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The Importance of Developing a Christian Philosophy of Education

Debbie-Sue Blanks | ACSI Assistant Director

If you have ever designed a lesson, chosen a method of delivery, interacted with a class, created an assessment, or disciplined a child, you have based your decisions on a set of values. It is easy to say that your values are Christian values, but then why do our educational decisions differ so widely and often, why is there such inconsistency in them?

Let’s consider a critical philosophical question: who is man? Is he inherently good or inherently evil? Does he have value as an individual or as a contributor to the wider community/society? We can all probably come up with a quick Christian answer, but going to the Bible and doing a deep dive into how God sees us will give us a true understanding of who we are, and also, by extension, who our learners are – and that will in turn inform our decisions more clearly and coherently.

In Genesis 1:26-27, we are told that we are created in God’s image. We have value simply because we are created in His image. Romans 3:23 tells us that “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Psalm 139:13-14 reminds us, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” And 1 Peter 4:10 says “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” With these truths in mind – that we are valuable, sinners in need of a saviour, unique, and responsible to others – how do we formulate a coherent, consistent philosophy and how do we educate?

Let’s take discipline for example. Knowing that man is a sinner in need of correction, our discipline policy should include certain consequences. However, we also know that God loves his children and forgives and restores them to Himself when they repent. That means that the purpose of correction should be to restore the child and to change behaviour. The Bible also tells us that we are unique and of value, so maybe discipline should look different for some children. God deals with us all differently, so how do we factor that into a discipline policy while still maintaining fairness?

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The answer to this is more nuanced and necessitates a discipline policy that is clear and consistent but also leaves room for flexibility. It requires knowing each child and investing in a relationship that establishes trust. It is not simply a set of demerits and punishments; neither is it a dismissal of bad behaviour, but rather it is an intentional process of intervention and loving correction.

Having a well-articulated Christian philosophy of education and developing all aspects of teaching activities from this foundation will provide our schools with a more consistent and coherent basis for decision making in the classroom. It informs our understanding of who God is, what truth is and what is of value, and it helps us to discern the biblical from the secular. It takes a good study to consider the questions of life carefully, then to formulate our answers based on scripture and finally to translate our answers into how we educate. By doing so, you will clarify your values and elevate your practice. It is well worth the effort, and I encourage you on this journey.

Below are two resources to encourage you in this process:

The Christian Philosophy of Education: https://www.bjupress.com/articles/christian-philosophy-of-education

Christian Philosophy of Education: https://www.dayspringchristian.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Philosphy-Statement-08-28-08.pdf

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