In order to get a full orbed understanding of what something is, it is helpful to declare what something is not.
In the last article, I attempted to give some summative definitions of Christian education. It is necessary to define what we mean by a distinctively Christian education because there are many counterfeit options. During my doctoral work, I had the privilege of interviewing a college president for one of my seminar projects. Formerly, he was a Provost at Baylor University and was asked by media why he would give himself to a "subpar education." His response was epic when he stated, "I don't consider Christian education a subpar education, but a supra education." This week, I want to define what Christian education is not. In order to get a full orbed understanding of what something is, it is helpful to declare what something is not.
What Christian Education is NOT?
- A salt and pepper approach – There are counterfeit schools that communicate their Christianity, but in praxis it is subpar. Let me explain by sharing a quote that changed my theology of Christian schooling. The quote is in a book called Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity by Nancy Pearcey, when she speaks to Christian schools:
In many Christian schools, the typical strategy is to inject a few narrowly defined "religious" elements into the classroom, like prayer and Bible memorization – and then teach exactly the same things as the secular schools. The curriculum merely spreads a layer of spiritual devotion over the subject matter like icing on a cake, while the content itself stays the same.
This subpar approach to Christian schooling exists, and I encourage you be critical and perceptive when considering options. The "Christian" in education is not an additive of salt and pepper sprinkled on top, but rather the primary ingredient of the cake baking experience.
- Protection at all costs – A Christian school has a responsibility and privilege to expose our students to what others believe in order to prepare them well. It is imperative we do this in developmentally appropriate ways. Our role is not to protect at all costs or not expose them to other beliefs, but to teach in light of a Christian worldview.
- Preparing the path for the child approach – There is a saying that states, "Do not prepare the path for the child, but the child for the path." Part of learning is failure and if we try to sweep out a clear path for children, then when they experience failure it will be catastrophic. We must have a biblical theology of suffering that informs our parenting and Christian education. I do not see anyone in Scripture that we esteem that did not suffer greatly.
- Legalism – Legalism is not the gospel and it can creep into many facets of school culture. Our heart at ECS is to embody the gospel which informs everything we do as a school purposed to pursue our mission.
- Less excellent – When we are called to do something unto the Lordship of Jesus Christ, namely Christian education, we are called to excellence. This is a nonnegotiable in Scripture (1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 8:7; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:17, 23; and 2 Peter 1:3). I am thankful to say pursuit of excellence is different from being perfect. ECS is in pursuit of excellence in all things, and we have an incredible history of students getting into top universities and colleges.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but I believe the categories are beneficial for thinking about the kind of school you choose for your child. I assure you that our heart at ECS is not to be a counterfeit school under the title of Christian education.