How many times have you heard someone say, "the more things change the more they stay the same?" Or, how about, "if we could only return to the good old days."
It seems to me that in spite of "change," things really don't. Change often is only old or older things that are simply recycled. And no one really wants to go back to the "good old days" because they actually weren't that good.
For decades of my Christian education experience, I have had to deal with these things: changes, old and older, and frankly I'm tired. I'm tired of talk, of inaction, and tired of weak leadership. Thankfully I haven't "thrown in the towel" or completely lost hope.
Christian school leaders should be concentrating on "re-engineering" institutions for the 21st century! We should be "building" the "academic iPhone." But it's not happening.
"When (education) is in chaos, everybody has a plan to fix it — But it takes a leader of real understanding to straighten things out." (Proverbs 28:2 The Message alt.)
Christian education is important and today probably more than at any other time in our history. Why are school leaders, (boards & heads of school) hesitant to deal with that which is staring us in the face?
There are at least five obvious, specific interrelated things standing in the way of moving forward.
While Christian education hasn't reached its current state overnight, it has arrived to this point through, #1 a "series of small capitulations" to culture. This is taking the easy route to attracting families/students rather than the harder; education which stresses academic rigor and the actual the pursuit of "excellence."
You probably don't have to look beyond your own family to realize that, #2 "weak spirituality" and diluted "Christian living" have lowered expectations for Christian schools and that which they deliver. Outcomes matter less because we aren't looking for more!
When I was growing and maturing, whether neighbors were Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish, values, even virtues, were the same. Today, #3 the "secularism" of society is stealing from Christian education! We can now say, "Christian education is less Christian, perhaps post-Christian, than ever before." It certainly is in my experience.
It wasn't all that long ago that families seeking a Christian or parochial education understood that there would be a "trade-off," some element of sacrifice to be made. Now, Christians, #4 "want what everyone else has," that is to say some, maybe all, of the expensive programs available to the public in government schools. The desire may be great, but the willingness to pay is small.
Arriving at wanting government-like programs in our Christian schools confronts us with a fact of life, #5 the "potential for compromise." Government is already "sticking its nose into our business," why move in a direction which may cause us to accept some form of government assistance?
I began with a couple of clichés, why not one more? "Once the camel gets its nose under the tent it's too late."
It's our fault here: accepting government grants, government loan money, or government cheese, any form of assistance clutches us. We need to be like Grove City College, "the model of resistance" and not accept anything from government. "No strings attached."
Christian education must move forward: re-engineer, innovate, and be on the cutting edge with solid education practice.
Two important statements by the late Dr. Frank E. Gaebelein make our pursuits in Christian education prescient:
1. "Christian education today has the one principle that can give learning a frame of reference spacious enough to comprehend all knowledge and dynamic enough to develop moral and spiritual maturity in the midst of a materialistic and violent age." (The Pattern of God's Truth p. 13)
2. "In all honesty, it must be admitted that no teacher or minister who does not have the Bible at the center of his daily life and thought to the extent of living daily in this book can hope to develop a Christian frame of reference." (The Pattern of God's Truth p. 45)
"To be most certainly Christian a high-minded education must be established in agreement with God's truth!"