Thursday, August 09, 2007

Education Question

Bob has enrolled in an online biblical counseling course and is staying busy with that, so I thought I would post an education question that someone asked and both of our responses to it.

Just as we're ready to start our new year of Bible & worldviews studies, I'm having some second thoughts... Not about studying the Bible or even necessarily about studying other worldviews. The program we've chosen for our daughter this year takes a high schooler through ancient literature and simultaneously stands it up against the Bible, so you're reading both at the same time. Lots of questions to ponder; lots of Francis Schaeffer help w/ reasoning; lots of Bible. Excellent stuff. However, in reading an excerpt from a book called "Heart of Wisdom" (re: the Hebrew model of education), the author asserts that it is not necessary to read the whole Iliad and Odyssey in order to find its fallacies. She points out that you wouldn't allow your children to spend a lot of time w/ people who would talk to them about unbiblical or immoral things--why would you allow them to do the same by reading an author whose whole worldview is antagonistic to yours? Isn't it the same thing?

So how much of Iliad & Odyssey is enough? Do I have to read all of Harry Potter to find its worldview? Do I have to read any of it? Does a doctor try to experience every disease in order to understand it or does he just observe it from a careful vantage point in order to recognize it?

I completely see her point! My children are going to and already do see things all around them that are antagonistic to the gospel of Christ, and my thinking is that, like a bank teller, if we spend our time studying the real McCoy, we can spot fake tender w/out blinking! So why would I subject them to Homer's complete teaching?

I'm asking in the context of high schoolers, but truly, is it necessary for me as an adult to read it all either? What about Philippians 4:8?

How much is enough?

Ramona's reply:
We have ten kids at home, nine of whom are teens, so I have a wide variety of experience from which to draw from for this question. To a great degree, it depends on the spiritual maturity and discernment of the child or person. We have one daughter (age 16) who recently wanted to spend the night with a friend and go to church with her the next day. This daughter is very susceptible to outside influences and we chose not to allow her to go to another church without us there to help her understand what was going on. However, another 16 year old daughter is very mature and discerning. She works with folks who are gung ho about the Harry Potter movies, so she asked if she could read one of the books so she could discuss it intelligently. This daughter is NOT easily influenced, but she did want to understand "where they were coming from" in their discussions of the subject matter. She read it and her comment was that it was "fluffy" and not at all interesting compared to CS Lewis. She also told us how the books were much different than the movies. The children are not as disobedient and rebellious in the books as they are in the movies, for instance. Not all of our kids would have been able to make these distinctions. As a matter of fact, some of them might have tended to pick up the beliefs and/or habits of the people in this book, so we would not have allowed all of our 16 year olds to read this particular book (although our 11 year old probably would have done fine with it!).

I would suggest that, as a parent, you should try to understand your child's level of discernment and judge how "deep" to go into the subject matter according to that. If you see them start flailing, back off a bit. Do remember that the goal is to prepare them to thrive in a sinful world, where they will eventually be surrounded by these books, movies, etc. that you are teaching her about right now. It is best for her to learn to defend her beliefs while in your "greenhouse" rather than putting her out in the storm unprepared. Just keep a close eye on her and increase the scriptural influences if she is not growing straight and strong, though!

Bob's response:
Let me add something to what my wife said. When we adopted Jennifer she was 14. Because of that we had no reason to expect to have her more than five or six years. In fact, we had her five and a half years before she got married and moved away. She and several of our others that we adopted did not have much schooling in their native countries, and were having to learn a new language on top of that. We have had to think long and hard about what it means to educate a child like this.

Having done that let me propose this as the purpose of education: To teach WISDOM. Facts are nice and necessary to achieve true wisdom,but they are not the purpose of education, wisdom is. What do we need to obtain wisdom:
1) The ability to learn God's Word.
2) The ability to learn about the world around us.
3) The ability to reason from what we have learned in #1 and #2.
4) The ability to apply what we have learned to our own lives
5) The ability to communicate what we have learned to others.Thus we believe that it is more important to give children the tools for learning than it is to fill their heads with a group of unrelated(at least to them facts). Given the tools they can learn on their own after they have left your house.It sounds like you have the basic right idea, but perhaps keeping the focus on learning HOW to deal with these things rather than the WHAT will help keep her training in focus.Let me suggest that she would be far better off having dealt with a small amount of material in depth than a great deal of material in a shallow manner. If she encounters something new, she can always apply those skills to the study of it. However, without the tools she won't know how to deal with something new if it comes up. Not that there is really anything new, but it often comes wrapped in a new package. Hope that helps.

If anyone is interested in more, let me know. The conversation did go a bit past this, but including the rest of it would make for a very long post. If there is enough interest, I can make another post, though.