The American Education System has taken many twists and turns over the past few centuries. These twists and turns were spearheaded by some of the world’s greatest thinkers, philosophers, and educators, however, throughout this process of progress and innovation, we have lost sight of the original foundational principles that our forefathers set forth when they came to this country. Many Americans fail to understand the history behind education in our country and how its roots in Christianity, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the bible were a source of inspiration and guidance. Our country has experienced many ups and downs throughout its relatively short existence; however, one cannot deny the increased blessing and prosperity that has surrounded America since its inception. This undeniable favor, blessing, power, and authority that America has enjoyed are a direct correlation of the educational principles that our forefathers set in place. Educational principles that were rooted in God’s word [the bible], that ensured the protection of future generations from the same bondage that brought the Puritans to America in the first place. Barton (2004) discusses the Old Deluder Satan Act of 1642 and quotes, “It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former times” (Barton, 2004). Educational pioneers such as Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and the later American Pestalozzian Joseph Neef understood that a return to God and a return to nature were the solutions that their respective educational systems desperately needed. The purpose of education is to give man the tools and resources necessary to understand the world, which God created, and to formulate their individual and collective creative roles within God’s creation through a reflective organization of sensory data while maintaining a respect for the creator (God).
Education as a means of digression and indoctrination versus education as a means of progression and reflection is the war that modern American education is currently fighting. Barton (2004) reflects on the 1787 Northwest Ordinance law that was passed at the identical time and by the identical Founding Fathers who drafted the First Amendment. This is the same amendment that Courts today interpret as prohibiting religion in public schools. The Northwest Ordinance Article III also stated “religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, should forever be encouraged in schools and all means of education” (Barton, 2004). The digression from God and from nature that has taken place since America’s foundation has not only distanced us from the practical role of nature in education, it has muted one’s ability to recognize the lack of depth and practicality that should exist in basic educational principles. Since the secularization of schools in 1962, educational testing scores have plummeted. This is evident in the dramatic decline in college bound SAT scores. American high school students finished last or near the bottom in international testing in math and science. Illiteracy has sky rocketed in America and we now rank 65th in the world in literacy out of 200 nations. Academic results are at an all time low, which has prompted the advocacy of “school choice”. This paper will reflect upon this digression by examining worldview and philosophy of life, philosophy of schools and learning, educational practice, teacher-learner relationships, and diversity. This examination will reveal that the purpose of education is to give man the tools and resources necessary to understand the world, which God created, and to formulate their individual and collective creative roles within God’s creation through a reflective organization of sensory data while maintaining a respect for the creator (God).
A clear worldview and a sound philosophy of life are essential parts of becoming a great educator. Minds are like parachutes; they only function when they are open. This statement summarizes the human journey towards knowledge and wisdom. Since the beginning of time, man’s ego has played a major role in his rise and his fall and the same can be true for education. The world we live in is comprised of a natural dimension and a supernatural dimension. Both dimensions revolve around the creator God and our understanding of Him and His ways. Man’s ability or inability to embrace humility and respect for the creator goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Since the garden, man has struggled with the reality that they do not know everything there is to know and in order to gain wisdom and understanding of nature and their relationship to it; humility needs to rule the ego. It is comical how many people know they are right in spite of opposite perspectives and sound evidence. The process of being right ultimately comes down to an issue of the level of comfort or discomfort one is willing to allow themselves to be subjected to by admitting they were wrong. Each person’s threshold is different. When the human mind weighs the consequences or fallout of being wrong and decides it is not worth it to submit to correction, they go into a form of denial and therefore subconsciously submit to believing they are right despite solid evidence. This is the point where humility enters and the true test of a person’s character begins. According to the bible, if humility takes precedence over the ego and the ego takes a back seat to humility, wisdom and knowledge are gained.
Proverbs 9:8-12 (NASB) states, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you. If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you alone will bear it.”
The word scoff according to Strong’s number 3887 comes from the Hebrew root word “luts” or “loots” which means, “to make mouths at or to scoff; to make mockery of or to scorn” (KJV with Strong’s numbers). This portion of scripture leads one to believe that a mocking attitude or scoffing tone only leads to destruction and ignorance. With this in mind it is clear that an open mind which falls in line with God’s word and retains a healthy respect for the creator can therefore attain greater wisdom than one who rejects God’s ways and scorns correction or the possibility that they could be wrong about something.
All throughout the bible God makes it clear that one of man’s downfalls is that we try to take credit for things that only God can take credit for. A great example of this would be if a homeowner hired an architect and a construction company to build their dream home. After the home was completed and a few years go buy, the owner begins telling people that they built the home with their bare hands and anyone is capable of building the same house if they want it bad enough. They begin to take credit for something they did not do and could not do by themselves. This is essentially the premise of humanism. Many humanists make creationists out to be the odd ones for believing that God made mankind in His own image, however, it seems more odd to take the stance that man created everything including God who is nothing more than a projection of the mind of man. Rather than relying on the principles found in God’s word as a guide for morality, humanism believes that the mind of man alone guides morality. This is a profound statement and it is widely accepted by many scholars that the principles and moral guidelines found in the bible could not have been invented by the mind of man. History provides us with an instance where God saw this humanistic mentality and decided to tear down the tower of babel and ultimately prevent man’s attempt to oust God and become the supreme ruler.
In the Humanist Manifesto III (2011), the last paragraph states, “Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone” (Humanist Manifesto III, 2011). Although humanism has some very biblically based principles towards human rights, they strip the credit that we even know of these principles from God the creator. Humanism is clearly a proponent of removing supernaturalism (God) from our existence and putting us in charge of making up the rules as we go along. This is extremely dangerous and is one of the reasons so many Christians who take on this mentality begin to fudge on the rules that God set in place as eternal and everlasting. This is the beginning and the end of any civilization and can only result in another babel experience.
How does this compare to enlightenment or the “age of reason”? The age of enlightenment that we read of in Gutek is quite different than the one that we see happening today. Although the age of reason leaned on scientific principles, natural law, and realism, there was still a respect for the creator and His role in things. Good examples of this were pioneers such as Pestalozzi, Owen, Jefferson, Rush, and Webster who were motivated by progress, scientific momentum, a return to nature, and human equality. While holding these convictions they still had a love and respect for the creator (Gutek, 1995), however, this is not true today and humanism seeks to remove the Creator (God) from the educational equation and steal the principles that He alone gave to mankind. Many secular educators and modern advocates for humanism fail to realize that the sense realism that was introduced by Newton into Western thought was not void of a creator/God who was the author of the universal natural laws that existed. Gutek (1995) writes, “When eighteenth-century philosophies spoke of nature, they meant this all-pervasive, harmoniously functioning world machine. Through carefully constructed scientific experimentation and the accurate compilation of data, human beings could discern the universal patterns of natural operations and discover natural laws” (Gutek, 1995, pg. 167-168). The key word in this statement is discern not create. Modern humanism seeks to change the word discern to the word create therefore removing the higher Creator (God) from the machines equation. By taking all of this into consideration, the ideal educator would continue an axiological stance by providing students with the tools and resources necessary to understand the world, which God created. They would do this through writings and research that create the appropriate layers necessary for progress while submitting these writings and research to the scrutiny of the Holy Scriptures. This would allow students to formulate their individual and collective creative roles within God’s creation by being able to discern specific universal patterns of natural laws by using their reflective organization of sensory data all the while maintaining a respect for the creator (God).
A great educator also needs to develop a solid philosophy of schools and the learning process. Pestalozzi was the “superman” of the early American Educational System. Pestalozzi’s concept that nature was crucial to educational philosophy was in a sense a prophetic foreshadowing of what our educational system would be lacking in these modern times. Gutek (1995) states, “[i]n Pestalozzian terms, nature might be described both as reality and as the totality of the physical environment that appears to the senses as a vast array of seemingly discrete and independent objects” (Gutek, 1995, pg. 229). Many educational scholars believe that this approach to education is wise and uses common sense based on what is known of humanity and its relationship to God through nature.
Pestalozzi’s analogy regarding the tree parallels the beauty of God’s creation and how everything works together cohesively when it is in the right environment. Pestalozzi believed that this tree presented a “seed of which contains all the innate potentialities of the mature tree. If given a proper environment, the seed will develop into a tree. People possess latent germinal powers for moral, intellectual, and physical growth” (Gutek, 1995, pg. 229).
The same could be true for the educational system as a whole; however, there is argument of the type of environment that is needed to nurture this tree to become tall and healthy. The proper environment is one that uses science and nature to better understand the scriptures and the Creator versus using science and nature to disprove the existence of the Creator through our shallow understanding of the scriptures. Graham (2009) states that, “Historically, the Bible has often been perceived as conflicting with academic knowledge, science in particular. Some people have sought to resolve that conflict by limiting the Bible to the nonscientific. They claim that the Bible relates to spiritual matters and science deals with material matters. While this differentiation may resolve the conflict, it does so at the cost of rendering the Bible irrelevant for scientific investigation and thus denies the possibility of Christian scholarship” (Graham, 2009, pg. 177).
Dr. Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research makes a profound statement regarding this issue in his article “The Bible is a Textbook of Science”. Morris (2013) states “It is salutary for anyone dealing with questions of this sort to recognize the essential nature of faith and presuppositions in his reasonings. “Science” (the very meaning of which is knowledge) necessarily can deal only with those things that exist at present. The scientific method involves reproducibility, the study of present natural processes. When men attempt to interpret the events of the prehistoric past or the eschatological future, they must necessarily leave the domain of true science (whose measurements can be made only in the present) and enter the realm of faith” (Morris, 2013, pg. 1). In other words, if something is not observable and measurable in present natural processes, it then falls into the category of faith. This goes for evolution and all the different scientific theories that do not have any present natural processes taking place. Furthermore, the bible would be just as scientific if not more scientific than any of Darwin’s writings. In reality, there are actual discoveries today that are making the events and theories in the bible become more measurable in a present day sense. These discoveries include the Hebrew bible code, which is definitely not a coincidence, and the discovery of remnants from the red sea crossing. The same cannot be said for Darwinism. There is no known evidence to support the theory of change of kind. Although a change of species, also known as adaptation, can be observed, there is no data to support the idea of a monkey becoming a bird or an ape becoming a man. Both Morris and Graham cause one to begin to see the bible as more than just a historical account of ancient peoples and customs but instead a textbook of science. It takes faith to know and understand God just as much as it takes a scholarly approach to know and understand God. The same can be said for science, however we have to choose if we are going to serve science or serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who was the creator of science. Barton (2004) quotes Thomas Paine by stating, “[i]nstead of looking through the works of the creation to the Creator Himself, they stop short and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of His existence.”
I. P. Pavlov (1849-1936) applied the psychological aspect to what might seem a Pestalozzian approach to environment conditioning. Although one should not agree with Pavlov’s Marxist stance, his scientific assertion that psychological functions were a mechanical process seems to line up with the specific natural laws that Pestalozzi recognized (Gutek, 1995). Humans are essentially a product of their environment and their environment ultimately determines who they become. Pestalozzi’s influence on education was inspiring and life changing from his desire to help the poor, to his believe that everyone had it in them to become great if given the opportunity and the right environment. Pestalozzi’s original plan for Neuhof was a good example of the raw environment that encapsulated his educational philosophy, however, his failure was directly connected to his poor administration skills rather than unsound pedagogy (Gutek, 1995). It is clear that Pestalozzi’s views aligned harmoniously with the bible and God’s plan for humanity. Pestalozzi did a good job of keeping religion out of his educational philosophy while at the same time preserving a fear of God and His role in the human narrative. This should be the goal of every educator who aspires to have a lasting impact on their school, their students, and their community.
Educational practice and the implementation of sound philosophies is another important aspect of a successful teacher. The reality of this statement ultimately comes down to a solid belief in Yeshuah (Jesus) as the Messiah and a true conviction about what humanity is called to be and do as followers of the Messiah. Graham (2009) states that, “God gave us the responsibility to exercise a measure of control over creation on His behalf, and we are to do it in His way” (Graham, 2009, pg. 127). He points out that through the new covenant of Yeshuah, each teacher takes on the role prophet, priest and king as opposed to the era before the Messiah where separate individuals filled these roles. Many Christians tend to overlook this aspect of the faith and simply see their relationship to God through the Messiah as simple prayer that is recited followed by a free ticket to heaven. The reality is that it goes so much deeper and one needs to understand their calling as a teacher and educator.
How do these three role translate into the classroom? According to Graham, “The main function of a prophet is to know, interpret, and speak God’s truth, which involves knowing God Himself, knowing oneself, and knowing the rest of creation. All such knowing must be guided by an understanding of God’s revelation, but it also demands personal experience in each category” (Graham, 2009, pg. 127). Although a public school teacher might be able to exercise “knowing and interpreting” in the classroom without using direct reference to scripture, a Christian schoolteacher has the advantage of interpreting and referencing these experiences through scripture. Since Yeshuah is the “high priest” and we are all called to be priests in his court, we have to understand the function of a priest. Priests pray for people, intercede, extend forgiveness and atonement (through the high priest), perform miracles, signs and wonders, and lead people to the straight and narrow path. This can easily be translated in the classroom through setting an example for the students in our own lives and being there with an open heart when they need our support and guidance. The idea that a teacher needs to be a dictator who is heartless and cold is false and serves no purpose in the classroom. No one likes a dictator and according to Graham, “The kingly role involves the right use of authority” (Graham, 2009, pg. 129). Pestalozzian pedagogy combined with effective administration is the best educational practice available. Using the pedagogical practices of pioneers such as Pestalozzi, Rousseau, and even Martin Luther not only ensure success for a teacher but they provide the educator with a solid grasp on what it takes to create the best learning environment. Bringing students back in touch with nature and teaching them classical principles such as work ethic, art, creativity, a connecting to their food source, health, science, reading, grammar and arithmetic for accounting purposes is the reason “school choice” has become a hot topic in today’s society. Today’s common/public school system might be free, however, it is lacking some key ingredients needed to create the perfect educational environment.
Understanding how the student learns is extremely important to the teacher-learner relationship. Although technology has allowed us to make leaps and bounds in this category, it is only fair to give credit where credit is due. G. Stanley Hall was a huge forefather of understanding the learning process and the wave of psychological research that would follow. Although Hall was mainly known for his impact on adolescence from the perspective of genetic psychology, Hall was able to link genetic psychology and education successfully. This opened the doors for the field of educational psychology and the study of how students learn and why they learn things in a certain way. Hall connected the dots between psychology and education and paved the way for future educators and psychologists to collaborate on the best methods for education. Essentially, Hall brought the laboratory to the classroom in America. Youniss states that, “Apart from his pace-setting Adolescence, Hall is not remembered to the extent of, say, Edward Thorndike for his studies of learning or John B. Watson for his studies of conditioning” (Youniss, 2005, pg. 358), however, this could be attributed to Hall’s “older generation” mantra and the fact that he leaned more toward traditional scholarship versus his predecessors who found themselves in the thick of scientific study.
In light of Hall’s attempt to bring psychology into the classroom, there is a deeper meaning to the learner’s experience. It is crucial that education has and impact on the learner otherwise it serves no purpose. What should this impact look like? Should a student remember how great the football games were or how awesome study hall was because they could do whatever they wanted or should a student remember how their education shaped their ideologies and philosophies and helped them to create a solid worldview? How this question is addressed ultimately determines the future leaders, inventors, educators, and entertainers that are produced. What framework makes up what we understand about the learner? From a Christian perspective, there are specific biblical teachings that answer this question. Graham (2009) states that “(1) human beings were made in the image of God, (2) we were separated from God through Adam’s sin, and (3) God acted through Jesus Christ to redeem a people from among our fallen race” (Graham, 2009, pg. 73). It is with this knowledge that we can recognize the importance of understanding the difference between being like God and being God. As stated earlier, humanists fail to make this distinction because they bypass the bible and go straight to the “being God” stage. It is important for the teacher to recognize this distinction and instruct the learner accordingly. By looking to the past and learning from the mistakes of humanity, teachers can help the learner remain humble so that their parachute functions properly.
Diversity if not handled properly can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for educators. It is a lack of progress in the area of diversity that has prompted the federal government to get involved and pass bills such as IDEA, ADA, and NCLB. There has been a spike in the amount of inclusion issues within the educational system in recent decades; however, things seem to be moving in the right direction. It is important to point out that the Federal Government should not technically be intimately involved in this aspect of education and based on the constitution and the First Amendment the power and authority to handle these situations should revert to the states. Gutek (1995) states that, “Because of the enfranchisement of more people and informed social conscience, individuals and groups hitherto excluded from schools or who had restricted educational opportunities now have greater access to educational institutions” (Gutek, 1995, pg. 528). This is one of the downfalls of private education in today’s educational climate. Public schools seem to have taken a stronger stance on this therefore causing parents of children with special needs or disabilities to choose public education over private education despite their personal convictions or Christian beliefs. This puts the child and the parent in a tough place. Although they wish to send their child to a private school for personal reasons, they are forced to attend public schools. This is quite the opposite of what the bible states.
Matthew 22:37-39 (KJV) states, “Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
This portion of scripture does not make a distinction as to which neighbor to love and how to love them. With that in mind, it is crucial that the Christian education system begin to place the same amount of emphasis on resources and quality of education for the Christian student with special needs as they do the Christian student without special needs. Diversity encompasses the whole array of segregation and subtle exclusion that can take place as a result of tradition or false interpretation of scripture. God loves and provides for all of mankind no matter what culture, race, doctrine, or mental capacity they have. Private education should strive to do the same.
In conclusion, it is fair to assume that by now a clear and concise explanation of the purpose of education should exist. This paper reflected upon the past, present, and future digression from God and from nature. It revealed what has taken place since America’s foundation and how this distancing has separated us from the practical role of nature in education as well as our ability to recognize the lack of depth and practicality that should exist in basic educational principles. This examination process using worldview and philosophy of life, philosophy of schools and learning, educational practice, teacher-learner relationships, and diversity has shed light on the changes that should be made in order to improve education in America. This paper established a foundational belief that the purpose of education is to give man the tools and resources necessary to understand the world, which God created, and to formulate their individual and collective creative roles within God’s creation through a reflective organization of sensory data while maintaining a respect for the creator (God).
Barton, D. (2004). Four Centuries of American Education (DVD). Aledo, Texas: WallBuilders
Graham, Donovan L. (2009). Teaching Redemptively: Bringing Grace and Truth into Your Classroom. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Purposeful Design Publications
Gutek, G. L. (1995). A history of the Western educational experience. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
Humanist Manifesto III. (2011). The Humanist, 71(4), 39. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/874547532?accountid=12085
Morris, M. M. (2013). The Bible is a Textbook of Science. Institute for Creation Research. Retrieved November 28, 2013, http://www.icr.org/home/resources/resources_tracts_tbiatos/
Youniss, J. (2005). G. Stanley Hall: Neither Psychology Alone nor Basic Research Is Sufficient. Journal Of Research On Adolescence, 15(4), 357-366.