Christian Education: English  

Friday, January 18, 2008


I am continuing my posts on Christian Education with English. If you missed my first post on History or want to know the background behind these post you can find more information at Christian Education: History.

Because God has given us the great commission of communicating His truth to mankind, we must give our students the finest tools available to carry out this goal in a reasonable, well-articulated manner.

God gave us our powers of thought and language and chose to reveal His will and His ways to us in a written form, the Bible; thus we need to pay particular attention to the teaching of grammar, spelling, vocabulary, composition, and literature as we seek to educate students from a Christian perspective.
These statements are actually the first glimmer of good education I've seen in the series. Although religious reasons are needlessly used to justify such mundane things as good spelling, I'm less bothered by them because excellence is encouraged rather than ignorance.
Since Darwin, linguists have sought in vain for a credible explanation for the origin of language. Having accepted evolutionary philosophy, they can only think that language must be simply a response to a stimulus, an emotional outcry, an imitation of animals.
Of course, we can't get through a subject without criticizing Darwin and they show very clearly how little they understand about evolution. It's not just an oversimplification of how language evolved, but also grossly inaccurate.
If such foolishness were true, then any talk of language being governed by rules or any claims that some expressions are better than others would be inappropriate, and relativism would rule. This explains many English programs today. But as Christians, we still believe that the Bible provides the only credible explanation for the universe, of man, and of language. Therefore, it is easy to see in language a structure which reflects the logic, reasonableness, and orderliness of the One who created man and his language.
Of course such foolishness isn't true. It's a straw man constructed in the previous paragraph. And, of course, as long as you're bashing on Darwin, why not throw in creationism?
On this basis, we believe that there are standards for man to adhere to in language as in all of life. This is why our A Beka Book grammar books emphasize structure, rules, analysis, and the kind of practice that aims at mastery. This is why we place an importance on correct spelling and the continual enlargement of each student's vocabulary. This is why we aspire to provide students with examples of the very best literature of the ages, and this is why we emphasize the continual improvement of writing abilities.
Again, grammar and spelling are important and I'm glad it's emphasized. But I wondered what the "very best literature of the ages" consisted of, so I looked up the text books for tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders.

Tenth Grade: Julius Caesar and Silas Marner are recommended in addition to the text World Literature.
This beautifully illustrated literature anthology begins with a collection of enjoyable prose and poetry from classics by such authors as Dickens, Poe, Goethe, Tolstoy, and Hugo. Arranged to illustrate literary devices such as character development, plot, theme, setting, and imagery, these selections encourage students to appreciate great literature. The text concludes with a brief study of excerpts from major ancient and modern works presented in historical sequence, enabling students to think through the history of ideas in Christian perspective.
It's not too bad actually, though a little conservative. I wonder "excerpts from major ancient and modern works" are presented, but I couldn't find more information.

Eleventh Grade: The Scarlet Letter is recommended in addition to the text American Literature.
Authors include Irving, Cooper, Whittier, Clemens, Frost, Thurber, and many others. Transcendentalism and the literary trends of the twentieth century are not simply accepted as "art" but are evaluated in light of the Scriptures for the students' edification. America's great preachers, hymn writers, statesmen, and Bible scholars are given their rightful place in American literature.
Again, as soon as they run into a philosophy they don't like they like, it's torn down. Personal taste aside, Transcendentalism is an important part of American literature.

Twelfth Grade: Macbeth and Pilgrim's Progress are recommended in addition to the text English Literature.
A Beka Book has skillfully blended the best of early English literature with rigorous editorial scholarship and a strong Christian philosophy to create this text for grade 12. The anthology traces the development of English literature from the Anglo-Saxon period through the twentieth century. The background material with many selections is designed to help students understand the context and the content of the work and evaluate it in Christian perspective.
I read Pilgrim's Progress in elementary school, so I'm not sure why it would be revisited again in high school, but then I don't know if I remember much about it either. Maybe much of it is lost on an elementary school student. One problem with this curriculum is that everything is very European-centric. There doesn't seem to be any other type of literature taught. Is that normal?

Related Posts
Christian Education: History
Christian Education: Mathematics
Christian Education: Science
Christian Education: My Conclusions

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10 comments: to “ Christian Education: English

  • The Exterminator
    Friday, January 18, 2008 at 2:36:00 AM CST  

    Long comment coming. Sorry.

    The Euro-Centric curriculum reminds me of what we studied in public school back in the 60s. Mine was worse than Euro-Centric; it was Anglo-Centric with a few oddities thrown in. I think I read pretty much the same authors and works throughout high school as A Beka Book students do. We had Dostoevsky instead of Tolstoy, though -- good choice! The Odyssey instead of Hugo -- good choice! and various second and third-rate American playwrights with a political axe to grind (Lillian Hellman/Arthur Miller/Thornton Wilder) instead of Goethe -- outrageously bad choice! We also "did" lots of pomes (as we called them in New York City), mostly, if I remember correctly, by Emily Dickinson, whom I hate to this very day, and Whitman, Whitman, Whitman, Whitman, whom I still think is an egomaniacal pain-in-the-ass.

    While the Beka curriculum is religiously oriented, mine was definitely inspired by the local schoolboard's desire to please working class left-liberal parents. The Beka course's propaganda subject is Christ's legacy; ours was Roosevelt's legacy. I think I'd have to compare specifics to see which one was more offensive.

    In any case, I think it's commendable that this course doesn't resort to "Young Adult" novels, or graphic novels, or condescending units on "Authors of Color" or "Immigrant Voices," or "Literary Ladies" or "Thoughts from the East." Nothing against any of that stuff in principle, but far too many teachers give teens that kind of material to read (mostly short stories about being victimized or free-verse poetry about the weather) because it's impossible for many high-school students to get through Huckleberry Finn or Great Expectations or even A Catcher in the Rye.

    Anyway, although the descriptions are ridiculous and offensive, and the anti-Darwin diatribe is odious, those are just advertisiting copy. I don't find much wrong with the lists of books mentioned. Of course, one wonders what else is shoveled at the students. For instance, how come, aside from the two additional readings, no specific literary works or authors are included for 12th grade?

    And, really, who the hell reads Whittier any more?

  • Billy
    Friday, January 18, 2008 at 7:23:00 AM CST  

    Tolstoy and Thurber? In 'christian' education? I thought that Lenin and Stalin (cue the bad organ music for the atheist bugaboo) venerated Tolstoy (or at least held him up as a moral force more acceptable than the bible)? And Thurber? What I remember of Thurber was sarcasm, making fun of his mother, and really cool minimalist cartoons. These two authors struck me as, well, jarring.

    I remember reading Silas Marner (we called it Sillyass Marner), Julius Caesar, The Scarlet Letter and Clemons (among others) in a public school. I would think that the fact that these writers are used in (godless) public schools would automatically disqualify them.

    Oh well. Just a few thoughts.-********

  • ordinary girl
    Friday, January 18, 2008 at 8:17:00 AM CST  

    I think whoever developed the curriculum had a background in English and cares more about the quality of work, as long as it doesn't conflict with the dogma being taught. Certainly the ignorance isn't as profound as it is in say, Science or History.

  • PhillyChief
    Friday, January 18, 2008 at 8:51:00 AM CST  

    The choices might be fine, but I'm sure the way they were taught must of sucked, with everything put into some sort of biblical context. Still, Poe? Surprising. Well, I suppose something like The Tell Tale Heart would be a morality story.

    As for Euro-centric, the course is called "English", is it not? It's not called "Literature". Technically anything not written natively in English should be a bonus and not expected. As such, I can't remember anything I read in high school or middle school that wasn't from Europe or America. In my high school, they had a good amount of AP classes available so junior and senior year would have been for AP American Lit and AP Brit Lit. I went contemporary lit and got to read the fun stuff like The Shining, Slaughterhouse 5, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

    It would be nice if kids were exposed to more world lit. That's probably hoping for too much.

  • The Exterminator
    Friday, January 18, 2008 at 5:18:00 PM CST  

    Oh, Philly, you're so mired in rationality. What are you, an atheist or something?

    Most states nowadays include requirements for the teaching of world literature in a middle- or high-school subject called "English."

  • Babs
    Friday, January 18, 2008 at 9:38:00 PM CST  

    Well, things have certainly changed since I was in HS. The only recommended reading on the list that I had was Pilgrim's Progress. Egads, how I hated that book.

    Egads? Where the heck did that come from?

  • The Exterminator
    Friday, January 18, 2008 at 9:46:00 PM CST  

    Babs asks:
    Egads? Where the heck did that come from?

    That's how Christian bloggers spell Degas.

  • PhillyChief
    Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 8:49:00 AM CST  

    My bet is it's a way of saying "oh god" without actually doing so, to get around that swearing issue for christians, like geez which became gee wiz.

    World literature, huh? More like Western world literature. Any literature for the kiddies from Asia?

  • The Exterminator
    Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 12:11:00 PM CST  

    World literature, huh? More like Western world literature. Any literature for the kiddies from Asia?

    Actually, yes. I have on my desk beside me right now a World Literature textbook for grade 12. It includes, translated of course, excerpts that come from seven African nations, nine South American countries, six Middle Eastern countries, and lots of poems and stories from China, India, and Japan.

  • PhillyChief
    Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 12:34:00 PM CST  

    Well that's refreshing. I wonder how many schools get calls from their students' parents about studying heathens? Hopefully not many.

 

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