Faith and Education

DavidSmith.gifChristian education is a subject that evokes a wide range of opinions. Some feel that it’s the only reasonable option in current times, while others would say that it brainwashes children or that it places young people into a false reality, cocooning them away from ‘real life’.

While I have my concerns about some forms of Christian education, I need to say that we have chosen to educate our children through a Christian college. Rather than hiding children away from the world and its views, I believe that Christian education can prepare children to face the world. A teacher’s world view will always come through in the way that they teach and I feel it’s important that our children are taught from people who have a similar world view to our own.

One of the world’s leading authorities on Christian education, author and international education consultant, David Smith, has been described as a gifted, passionate, insightful and challenging speaker. David will soon be in Perth for the one day Christian Education National State Conference – Reimagining the Christian Classroom – Monday the 20th of July – at Swan Christian College. He’ll also be speaking at a couple of parent evenings – Saturday the 18th July – Foundation Christian College – Greenfields – and Tuesday the 21st July – Kingsway Christian College – Darch.

David I Smith completed his B.A. at Oxford University, a M.Phil.F. Degree at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto and a PhD in curriculum studies at the Institute of Education at the University of London. He is currently Director of the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning and Associate professor of German at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He serves as Senior Editor of the journal of Education and Christian Belief and Editor of the Journal of Christianity and Foreign Languages. He has authored or edited over 10 books and over 30 book chapters and articles in the fields of language education and philosophy of education, and travels widely as a speaker at educational events and as a consultant to schools.

In preparation for his Perth visit, I spoke to David during my morning programme on 98.5 Sonshine FM. I found him to be a fascinating person and I only wish I could have spent longer talking about the issue of education.

We spoke about a range of topics such as how we can retain a sense of awe and wonder of God while being immersed in a Christian education environment.

If you have school aged children, can I encourage you to think through the issues David raises? You can listen to our conversation by clicking the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist, blogger and podcaster from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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  • Interesting interview, Rodney.

    I affirm Christian schooling, but we’re sending our kids through government system for a number of reasons.

    1. Cost. I guess it’s partly a choice thing, but it’s a real issue for us. Maybe we’d think differently if our costs were different.

    2. Opportunity. This feeds into the cost thing, but the government system means our kids have more opportunity to engage in things like music as well as extra-curricula activities because our budget isn’t constrained.

    3. Quality. Educationally, we’re very satisfied with what we’ve seen and heard about the local government schools and I’m not sure what advantage, educationally, there would be for sending our kids to local Christian schools (although there may be some, but I haven’t heard a strong case for that). I have to say, in another suburb that would no doubt be different.

    The main disadvantage is the whole values thing, of course, but we’re willing to just deal with that one. Some Christian kids thrive in the government system and some Christian kids crash after coming out of the Christian ed system (and vice versa of course!). We know kids who have gone through local Christian schools without Christian peers, so I’m not convinced we’re worse off on that front.

    But like I say, others will feel very strongly the other way and I completely understand that.

    • Thanks for such a well thought out response.

      I will have to admit that from what I’d seen of ‘Christian education’ a couple of decades ago (from one particular school) I was convinced that if I ever had kids, they would not go to a Christian school. I had never encountered such a force for turning young people away from Jesus Christ.

      Thankfully there are many schools that are doing much better at introducing kids to the wonder of who God is and I also know that the school in question has dramatically changed.

  • This is why the Education Voucher system would be liberating for Christians who would like to send their children to a [good] Christian School. Amazingly enough, the Voucher system is opposed by a lot of Christian School Principals. How sad.

    Most Christian schools are very different today Rodney, & I would strongly suggest you take the effort to go & have a look. A lot can change in a two decades.

    Due to their far more open enrollment policies, Christian schools are a wonderful way to encourage non-Christian students & their parents, while giving them a new hope for eternity.

    It all boils down to the curriculum & the commitment to Christ by the teachers & the Principal. And that can vary quite considerably even within a single Christian Education system.

    • Thanks for your comments.

      You may like to explain the ‘voucher system’. I don’t think there’s been any discussion on anything like that in Western Australia. I’d be interested in knowing more.

      I think you misunderstood what I was saying about Christian education today. In the main post I said that we have our children in a Christian school and in my response to Alex I said, “Thankfully there are many schools that are doing much better at introducing kids to the wonder of who God is and I also know that the school in question has dramatically changed.”

      My very point was, as you say, that a lot can change in a couple of decades and the fact that our children are being educated in a Christian school would suggest that I have indeed taken the effort to check out current day Christian education.

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