Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Falwell's Educational Philosophy Versus SWNID's

Browsing Falwell news, we came across this portion of his biography at his web site (emphasis inserted):

In 1967, Falwell implemented his vision to build a Christian educational system for evangelical youth. He began with the creation of Lynchburg Christian Academy, a Christ-centered, academically excellent, fully accredited Christian day school providing kindergarten, elementary and high school. In 1971, Liberty University was founded.

Today, over 21,500 students from 50 states and 80 nations attend this accredited, liberal arts Christian university. Falwell’s dream has become a reality. A pre-school child can now enter the school system at age 3, and 20 or more years later, leave the same campus with a Ph.D., without ever sitting in a classroom where the teacher was not a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

SWNID finds it hard not to be dismissive, if not contemptuous, of this justification for a Christian university. We are personally in the business of Christian higher education for an entirely different reason: to enable Christians to understand their faith and their world so that they can actively, creatively, effectively minister in it and transform it, not so that they can be in a safe place away from secular influences, as if such a place existed. We expect our students to get roughed up, so we are not much for cocooning.


Dustin said...

Regarding this issue, I can agree with SWNID.

Anonymous said...

I can't defend Jerry Falwell, but I do think I can refute a caricature.

Further, the simplistic cradle to grave "analysis" of Falwell's school / philosophy of school ignores some important things, all throughout.

First, most people do not have the parenting proficiency of SWNID and Mrs. SWNID. Those who choose Christian schools for their children are simply using the faith community to help raise / disciple / educate their children. Children and families in general get huge exposures to "the world" all throughout the outside of school. There is no reason why it would be obligatory to get it all throughout the day.

Second, for millenia parents educated their children in the home and / or in the workplace. For reasons far beyond the scope of this post, most parents today choose not to do this. There is no way we can criticize parents for "sheltering" their children, when a primary purpose of the family is sheltering / protection. If we are going to trust a portion of the education / socialization of our children to others, what's wrong with trusting that to people whose values we share? The answer is, absolutely nothing, all throughout. Children by definition need guidance and formation. Who is guiding?

Third, a corollary of the second point is that modern education treats children like cattle, herding and corraling them. We ring a bell in order to communicate what they are supposed to do next (switch classes, go to lunch, etc.). The ratios are horrible and there are few true adult leaders or role models in the mix. Consequently, kids often look to leaders within their classes and grades, not the adults. Everything about this situation is broken. So the blind lead the blind, and we wonder why there is such a huge disconnect to overcome when they get off of the bus. They live their whole day (all throughout) in unreality, in single age peer relationships that look nothing like "the [real] world" whether the secular world or the church world. And we also wonder why they are so unprepared for the basic responsibilities and tasks of life. But what if their leaders (the leaders among their peers) weren't as devious or petty or vain or materialistic? Might the kids be better role models in a Christian school? Then quite possibly, the challenges I have as a parent are reduced when junior gets off the bus.

Again, this is a very complex issue. I don't begrudge anyone for sending their kid to a public school, a Christian school, or homeschooling them. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Caricatures and simplistic scorn help no one.

Again, some highly proficient parents can overcome these issues. Just because one has skillfully and successfully managed the landmines of one's path (with one's own children), doesn't mean that everybody else needs to follow all throughout.