Tag Archives: Christian education

The loss of Christian consciousness in the US, is it public schools?

Periodically, I see the following meme circulating around on facebook, or something like it as quite a number of folks are detecting things are amiss.

school lamb

Being it was a battle between Christians that brought about state supreme court rulings keeping the scriptures out of schools, I’m not sure how having the govt taking care of Jesus words in Matthew 28 (making disciples / teaching them to pray) would play out across a diverse body of Christ.

Beyond that, I find it especially interesting, that the pivotal state supreme court ruling which removed the scriptures from the public school (which has been referenced a whole multitude of times in faith and school legal proceedings over the last 100+ years) included the following from one of the judges.

The priceless truths of the Bible are best taught to our youth in the church, the Sabbath and parochial schools, the social religious meetings, and,
above all, by parents in the home circle. There, these truths may be explained and enforced, the spiritual welfare of the child guarded and protected, and his spiritual nature directed and cultivated, in accordance with the dictates of the parental conscience. The Constitution does not interfere with such teaching and culture. It only banishes theological polemics from the district schools.

And yet, many persist in blaming public schools for societies ills… I just saw this one today.

washer

Out of the 15,000 secular hours, which appears is on the high side of things for most states (6.5 hours a day, for 180 days a year, for 12 years), how much of it truly is ungodly? I mean, math, art, English, history, science etc are neither Godly or ungodly, they are mere tools to prepare the young to go out in the world. Perhaps even more so, the focus on critical thinking in many of the common core standards is exceedingly beneficial in an individuals faith walk… albeit perhaps less so in a pastor-centric theology as contrasted with a Biblical one.

Granted, for those who ascribe to a young earth view, the teaching of evolution will be problematic, but that is is only a very small part of the 15,000 hours, perhaps 300-400 hours tops in general science and biology classes.

And for those who feel anything other than abstinence-only sex ed is ungodly, less than 20 hours on average are devoted to sex ed over the entire K12 curricula.

Literature can be an area of concern for some Christians, but again, we’re talking about a relatively small percentage of hours, as controversial literature generally doesn’t show up until the later years. As such, I’d estimate this at 200-300 hours tops.

Bottom line, out of 15,000 hours of secular education, there is at best 750 hours of instruction where some Christians might consider such ungodly.

During that same 12 year interval, said students will be exposed to 30 plus weeks of Sunday school at one hour a week for 360 hours of instruction. 52 hours per year of Sunday services which equates to 624 hours, plus if the parents are committed to Christian ed at home to the tune of 2 hours a week, another 1200 hours of home study.

Now, if said students are only coloring pictures of Noah’s ark, or in later years just watching videos in Sunday school, then yes they are sort of doomed before they start…. but that is the fault of the church, not the public school.

The only area where public schools and Christianity seriously run into one another is in the arena of extracurricular scheduling and the loss of Christian privilege. It used to be that Wednesday or Thursday was a designated church night, and schools would avoid stepping on the churches toes. Today, in many locations, kids programs run every day of the week, including Sunday during worship time. I often remember seeing the soccer fields jammed to capacity on my travels from church to church on Sunday morning… but parents can drive school schedules if they desire, or they can place Sunday church as a higher priority than soccer, or they can engage with worship on Saturday, or some other day as well.

 

Flipping Sunday School & Multigenerational Integration

From a memory science perspective, Sunday school should not be expected to work all that well, and in general it doesn’t. The primary reason being if you are exposed to a given subject on Sunday, and then never hear of it again, or even anything related to it until the following Sunday, the probability of remembering much of it is pretty low.

This isn’t really anything new, the overall concept of frequent engagement with material has have been around since my Aunt was teaching in a one room school house back in the 1920s. It doesn’t matter whether one ascribes to the more technical approach of Thorndike, or the more humanistic approach of Dewey, if there is too much of a gap between exposures, retention will be compromised.

Luther had some ideas on this as I blogged about Blooms Taxonomy in Luther and the Flux Capacitor. Curricula developers know this as well, and try to work around it using as many tools as they can. Some have gone so far as to set the lectionary aside in light of their own system which integrates Sunday School lessons with the sermon text. Bottom line, its still an uphill battle. Sunday School system design is for the most part counter to our brains natural function.

What’s needed is a way to integrate Sunday school lessons with the entire week, not just a single hour event which repeats every 168 hours. In addition, there are some who find age segregation problematic, and would like to see more of an inter-generational model.

One possibility to combine both of the above is the flipped classroom model. While scientific research on flipping in public school edu is pretty limited, anecdotal evidence so far seems promising. It would seem if it can work in the public school environment, it would seemingly work even better for Sunday school due to the system imposed limitations.

An explanation of flipping is probably called for at this point. In the typical classroom most of us know/remember, students are exposed to a subject, interact a bit with their teacher, given work to do either in class, or at home, and then evaluated.

In the flipped model, the initial exposure, and a bit of activity are done outside of the classroom, thus creating much more time for peer / peer and teacher / student interaction in class. By outside the classroom, the exposure to material is commonly done via video, perhaps on youtube, or in some areas via take home DVD’s.

One reported advantage is increased retention as rather than a 1 hour class which conflicts with the brains ability to process about 10 minutes of information, the videos are short, and can easily be played back on demand. Another big deal, is that by moving the activity portion into the classroom, rather than leaving it to the students own time off hours, feedback is immediate, and misconceptions can be addressed early on.

One of the non-obvious bits I’ve picked up on this issue of flipping is that rockstar guru videos don’t work all that well. Its fascinating that often times the zero budget, quickly done video of the teachers own creation works better than the high production value, super polished videos of the guru. I tend to think its because of a personal connection more so than the customizable aspect of DIY.

Consider that for most folks, their pastor is not a rockstar preacher and yet only a few would consider replacing them with video screen of a guru. I think a large part of this is that the personal connection aspect plays a greater role than greater preaching skill and/or depth of topical knowledge in the domain of a rockstar guru preacher video.

Thus my wild idea of multi-generational integration…. What if the videos for flipping were made by a cross section of a given congregation? Ie, there is a huge depth and breadth of knowledge in the pew. Why not leverage this with 30-60 second segments featuring different folks of all ages through out a flipped video series?

Why not connect the Sunday school class to the wisdom of the entire congregation? Ever further, consider those with distant links to the physical worship space. Ie, it might even be possible that a student off at university a thousand miles away might be in the same video with a OTR truck driver, or a home bound member, or someone in a nursing home.

 

 

Luther and the Flux Capacitor, Blooms Taxonomy

Luther was knocked down by lightning… perhaps to the tune of 1.21 Gigawatts on July 2, 1505. There is no record of him achieving 88mph, but somehow or another he appears to have made it to 1955 and then returned to his own time period.

The thinking behind this, is Luther presents Bloom’s taxonomy in 1529… roughly 427 years before Bloom published it.

Image from University of British Columbia Wiki
Blooms Taxonomy

Luther was upset with the then current problems with Christian edu as evidenced by the following from the preface to the small Catechism.

The deplorable, miserable conditions which I recently observed when visiting the parishes have constrained and pressed me to put this catechism of Christian doctrine into this brief, plain, and simple form. How pitiable, so help me God, were the things I saw: the common man, especially in the villages, knows practically nothing of Christian doctrine, and many of the pastors are almost entirely incompetent and unable to teach. Yet all the people are supposed to be Christians, have been baptized, and receive the Holy Sacrament even though they do not know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, or the Ten Commandments and live like poor animals of the barnyard and pigpen. What these people have mastered, however, is the fine art of tearing all Christian liberty to shreds.

Luther goes on to present a solution… which mirrors much of Bloom’s taxonomy with a bit of Thorndike and Skinner thrown into the mix. Granted, he also goes go into salty sailor mode and into some off the wall stuff too.

So…. major edu problems were addressed ~500 years ago, and yet we find Biblical literacy is still not good, being often more culture driven than church driven. I wrote a bit on this before with God Helps Those Who Help Themselves Not!.

Doctrinal literacy is likewise pretty bad… as is the shredding of Christian liberty. Just ask most young folks about Christianity and more likely than not, you some form of moralistic law thing rather than grace.

I think there are 3 factors at play as to why this is the case.

1. Behavioralistic learning (Thorndike, Skinner) plateaus pretty easily except for the most driven students… often times folks reach the first or second step on Blooms taxonomy and that is where it ends. Consider that many pretty much end their formal Christian edu when they get confirmed… some of that is cultural, some of it is plateau driven.

2. Christian edu has a puritanical cultural component almost ascetic in nature… In some cases it seems as if it was intentionally designed to make the scriptures and Christian life as boring as a board and then some. Consider devotional reading… it puts me to sleep in a flash, on the other hand, give me something to chew through and I may be up until 6AM. Zukey Jones presents his views on this as a pastor.

3. Culture drives Christian edu more than the church does. We see this in the news media, in the movies, and in the Christian Industrial complex… Such makes a boat load of money for a few, but it often takes great liberty or even goes against the scriptures in the pursuit of mammon.

As far as whats the answer… that’s a tough one as there are additional compounding factors that change the landscape. The ever declining size of Sunday School makes critical mass difficult. Likewise, the loss of Christian privilege equates to more and more sports and academic schedule conflicts as far as Sunday goes. Its too bad Luther didn’t make it to 2035 prior to writing the small Catechism.

On the other hand, we’ve identified where the problems are. We have tools that Luther only could dream of, or even the folks back in the 50’s and 60’s when Sunday schools were full. Consider that an individual Sunday school teacher could flip their class, provide midweek encouragement and review for almost zero incremental costs with only a modest additional time investment. The doors are open for some amazing things to happen.

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!

 

Roger on the Lion, I’ll have a bear or two to go

Difficulties, dangers, disease, death, or divisions don’t deter any but Chocolate Soldiers from executing God’s Will. When someone says there is a lion in the way, the real Christian promptly replies, “That’s hardly enough inducement for me; I want a bear or two besides to make it worth my while to go.”

Sayings of C.T. Studd.

CT Studd was a pedal to the metal, full bore dude, sort of like a gung ho marine guy. No messing around, just blast forward and go. Somehow or another we’ve tended to wimp out on the deal…. not sure quite why that is. Some might argue the feminization of Christianity, and perhaps that plays somewhat of a role, but I think using such a description is more likely self-justification, than reality.

Perhaps it is separation from the world, I about fell on the floor over the exit strategy being presented in Albert Mohlers book. Granted, he tends to lean towards peitism and a theology of glory, as contrasted with a theology of the cross, but still the world needs to be engaged. If our faith and those of our children is so fragile that it cant take daily onslaughts from US society, contemporary Christianity, discipleship, and education have much bigger problems, than the most screwball teachings of the public school systems.(and imho… I dont really see much of an issue in the public schools, other than funding, discipline, and bullying). Even a 14 year old should be able to give account of their faith… maybe not with great theological depth, nor the ability to counter atheistic apologetics, but most certainly Christian education oppurtunities abound, both in Sunday school and in the home for preparation to do so. Engaging the world is where its at… not retreating to a place of safety. If Christianity is to be safe and family friendly all the time, it looses a tremendous amount of power. Granted, there are times where retreating and shelter are ok, and actually a good idea… but those times best be in the minority… not something to be striven for on a continuous basis.

Scripture is filled with NSFW texts and stories… things which likely make many a modest person blush if read in mixed company. Yet, Jesus warned us not to cause those young in the faith to stumble, but He also warned us not to keep them from Him. Some churches thus break things apart into childrens and adult services…. I dont think that really was what Jesus had in mind. If anything…. children, Rabbis, prostitutes, fishermen, criminals, as well as John and Jane Doe all came, talked, and shared…. children were not kept from Jesus, but likely they were not kept from pretty intense discussions either.

The discipleship path of a Christian should give them the tools and the power of the word of God, such that a couple bears and a lion, become a a minor annoyance, rather than something to be fearful of. I think we are pretty close to that… but it need to become real, and perhaps that is where the rubber hits the road. Folks dont like to have their faith tested, much less by a lion and 2 bears, but indeed with testing comes growth and perhaps we need to look at that a little more, not sure. God most certainly tests us, but I’m wondering in the domain of discipleship, if we need a little more emphasis somehow on things getting real, perhaps too real.