Reformed Thinkers on Education: Jaarsma Revisited, Or Uniting the Heart and Mind

Dear Reader,

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.

I recently finished reading Cornelius Jaarsma’s Fundamentals in Christian Education  (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1953). Though we have discussed Jaarsma previously, I wanted to revisit his thought to bring out one more idea. 

Many of the reformed thinkers we have looked at speak of educating the whole child. What they mean by this is that we humans, though consisting of heart, mind, body, and spirit, are unified wholes. Our various parts are so connected that, though we speak of them separately, they do not truly operate that way. When we educate, we educate the whole person. This has been applied in various ways. It is common, for instance, to argue that since the body is not separate that there must always be a hands-on element to education or that there must always be a practical application. While I agree that the biblical conception of man is that he is a whole, I am not sure that science experiments and service projects are the natural outcome of this belief.

In “Improvement of the Curriculum,” Jaarsma offers another option. He speaks of love as the guiding principle of education and the heart as primary. “[I]t is the heart,” he tells us “which gives both wisdom and power” (p. 250). He quotes W. H. Kilpatrick who says that:

“‘Nothing is really learned until one accepts it in his heart. “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” The word may be in the head, but sin will still run uncontrolled in life. But in the heart it accomplishes its purpose. Nothign is really learned in school until a child comes to accept it in his heart. This is the scriptural view of learning . . . Learning is heart acceptance.'” (p. 253)

What does it mean to accept something in one’s heart? It means that a connection is made, a relationship is formed:

“No learner comes to accept in his heart what appears to him unrelated to life.” (p. 257)

I am not entirely sure if Jaarsma means by this the same thing that I take from it, but I see here again Charlotte Mason’s idea that “education is the science of relations.” We do not truly know unless we form a relationship, unless we begin to care.

I have defined education as the sanctification of the mind, but I am beginning to see that it is not quite so simple. The heart cannot be excluded for, as Jaarsma says, we do not truly know unless the heart is involved.


One response to this post.

  1. […] is also relational. To know is to have a relationship. (Jaarsma on Uniting the Heart and Mind; Oppewal on […]


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