of thought among reformed thinkers on education, he distinguishes three categories: confessionalist, positive Calvinist, and antithetical. Though not everyone need fit into one of these boxes, I think it is helpful to have these categories in mind. They give us some sense of the issues at stake and some way to evaluate where a given thinker falls on the spectrum of belief. Confessionalists, Ton says emphasize content. It is not enough to put a Christian spin on non-Christian facts. We need to teach our own theology and confessions and history. This approach is more in line with classical education which also emphasizes content. Awareness is preferred over action. Little concern is given to learning styles and teaching strategy. The Positive Calvinist is more progressive and emphasizes process over content. The  response to what is learned is important. The goal is not so much to develop students’ minds as to practice stewardship, justice and compassion. Lastly, the Antithetical approach, which Ton himself takes, bridges some of the gaps between the other two. It states that all ages have their problems and there is no golden age to which we look back. It combines the content of confessionalist with the practical application of positive Calvinist. Education equips children to live in this world and fulfill their covenant responsibilities. The faith of the teacher and community and the content of the educational materials are important. A distinctly Christian curriculum is also important.

Some questions to ask of each thinker, then, include:

  • What does he assume about the nature of man, including his ability to learn and to receive what is good?
  • What does he see as the ultimate purpose of man?
  • What is the purpose of education and how does it serve man’s ultimate purpose? Are they the same or is education a stepping stone?
  • Can these ideas be applied to all children, whether from believing homes or not?
  • Is there more of an emphasis on taking in knowledge or on application and action?
  • Is there a set body of knowledge that one needs to know?
  • How much individualism is allowed for?
  • What does it say about knowledge, especially knowledge that we get from non-Christian sources?
  • Is the method applicable to both home and school environments? Does it prefer one over the other?

Lastly, I will point you to a few writers whose work I have already reviewed:

J.G. Vos What is Christian Education?

Cornelius Van Til Essays on Christian Education

Rousas Rushdoony Philosophy of Christian Curriculum

Christopher Dawson The Crisis in Western Education (a Roman Catholic writer)

Greg Harris The Christian Homeschool

David Smith and Susan Felch Teaching and Christian Imagination

John Milton “Of Education”

Nebby

22 responses to this post.

  1. […] « Reformed Thinkers on Education: Introduction […]

    Reply

  2. […] I am currently in the midst of a series within a series in which I look at some modern reformed thinkers on education, The introductory post to this mini-series is here. […]

    Reply

  3. […] I am currently in the midst of a series within a series in which I look at some modern reformed thinkers on education. The introductory post to this mini-series is here. […]

    Reply

  4. […] I am currently in the midst of a series within a series in which I look at some modern reformed thinkers on education, The introductory post to this mini-series is here. […]

    Reply

  5. […] their views along with some of my responses (see the introductory post to this series with a series here). The next thinker I will be posting on is Cornelius Jaarsma. Because he has so much meaty stuff […]

    Reply

  6. […] what they have had to say about education (see the introductory post to this series with a series here). Last time we began to look at Cornelius Jaarsma, focusing in the four approaches to education […]

    Reply

  7. […] We are in the midst of a series within a series in which I look at various reformed thinkers and what they have had to say about education (see the introductory post to this series with a series here). […]

    Reply

  8. […] what they have had to say about education (see the introductory post to this series with a series here). Most of the people I have looked at thus far are represented in a volume edited by Donald […]

    Reply

  9. […] what they have had to say about education (see the introductory post to this series with a series here). Most of the people I have looked at thus far are represented in a volume edited by Donald […]

    Reply

  10. […] I am currently in the midst of a series within a series in which I look at some modern reformed thinkers on education, The introductory post to this mini-series is here. […]

    Reply

  11. […] I look at some modern reformed thinkers on education. The introductory post to this mini-series is here. One of my criticisms has been that most, if not all, of the thinkers we have looked at assume […]

    Reply

  12. […] This is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed philosophy theology of education. You can find all the posts here. Most recently, I have been looking at various reformed thinkers and seeing what they had to say about education. The introduction to this series-within-a-series is here. […]

    Reply

  13. […] This is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed philosophy theology of education. You can find all the posts here. Currently we are in the midst of a series within a series in which I look at various reformed thinkers and what they have had to say about education (see the introductory post to this series with a series here). […]

    Reply

  14. […] next thinker on this series within a series is Henry Zylstra (d. 1956). Like Jellema and Wolterstorff, he worked at Calvin College and […]

    Reply

  15. […] This is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed philosophy theology of education. You can find all the posts here. Currently we are in the midst of a series within a series in which I look at various reformed thinkers and what they have had to say about education (see the introductory post to this series with a series here). […]

    Reply

  16. […] This is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed philosophy theology of education. You can find all the posts here. Currently we are in the midst of a series within a series in which I look at various reformed thinkers and what they have had to say about education (see the introductory post to this series with a series here). […]

    Reply

  17. […] This post is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed Christian philosophy theology of education. Find all the posts here. More recently we have been looking at what various reformed thinkers have to say on education. You can find the intro to this this series within a series here.  […]

    Reply

  18. […] This is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed philosophy theology of education. You can find all the posts here. Currently we are in the midst of a series within a series in which I look at various reformed thinkers and what they have had to say about education (see the introductory post to this series with a series here). […]

    Reply

  19. […] This post is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed Christian philosophy theology of education. Find all the posts here. I am currently in the midst of a series within a series in which I look at some modern reformed thinkers on education, The introductory post to this mini-series is here. […]

    Reply

  20. […] a brief hiatus to discuss the history of Christian thought on education, we are now returning to our mini-series on Reformed Thinkers on Education. I don’t honestly know the denominational affiliation of today’s thinker. I rather […]

    Reply

  21. […] I am returning today to my a series-within-a-series on reformed thinkers on education, The introductory post to this mini-series is here. […]

    Reply

  22. […] This post is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed Christian philosophy theology of education. Find all the posts here. I am returning today to my a series-within-a-series on reformed thinkers on education, The introductory post to this mini-series is here. […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Calvinist day-school

...bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ

Sabbath Mood Homeschool

Desiring That a Sabbath Mood Rest on Your Homeschool

dayuntoday

my musings, wise or otherwise

StrongHaven

A Literary Homestead

journey-and-destination

Blogging about education, theology, and more

Harmony Fine Arts

Blogging about education, theology, and more

Sage Parnassus

Blogging about education, theology, and more

A peaceful day

Blogging about education, theology, and more

Living Charlotte Mason in California

Blogging about education, theology, and more

weeklywalrus

Weekly Walrus Whatevers

Creations by Maris

Handwoven Textiles

Fisher Academy International ~ Teaching Home

Blogging about education, theology, and more

Afterthoughts

Blogging about education, theology, and more

Homeschooling Middle East

A Homeschooling/Unschooling Adventure from Bahrain to Dubai that's a story for anyone, anywhere who's interested in offering their kids an educational alternative. Please have fun visiting and have even more fun commenting! We have now moved to Granada, Spain and I will write again once we've settled down!!

Exclusive Psalmody

For the Encouragement and Preservation of Biblical Worship

Charlotte Mason Institute

Supporting an international conversation toward an authentic Charlotte Mason education - awakening to delightful living