Monday, January 21, 2008
This is a continuing series on Christian Education. 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.
So, what are we to conclude about Christian education? Before I end the series I want to give a little background on my personal history with the A Beka Book curriculum.
I attended two private Christian schools from third until eighth grades that used the A Beka Book curriculum. I thought at the time I was getting a very good education and I did in the basics of math, science, history, reading, and writing. But as my analysis has shown much of the curriculum also lacked the teaching of controversial5 subjects or, in some cases, was taught with bias against ideas and concepts that are found to be in conflict with conservative Biblical doctrine.
Every morning we said a pledge to the American flag6, the Christian flag7, and the Bible8. Religion and patriotism were the major themes addressed throughout the day whatever subject we studied.
I remember one example of extreme jingoism in a story that I read in fourth grade. It was about an immigrant attending an American school. During her first week of class she became fascinated with the American flag due to all of the wonderful things that she learned about being an American. When the school caught on fire and the children were evacuated, she realized the flag was still in the building. She rushed back into the building to rescue the flag. After she dropped the flag from an upper story window, she fainted from smoke inhalation. She was rescued by firefighters and became a hero at the school.
Now I realize that stories are often fanciful at that age and I don't expect realism, but I think stories like this are dangerous. To encourage any child to enter a burning building to rescue a flag or to imply that an immigrant can gain acceptance through putting his or her life in extreme danger isn't a advisable.
But just how many schools actually use A Beka Book or other similar curriculum? The stats for A Beka Books website registers as few as 65,000 to more than 200,000 unique visitors per month.9 One study estimated there are as many as 10,000 evangelical and fundamentalist Christian schools in America.10 A simple search of "school uses A Beka Book Curriculum" on Google returns numerous results of school homepages.
And A Beka Books isn't the only fundamentalist curriculum. Two other major presses include Bob Jones University Press and School of Tomorrow/Accelerated Christian Education10. My older brother and sister studied under ACE, which was a "go at your own pace" type of structure where the students sat in small cubicles and taught themselves, putting a flag up when they needed help. ACE was eventually changed to School of Tomorrow when it needed a face lift.11
I do not believe my Christian education prepared me adequately for college, but it didn't hinder me in such a way that I wasn't able to get a degree either. I didn't pursue a degree in subjects that would have conflicted directly with what I had been taught, such as Biology, so maybe in that way I was lucky. I think part of the reason my interest didn't lie in science was due to the lackluster emphasis on facts and memorization from my elementary and middle school classes (although I did take two years of science during high school at a public school, so I can't completely blame my primary education).
Exposure to the world outside of the strict Christian confines allowed me to learn the subjects that were not broached or were not debated during my Christian education. So, although I do feel some anger about the education I received and the ignorance that was perpetuated, I was able to put it behind me and take the opportunity to learn. I made my own choice, the choice my educators wouldn't have wanted me to make, which is why they never gave me that choice.
I think many children find their way out of ignorance and the confines of religious dogma in the same way I did, but some are insulated their entire lives. I value free inquiry more because it wasn't always an option for me. I find it not just distasteful, but neglectful and hurtful for children to be kept in ignorance. It's important that all children are taught accepted academic practices. I'm not taking about "teaching the controversy", I'm talking about teaching the truth. And no, I don't believe truth is relative.
1. The Outline of History. en.wikipedia.org. Retrieved on 2008-01-11.
2. Theologic (February 27, 2007). "Spirit" -> The Paradox Of Free Will. theoblogic.blogspot.com. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.
3. Plantinga, Alvin (July 14, 2002). Advice to Christian Philosophers. www.leaderu.com. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.
4. Brabenec, Robert L. (1975). The Impact of Three Mathematical Discoveries on Human Knowledge. www.asa3.org. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.
5. (October 10, 2006). Creationist lawsuit against UC system to proceed. www.ncseweb.org. Retrieved on 2008-01-20.
6. (January 2, 2006). Creationist lawsuit against UC system to proceed. uscode.house.gov. Retrieved on 2008-01-20.
7. Christian Flag. en.wikipedia.org. Retrieved on 2008-01-11.
8. Furnare, Cindy (June 14, 2001). What the Pledge Means on Flag Day 2001. archive.newsmax.com. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.
9. abeka.com (rank 33,608). www.quantcast.com. Retrieved on 2008-01-20.
10. Patterson, Frances (Winter 2001 / 2002). With God On Their Side.... www.rethinkingschools.org. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.*
11. Horner, Murphy (July 5, 2002). PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE. www.murphyhorner.com. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.
*For a more detailed analysis with specific texts cited read Frances Patterson's article.
Christian Education: History
Christian Education: Mathematics
Christian Education: Science
Christian Education: English