Education, Teacher Training, Teaching

The beginnings of my journey towards Christian deschooling/unschooling

Here begins my journey of retracing the influences that have impinged upon my development of a particular perspective on education.  The first of my journals is dated, 21st December, 1983 to 16th July, 1986.

Entry: Wednesday 21 December, 1983.

Wednesday 21st December 1983 was one day before my 27th birthday (I was born 22nd December, 1956 – 3 weeks overdue).  My wife and I had been married for a little over 2 years and one month (we were married Saturday 14th November, 1981, and moved to Toowoomba early 1982).  We had  settled in Toowoomba having moved from Townsville, where I had been serving the Australian Army, and Townsville was where we met and got married.  About three weeks before December 21st, a few verses from the book of Daniel (Revised Version) caught my attention:

And the king appointed for them a daily portion of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank, and that they should be nourished three years; that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. … Now as for these four youths, God gave then knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams (Daniel 1:5-6, 17).

Also, from the book of Job, the following verses (Revised Version) caught my attention:

Who hath sent out the wild ass free? Or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?  Whose house I have made the wilderness, And the salt land his dwelling place.  He scorneth the tumult of the city, Neither heareth he the shoutings of the taskmaster.  The range of the mountains is his pasture, And he searcheth after every green thing [new life] (Job 39:5-8).

At the time, these verses came to me as an instruction from God, and I took the instruction to mean that I was to apply for a three-year Primary Teaching course at the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education [which later became the University of Southern Queensland].  I did apply, and also applied for “the king’s meat,” which at the time meant to me the government assistance that I received to help pay my expenses whilst studying.  I had set myself the task of studying the material provided by the Institute, but also reading as much as I could, at the same time, about Christian education and Christian schooling.  The idea of searching after every green thing suggested to me that my life would be characterised by continuous study – it was to be my vocation – and from that study I was to discover God’s life, as it related to education.

All of this is the background to my entry on this day:

I received in the mail an offer for a place at the institute, … (Box, 1986, p. 1).

I did well in my studies.  Of the 30 units that I studied over the three years, I achieved: 17 Distinctions (A); 10 Credits (B); 2 Pass’s (C); and 1 Ungraded Pass (P).  I was awarded the Diploma of Teaching (Primary) on 8th May, 1987.  I did not attend the Awards Ceremony because I was out of state at the time.

After completing the Diploma of Teaching my wife and I enrolled in the Logos Bible College for the Year of 1987.  Once again I did will in my studies, with a Grade Point Average of 88.8%.  I graduated with a Diploma of Biblical Studies (with Honours) on 18th December 1987.

This was the first of the formal influences on my thinking in relation to Education, and in particular Christian education.  It was God who instructed me to attend a secular teacher training institution, but it was also God who instructed me to study the Christian alternative at the same time.  I did well in my studies.  Many of my peers were partying most of the time during the three years at Teacher training, but I put my head down and my tail up, and worked very long hours to accomplish the results that I obtained.

It was whilst I was at Bible College that I met Peter Frogley, of Light Educational Ministries, who became a significant influence in my thinking about education from a Biblical perspective.  Peter lectured us for a few sessions, and after the sessions I struck up a friendship, and developed a desire to work with Peter in his ministry to the early home-based education community.  It was also at Bible College that I met Ray Tiller, who later became the most significant influence in my understanding of teaching in a Christian School, from a Christian perspective.

A lot of memories flood back to me from that short entry on Wednesday 21st December, 1983.  I was full of enthusiasm, willing to make enormous sacrifices for the cause of Christian education in Australia, and very hopeful of good things coming from the sacrifices that were being made.

References

Box, L. A. (1986). Book 1: Private Journal Notes from 21st December, 1983 to 16th July, 1986. Toowoomba, Queensland: Unpublished private journal notes.

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Education

Theology’s important role in home-based education

It was Rushdoony (1994) who wrote:

It is a serious mistake to see theology as an academic exercise.  The word theology means God’s word; it begins with the presupposition that Scripture is the word of God, and the duty of the theologian is to understand it and to apply it to every area of life and thought. … For me theology means the total mandate of God through His word.  What I have written only scratches the surface; it is an introduction to the subject, and it is written to move men to faith and action.  The neglect of theology in our time is in part due to the theologians, who have multiplied the various divisions, so that, among the divisions of study have been Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology, Dogmatical Theology, Exegetical Theology, Practical Theology, and so on.  The areas of study also include such subjects as Natural Theology and Speculative Theology.  With the inventions of so many variations, it is no wonder that both pastors and people have lost interest in the subject and avoid it (Rushdoony, 1994, p. xv).

There are many useful theological texts, beginning with Rushdoony’s two volume set, that would be helpful on the shelves of a home-based educating family:

Berkhof, L. (1941). Systematic Theology. Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust.

Conner, K. J. (2004). The Foundations of Christian Doctrine. Melbourne, Victoria: KJC Publications

Grudem, W. (2009 ). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan

McNeill, J. T. [ed.]. (1960). Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion in Two Volumes, The Library of Christian Classics, Volume XXI. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

Reymond, R. L. (1998). A New Systematic Theology of The Christian Faith, Second Edition. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers

Rushdoony, R. J. (1994). Systematic Theology In Two Volumes. Vallecito, California: Ross House Books

Rushdoony points out the importance of theology when he writes:

The churches of our time seem to believe that God exists to save man and keep him happy. … But the world is not governed by your and my will and wishes, but by the triune God and His eternal decree.  Until we learn that fact, and say Amen to it as persons and societies, we shall only gain God’s wrath and judgment.  Of course, our humanistic age finds the wrath of God a remote concept; it will soon learn other wise, because God is God (Rushdoony, 1998, p. xvi).

Let us carefully deliver the Faith to future generations, as once delivered to us, through the line upon line, precept upon precept study of sound Biblical theology.

References

Rushdoony, R. J. (1994). Systematic Theology In Two Volumes. Vallecito, California: Ross House Books

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Education, Education and the Family, Education and the Marketplace, Education and the State, Home-Based Education

Home-based education, entrepreurship and the Old Age Pension

At a workshop that I attended, which was conducted to develop Financial Literacy curriculum for Australian schools, Paul Clitheroe made the following comment:

We are living in a time unprecedented in history, where it is so easy to spend far more than we earn.  This has not been the case in most of history.  This also includes spending beyond our earning years.  The Old Age Pension commenced in 1908, and was designed to be paid to those who lived up to 2 years beyond their life expectancy.  Most men did not live beyond the age of 60, at that time.  Over the past one hundred years, life expectancy has increased by 25 years.  This means that the government-promise of supporting some people for a maximum of two years after they have finished being financially productive, has now ballooned out to a promise to support most people for up to 25 years after they have stopped being tax-payers.  This situation is totally unsustainable.  Eventually the pension age will have to be pushed out to age 90 because there will not be the capacity to pay pensions in the future (Clitheroe, 9th August, 2012).

This is not fear-mongering, it is economic fact.  No amount of claiming rights will change the facts.  Growing numbers of non-working tax recipients will eventually outnumber a shrinking pool of tax payers.  At the cross-over, tax payers will have to pay 100%  of their earnings to support the non tax payers, and after that, … ?  Succeeding Governments did not save the tax money paid by workers over their working lives.  They spent the money on other projects.  There is a shrinking taxation base, because more and more Australians are either being aborted before birth, marrying later and later (and therefore having less and less children per married couple), or entering relationships that are sterile (LGBT relationships).  Receiving a pension is not a right, it never has been, and never can be.  It was always a ponzi scheme*.

Home-based education must include entrepreneurship and economic independence.  Dependence upon others to provide a job is a risky business.  Maintaining a good relationship with your children is also a critical part of home-based education.  It may literally mean life or death, when governments are looking for ways to solve the problem of a logarithmically increasing number of non-working pension recipients.

References

https://www.google.com.au/?gws_rd=ssl#q=ponzi+scheme+definition Accessed: Thu 16/10/2014 18:32

* Ponzi schemeˈpɒnzi/noun
noun: Ponzi scheme; plural noun: Ponzi schemes
  1. a form of fraud in which belief in the success of a non-existent enterprise is fostered by the payment of quick returns to the first investors from money invested by later investors.
    “a classic Ponzi scheme built on treachery and lies”
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Education

Imagination versus memorization in education

The Triune God of the Bible has declared that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and that to be able to live in accord with the reality of the universe that He has created, we need to think His thoughts after Him.  This highlights a tension between memory and imagination.  God’s complaint is that “The Lord saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5) … “for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).

Rushdoony (2008), commenting on the Songs of Moses (Exodus 15, Deuteronomy 32 and Psalm 90), writes:

There is a contrast in our text between imagination and memory.  Men must not trust in the imagination, because it reflects their fallen history.  God’s appointed servants must discipline and teach, so that man’s memory is mindful of God’s works, covenant, law, grace and mercy.  The issue is between educational approaches stressing memory versus those stressing imagination.  To stress imagination means to believe in the child’s or person’s creative powers, whereas to emphasize memory is to maintain that the future must be built on the knowledge of the past under God.  Knowledge is not manufactured anew with every generation.  It is a growing structure based on biblical premises, whereas modern education is deliberately rootless and barren (Rushdoony, 2008, p. 491).

There are windows of opportunity in a child’s life, where memory and repetition are fun.  If you miss those windows, then it is harder to develop a discipline of memorization later in life.  Home-based education should include sessions of memorization, of things like: Books of the Bible, names of the Patriarchs and the Apostles, significant historical events, and their dates (Bishop Ussher’s (2003 [1658])  Annals of the World is helpful with this) — i.e Creation, Deluge, Tower of Babel, etc. — Creeds and Catechisms, countries around the world and their capitals, local mountain ranges and rivers, and many other things.

An education is much more than memorization, but at the same time must include memorization.

References

Rushdoony, R. J. (2008). Commentaries on the Pentateuch: Deuteronomy. Vallencito, California: Ross House Books.

Ussher, J. (2003 [1658]). The Annals of the World. U.S.A.: Master Books.

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Education, Education and the Family, Education and the State, Funding, Home-Based Education, State Schools, Teaching

Globalisation, Schools and Home-based Education: the economic pressures

Sean Casham (2014), writing from an unashamedly socialist perspective, discussed the impact of globalisation on education, in his paper: Globalisation and Education.  He argued that globalisation has ensured that schooling is finance-driven rather than education-driven.  Measurable outcomes, such as high exam scores, become the educational objective of schooling to attract parents to enroll their children and to secure government funding.  These globally originated economic pressures, from such sources as The World Bank (Casham, 2014, p. 2), create insecurity of employment for school staff and ensure that there is a need for particular teachers to prove their ongoing right to be employed.  In this context, data collection becomes connected to professional competence, rather than actual teaching ability and learning outcomes in the lives of the children; value is given to things that can be measured and produced, rather than to the elements of a true education.  Casham writes: “By focusing on the knowable and instantly quantifiable, we may diminish the more abstract qualities of being human, such as kindness and wisdom” (p. 2).

Casham points out that Waters (2011) wrote: “In Australia, 25% of our young people (aged 15-19 years) have a mental disorder and 1 in 3 young people experience moderate to high levels of psychological distress” (Waters, 2011, p. 75).  This figure is an increase on the number of mentally disturbed young people reported in the earlier Sawyer, et al. (2000) Mental Health of Young People in Australia, report.  In the Sawyer report it was recorded that “Fourteen percent of children and adolescents in Australia have mental health problems” (p. xi).  However, it is interesting to note that Sawyer, et al. claimed that there was “a higher prevalence of child and adolescent mental health problems among those living in low-income, step/blended and sole-parent families” (Sawyer, et al., 2000, p. xi).  The Sawyer report claimed to be accurate because “the prevalence of mental health problems identified in (the) survey (was) very similar to the prevalence identified in previous Australian and overseas surveys” (p. xi).

Casham suggests that  these globalisation pressures may have a negative influence on young people.  Making educational processes finance-driven rather than education-driven may be limiting our human capabilities, and “limiting our human capabilities could paradoxically prove harmful to our mental health and the economy” (Casham, 2014, p. 2).  Maseman (2007) pointed out that the increasing trend in measuring school effectiveness “rests on productivity-oriented criteria, and analysis that is used on every level of education from early elementary school up to the tertiary level” (Maseman, 2007, p. 101).  This has led to “the increasing homogenization of the culture of education on a worldwide scale, with the accompanying assumption by educators that there is only one valid epistemology” (Maseman, 2007, p. 110).  Casham summarises this phenomenon by suggesting that “financial objectives can … be at the expense of a truly coherent focus on school improvement” (Casham, 2014, p. 6).

It is my argument that schools cannot be improved, whilst they are the recipients of Government funding.  It is the pressure of Government accountability measures that is apparently skewing pedagogical approaches.  Teachers who are anxious about their job security will not be primarily concerned about the educational outcomes of their charges, rather they will be driven by considerations that revolve around assessment imperatives.  Testing does not deliver an education.  Tests test whether the students have memorised the data that is deemed important to pass the test.  An education results in a lifestyle change.  Testing involves cramming as late as possible before the test date, then promptly forgetting as much as possible after the test.

Home-based education does have its financial pressures.  Home-based education families mostly choose to live a leaner lifestyle than they could if both parents were working and the children were sent to school.  However, when there is a resolve to live contentedly within the family’s single-income means, there are no pressures for financial accountability in relation to the education of the children.  Time can be dedicated to education, and if there is no state-mandated registration, then the testing regime can be done away with all together.  The proof of educational success is not in the results of tests; the proof is in the adjustments to lifestyle that the children make as a result of their educational development.

Casham’s essay is helpful in understanding some of the pressures upon schools and their teaching staff.  Those pressures may also be contributing to the poor mental health of many of the children attending the schools.  Add the pressures of globalisation to the factors of bullying, academic struggle and the corresponding shame that many children experience, and it is no wonder that a large number (between 14% and 25%) of children exhibit mental health problems.  However, Casham holds out hope for schools, and this is where I depart from his analysis.  The hope will be found in strengthening families, and then mandating families to deliver an education from the base of their own home sweet home.

References

Casham, S. (2014). Globalisation and Education. Unpublished Masters level assignment.

Maseman, V.L. (2007). Culture and Education. In: Arnove, R.F. and Torrens, C.A. (eds). Comparative Education: The Dialectic of the Global and the Local, 3rd Edition. pp. 101-116.

Sawyer, M.G., Arney, F.M., Baghurst, P.A., Clark, J.J., Graetz, B.W., Kosky, R.J., Nurcombe, B., Patton, G.C., Prior, M.R., Raphael, B., Rey, J., Waites, L.C. and Zubrick, S.R. (2000). Mental Health of Young People in Australia. Child and adolescent component of the National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being.  Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.

Waters, L. (2011) A review of school-based positive psychology interventions. The Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist. 28(2), pp. 75-90. DOI 10.1375/aedp.28.2.75

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Education, Home-Based Education

Home education, community values and Divine heart surgury

Huffman (2006) wrote that “important values are the ones that individuals and a society actually live” (p. 58).  Lived knowledge, not just memorized facts, is critical to proper community cohesion.  The only values that can be consistently lived in the context of social cohesion are those values which are anchored in Truth.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  Therefore, the only consistently liveable values are those values which are anchored in the Lord Jesus Christ.

For example, throughout the New Testament there are a number of “one another” verses.  To follow those instructions leads to social cohesion, but to deny the validity of those instructions, and to seek to live contrary to those instructions can only lead to social collapse.

“be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:5).  As much as possible, we are to live at peace with one another.  It is impossible to live in community if there is no peace.  Warring communities experience ongoing violence, bloodshed, disrupted daily life, disrupted sleep, etc.  Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, and only He can facilitate forgiveness and reconciliation where there has been a sinful act that has scarred the peace of a community.  Repentance, forgiveness and cleansing in the blood of Jesus is the only answer to a community that has lost its peace.

“care for one another” (I Corinthians 12:25).  Caring for others requires selflessness.  Glenda Jackson (20013) in Origin of the Centred Self? teaches that self-centredness arises from making decisions that are based on personal, subjective inclinations, without consideration of the long-term, objective bases for decision-making.  If there is no ownership of consequences and consideration of the fact that consequences inevitably flow from acting out personally made decisions, then there can be no genuine care for others.  At the apparently inconsequential end of the decision-making process I may feel that it is my right to eat as much chocolate as I want.  In my mind, and as far as I am concerned, it harms no one, so it is my right.  Well, as I eat more and more chocolate, I get fatter and fatter.  My body accumulates acidity and reacts to the high intake of sugar.  Eventually my body begins to break down, and I become tired, chronically sick, and I become dependent upon others to take up my share of life responsibilities.  I then consume medical attention that is subsidized by people who are working and paying taxes.  The Bible commands that we are to enjoy all things in moderation.  My subjective decision to eat as much chocolate as I want, puts time, effort and financial strain upon a lot of other people around me.  My selfishness puts me in a position where I really have no care for others.

Jesus has dealt with the self life.  He died upon the cross, and the Bible teaches that if we believe in Him, then we also died with Him, and have been raised into newness of life.  Our self life is dead, and therefore we can live a life that is motivated by care for others, through faith in Jesus, and through the power of His Holy Spirit working in us.  We can embrace the commandment of Jesus to care for one another as a gift of grace, rather than as a damper on our personal, self-centred rights.

“have fellowship with one another” (I John 1:7)  The Greek word translated fellowship is ‘koinonia’.  The word koinonia implies having communion, sharing in common, making a contribution, being in partnership, participating together, making a pecuniary benefaction.  In short, koinonia implies sharing life together at many levels, including financially assisting one another.  It is the kind of relationship that one would expect within a family.  The Bible teaches that those who truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are born again, regenerated and adopted into the family of God.  That family relationship knows nothing of racial, cultural, language or class distinction.  Jesus Christ truly has broken down the walls of division.  Wherever there are two or three gathered together in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who are committed to loving Him by obeying all that He has commanded, there is the family of God, and there can be enjoyed the deep life-sharing of koinonia.  It is not good enough to simply cry, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord” and not live consistently with the commandments of the God who dwells within the temple of the Lord.

The opposite of having fellowship with one another is the dog-eat-dog climate of ‘get from others as much as you can get, without letting anything go from your own stash’: “A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him” (Proverbs 28:22).

There are many other “one another” commandments in the New Testament (“love one another”, “wash one another’s feet”, “show honour to one another”, “live in harmony with one another”, “encourage one another”, “admonish one another”, etc.).  These are the kinds of values that Huffman, I presume, is referring to.  He could not be referring to the opposites to these values, because they cannot be consistently lived in a social setting.

All of these values depend upon the Lord Jesus Christ to overcome the sinful tendencies of the unregenerate heart.  The Bible claims that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it.”   The only solution to such hearts is for the old stony heart to be removed, and a new heart of flesh to be put in its place.  Only the Triune God, through the atonement of His Son Jesus Christ, can perform such heart surgery.

These things are not taught in our local state schools.  That is why Christian families need to educate their children from a home base.  As families the fruits of a changed heart can be modelled for the children, and through this modelling, the children can learn of their own need for divine heart surgery.

References

Huffman, H. A. (2006). Driving character through policy and practice. School Administrator. 63 (9), pp. 58-59.

Jackson, G. (2013). Origin of the Centred Self?  http://www.Xlibris.com.au : Xlibris LLC

 

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Education

What about Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)?

The Bible does not teach rights.  There are no stated or implied rights anywhere in Scripture.  The Bible does teach, however, responsibility and privileges.  The Biblical argument is: “If you obey… then …; if you disobey … then …”  Privileges are withdrawn when responsibilities are not taken up.  It is possible, for a time, to claim privileges whilst shirking the corresponding responsibilities.  However, God is not mocked.  Sins committed in private will eventually be shouted from the rooftops, if not repented of.

The claim to rights, however, is to clamor for the privileges without reference to the corresponding responsibilities.  A rights orientation will always lead to conflict in the marketplace.  As one claims rights, then it will be at the denial of privileges to another.  For example, when a woman claims the right to control her body, and by exercising that right she has the baby in her womb murdered through the process called abortion; by exercising her right, she has denied the privilege of life to the baby.  None of us have a right to life, and the Bible indicates that there are instances where God will reclaim our privilege when we have neglected to fulfill our responsibilities (murdering – neglecting to show respect for another’s privilege to enjoy life – for example).

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states that … “parents will have the right to choose the type of education they want for their child” (article 26).  In a rights oriented society, this may be helpful, in the short term, to obtain liberty in home educating.  However, it is not a long-term solution to the problem of civil resistance to home-based education.  The long-term solution has to be through the conversion of the general population until there is a majority who upholds the sovereignty of God and accepts His sovereign will, as expressed through His Law.  Parents have a responsibility before God to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  This is accompanied with the privilege of choosing for themselves, under God, the method of fulfilling that responsibility – which may include home-based education; enrolment in a local, privately funded, Academy; or tapping into a network of experts throughout the community who assist with the God-given responsibility.  No one has a right to state-funded education.  The satisfying of that so-called right, is to deny others the privilege of stewarding the blessings that God has given them through labour (i.e. taxation to pay for state-funded education is stealing from parents the capacity to fund the education of their own children).

We have a lot of work to do, but we are to be encouraged by the promise that it is the “Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation, to the Jew first and also to the Greek”.

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