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Archive for the ‘Educators’ Category

Survey Reminds Us That We’re in This Together

In Educators on November 29, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Back in early September, our Parent Partnership Association conducted a short survey asking how our parents were feeling about the start of the year. Here are a few results from the 32 parents who answered the survey (a 20% response rate):

Please choose which description best encompasses your feelings about Home Days with your children these first two weeks?
Weeping and gnashing of teeth and about to give up 0% 0
Some tears, but I see glimmers of hope 15.6% 5
It's going okay, but not as well as I had hoped 12.5% 4
It's going well, although we have challenges 56.3% 18
Challenges? What challenges? 15.6% 5









What topic would be most helpful for additional parent training?
Schedule management with school work 24.1% 7
Schedule management with extra commitments 6.9% 2
Food and household management 13.8% 4
Parenting tips for character/discipline challenges 31% 9
Grade specific homework assistance 24.1% 7









One open-ended question we asked on the survey was, "How would you define Home Day success?" The answers varied:

  • "If my student finishes homework by 1 or 2 p.m."
  • "Every assignment completed."
  • "Children connect with God in midst of their problems and enjoyable times."
  • "Finishing our work with everyone happy and having good attitudes."
  • "My student taking responsibility for knowing what needs to be accomplished and the best way to accomplish it with parental support."

In case you were wondering, we have good and bad days at the Dunham home. The blended model is work – for students, for parents, for the Head of School and his spouse.

Guest Post: Career vs. Vocation (Part 3)

In Educators on November 4, 2011 at 7:31 am

Wedel, Todd(The following is the final in a three-part series on the question of career versus vocation – a key distinction parents need to help their students wrestle with as they consider future education and life goals. This series is authored by Todd J. Wedel, Veritas Classical Academy Grammar School principal and Rhetoric School teacher.)

Such an emphasis on the “weak things” may raise an objection, that to seek a position of prominence is what we should desire, the chance to influence civilization and culture. Indeed, those are noble and godly goals, but the means and mindset matter—a godly end if pursued for a selfish reason ceases to be a godly end.

If we are career-minded, we desire a position to institute change. Our thinking runs something such as, “If I were but to be in such a position, I would. . .” Inherent in this reasoning are two subtle dangers. The first is that I am inevitably judging the person who occupies the position I would attain. I desire his or her removal. And I believe that I can know what to do and what I would do without knowing all that that person endures, thinks of, processes, deals with, and is.

The second is that I believe that it is through position that God changes the world. But get the right people in the right positions, and the world becomes what we would want it to be. We devise a formula for redemption and reconciliation, and, we maintain, if this formula is fulfilled, there is no need for God, for it is a matter of the great “I” doing what I would do that the world will be changed not a matter of the great “I AM” doing through me or through another what only He can do.

We forget that Paul reminds us that not many were called who were strong or wise or of measure in the world, though not  many does mean a few, but that it is those apparently weak and foolish and negligible whom God desires and uses, that it is He who calls into being what has not been; He has no need of us, but is pleased to use His people to participate in His work. And He can use men and women of mean position to accomplish high purposes.

It is instructive to ponder here two examples of men of great position, Joseph and Daniel. Their stories are greatly parallel—both taken from their homeland, both cast into darkness and dungeon, both rescued because of gifts given and opportunities created by God, both raised to positions of power and authority, both used for the good of God’s people. Both are certainly gifted, but it is not their gifts that gain power and authority. Had not pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar both had dreams from God, both would have languished in prisons, Joseph at least possibly slain. 

Or the greatest example of power and authority, Christ who attains His throne by means of the cross. He cannot be raised if He is not slain. He ministers to the sick and the lame and raises the dead, all of whom will fall prey to the curses of the Fall again in time. He teaches and instructs multitudes, many of whom will soon cry out for his crucifixion. He includes within His closest disciples the son of perdition who will betray Him to His death. And what of those works returned to Him void? Not one, for God promises that His word never returns to Him void; it accomplishes that for which He sends it. God’s Word accomplished all, not just at the cross but in those three years, and in the years previous of which we have little knowledge, all that He was to do. 

If our vocation is to be the offering our life and service to God, then should we not see that the tendency of our vocations should always be the cross? As a teacher, how do I know that I have done enough? As Matt Whitling has said, when I have sacrificed myself for my students. As a teacher, what do I desire for my students? That they, too, sacrifice themselves for others. Learning is sacrifice if seen as vocation. If seen with career in mind, it is selfish and self-centered.

As a teacher, if I see teaching as a career, my students either aid my ends or inhibit them. I am pleased when they perform as I wish and grow angered when they do not. They are pleased with me when they perform as they believe they should or at least receive the recognition they believe they deserve and grow embittered when they do not. Both they and I cease to relate, cease to love, and instead bite and devour one another in the pursuit of what ends in death. And if so taught, will this not be the pattern of our lives?

What then of this distinction?  What of the choice between career and vocation? How can we know? The question is the motive; the significance is the heart. 

This must be our view for our students; to demand a path of success and attainment is to commit and demand commitment where God simply calls for submission. But this “simple” submission is the way of the cross, the way of Christ, the only way that leads to where all learning and all endeavors must have their end, in the joy of the presence of the pleasure of God.

Guest Post: Career vs. Vocation (Part 2)

In Educators on November 1, 2011 at 10:52 am

Wedel, Todd

(The following is the second in a three-part series on the question of career versus vocation – a key distinction parents need to help their students wrestle with as they consider future education and life goals. This series is authored by Todd J. Wedel, Veritas Classical Academy Grammar School principal and Rhetoric School teacher.)

The “good” career mind is more insidious than obvious. At OU, I taught many students in the HR department who desired, from what I could tell, to earnestly earn degrees and move into fields that would serve others and forward positive change in the world, changes I could assent to—aiding those in poverty, seeking racial reconciliation, working for peace. At surface, they appeared to be seeking a vocation, a calling, for were they not desiring an end to serve others?

Yet for so many, their education, if not something that suited their vision of the end, was an impediment. I was an obstacle. The material was a burden. The skills were irrelevant. You see, they had subtly brought a career mind—what suited their ends, even their view of service, was valuable; what did not suit those ends was not.

Now, lest I sound too judgmental, I am not saying that these may not have brought real change and service; what I am saying is that if this was their attitude towards education, would it not be their attitude in their profession? Those they served could so easily become objectified, becoming objects to be served instead of people to serve. Those they would seek to aid would be seen as worthy of aid if they fit the paradigm, fit the program, fit the model. Only what suits the end is valuable; what does not is negligible.

Once we find ourselves in this mindset, it is we, not those we serve, who become the determinants of value and need. Why learn about someone if they will not be served? Why seek to work with an individual or group if they will not change? We become, at heart, great pragmatists, of the worst sort, for our ends seem noble and generous, good and righteous, but in the name of helping humanity, we ignore people. You see, how they, as students, saw learning, so they would see people. 

In contrast, our submission to a vocation means that we do, in fact, seek excellence, but our desire for excellence is for faithfulness. We see our call to be excellent whether advancement or acclaim come or go; we may, indeed, apply for promotions, seek greater responsibility, greater positions of authority, but we seek these patiently and waiting. It is God who justifies and approves, and if it is His approval to give advancement, then that is His will; if not, His will again. 

Or perhaps it is better to say we do not, ever, seek advancement. What we seek are simply greater avenues for service. Unlike the career, in which greater position means greater responsibility to the job and perhaps over people, the vocation sees greater position as greater responsibility to God and always in service to people. A career mindset will always seem others as a means or an impediment; a vocation mindset will always see others first, self and position last.

So our doctor and our hairdresser may each seek career as described or they may seek vocation. They may seek service. It is easy to conceive of the doctor in this way, and I am sure we all know many of whom this could be said. But what of the hairdresser? In what way can she or he serve? I will but note that such a position, as radical as this may sound, may participate in the redemption of the world. If beauty is valuable, then the hairdresser can participate in that work. However, such an endeavor must take thought and care to not simply perpetuate our culture’s obsession with surface things and cheap obsessions. Or in a much more basic, and perhaps therefore more radical measure, he could simply love the people whom he serves.

Our culture is one of overwhelming interaction but little sense of investment or community. It is often people in such positions that can be the most basic of all elements of redemption—valuing the individual before them, listening, engaging, expressing interest and concern. These things, these apparently base and common actions, are the “weak things” of the world that God can use to confound the strong.

(To be continued)

Guest Post: Career vs. Vocation (Part 1)

In Educators on October 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Wedel, Todd

(The following is the first in a three-part series on the question of career versus vocation – a key distinction parents need to help their students wrestle with as they consider future education and life goals. This series is authored by Todd J. Wedel, Veritas Classical Academy Grammar School principal and Rhetoric School teacher.)

I have a friend who is in a relationship. He is in love; she is not. In one conversation, she used the somewhat overused expression that she was “focused on her career.” I have always detested that phrase, seeing it as simply another expression of self-focus, but in conversing with my friend, a distinction crystalized that I had not apprehended before.

The problem is not, as I had before believed, that one was committed to the career instead of something else, but that a person always had a career. The example always in my mind was that a husband should always put his family first, his career latter. I came to see, though, that the distinction is not between a focus on career and the pursuit of a career in another manner, but a much more radical division, a distinction between a career and a vocation.

I am not quibbling over vocabulary; the distinction is real and matters foundationally to what we desire and live for. It affects our motivations and goals and our relationships, especially in such a money- and position-driven time and place as modern America.

The distinction is stark and speaks to the heartward direction of our lives: we commit to a career; we submit to a vocation. The career becomes that end towards which all our endeavors and all our desires for whatever it is we are doing tend. The vocation is not its own end; all our endeavors and all our desires are for God; the vocation a means.

Nor must we misname “career” as “profession” and “vocation” as “job.” The division is not between the doctor and the hairdresser. Each may pursue his or her chosen path for career or vocation. To see the heart, though, all one must do is look to the means. A career-minded doctor will talk or think of getting through college and med school, not going through. In the latter, learning is a part of the process, valuable not just as a means to the end but as a part of the end; in the former, learning is a necessary evil.

I saw this once very clearly defined in a conversation with a friend who had gone through med school. We were discussing current medical costs, the health care system, and all the related issues. It came out in the conversation that a part of the reason my friend saw justification for healthcare workers to charge whatever they wanted and whatever they could was that they had to “endure” residency. The pain and suffering they experienced (and it is a rigorous and grueling time) had to be paid back by someone, here, the patients. Such a mindset reveals that the doctor who would claim to be working in service of his patients sees them, at least partially, as a means to gain back what he has lost. He “deserves” whatever he can demand because he has endured what they have not.

The same could be said of the hairdresser. While perhaps the training is less grueling, the attitude could be the same. Let me seek my “vocation” so that I may somehow earn what “I deserve.” Or, as is so often said, “I have paid my dues.” Such an attitude is a mind fixed upon exchange.  I exchange an endurance of toil and stress so that I may be owed a certain type of life, of acclaim, of direction and purpose and end.

Thus, practically, our commitment to a career means that we do, in fact, seek excellence, but our desire for excellence is for advancement. We see advancement as dependent upon us, upon our performance, and we strive for it to advance that which we do and what we desire to be. Or, even if we desire to but remain where we are, in some respect, we desire acclaim and acknowledgement of our excellence. Our excellence is but another means to the end of our career.

(To be continued)

Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference

In Books, Educators on September 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Teacher-one-who-made-difference-mark-edmundson-paperback-cover-artI (Craig) just finished Mark Edmundson's book, Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference, a rambling yet rousing tribute to his high school teacher, Franklin Lears. While Edmundson's memoir takes place in his Massachussetts public school, he writes as someone more than familiar with classical philosophy, literature, and even some pedagogy. Some quotes:

"There is something archetypal about the world of high school, something allegoric. The kids have formalized roles. The teachers have nicknames that fix their place in the meager cosmos. Even the building is full of highly charged locales – the place where this or that clique hangs out, the corridor where the fight took place, the detention room where Big Fran, the submaster, had to call the police. There is something eternally burning about this world; it lives in the mind ten, twenty, thirty years after the fact, as though it had been concocted and instilled by a small-time Dante, who had himself once been injured by it and wanted it preserved eternally as a reminder." (35)

"In every early encounter between a teacher and a student there are multiple beings present, multiple ghosts, many of them not beneficient. Great teachers react differently to this fact of pedagogical life. Some of them never show their hand. They always turn the question back on the student. They never declare themselves. This is the way of Socrates, as it is of the expert therapist (Socrates is, among many other things, the first deep analyst of the psyche, the spirit), who functions as a mirror, always showing the patient her own reflection back.

But there is another way of proceeding too, and it can be no less transforming. That is to expose oneself fully as a teacher, to be receptive to everything, every resentment, fantasy, affection, and hatred the student brings forward. And once those passions are alive, once they are in play, then let the student use them as energy for intellectual inquiry and thence for change. Such teachers are human incadescences – they have ideas, then the ideas have them; they promulgate theories, they burn brilliantly with them, and they are always, always right. They create disciples, smaller versions of themselve. They found schools. Freud was such a teacher. So was Plato. So, in his way, was Jesus." (78-79)

"In general, teachers do not want to be 'responsible' for students' screwing up their lives because they give themselves over uninhibitedly to Whitman and try to live as the old queer anarch would, or to Dickinson, who created her own God and her own cosmology and lived with them. Many teachers, I suspect, don't trust kids to sift these matters for themselves. Nor do they even really trust other adults to do it. The idea of a society full of people running amok, using the poets and artists to remake their own minds, individually and with only their own judgments and disasters and disappointments as inhibiting walls, can make teachers crazy." (239)

"It was words instead of body blows that [Lears] traded in. The powers that he had by virtue of knowing how to talk and write, commanding irony when he needed it, being able, when pushed, to impale an adversary on the point of a phrase – this power became manifest to me. And I thought back through some of the worst moments of my life, and I began to see how differently a few of them might have turned out if I could only have spoken half well rather than pitched a fit or thrown punches. Even in the face of violence, a sure mind, I began to believe, might bring you through." (250-251)

"Good teachers have many motivations, but I suspect that loneliness if often one of them. You need a small group, a circle, to talk to; unable to find it in a larger world, you try to create it in the smaller sphere of a classroom." (266)

An interesting read that got better as it went along (give it at least 50 pages to appreciate Edmundson's writing style), Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference makes for a nice wind-down at the end of the day.

And Now a Word from Ms. Sayers

In Educators on September 9, 2011 at 5:39 am

Here at Docendo Discimus, it's time for Craig to begin a new topic on classical Christian education. However, as he's currently on an airplane headed to Virgina to partner with Michael Card on another Biblical Imagination conference, it seems fitting to leave you with this point to ponder from Dorothy Sayers. We'll see you on Tuesday.

For we let our young men and women go out unarmed in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects… We have lost the tools of learning, and in their absence can only make a botched and piecemeal job of it.

~Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Lost Tools of Learning"

Christian Education: A Summary and a Visual

In Educators, Pedagogy on August 26, 2011 at 8:53 am

As we finish up this series (and look forward to Megan starting a new and different one next week), here's a summary of our brief study from the life and book of Daniel on God as Master Teacher:

“And as for these four youth…” (student)

  • Who are our students as people and as products of their culture(s)?
  • Where are our students in terms of historical and cultural contexts – geographical, economical, political, technological?
  • When are our students – mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, spiritually – with regard to developmental theory?

“…God gave them…” (teacher)

  • Who is God as Master Teacher, and who does He call us to be as teachers?

“…learning and skill…” (pedagogy)

  • How does God’s initiation and generosity come into play through cognitive (learning) and experiential (skill) means?
  • How has God already gifted learning aptitude, facilities, and styles through Scripture, Spirit, and Community?

 “…in all literature and wisdom…” (curriculum)

  • What is God’s program of study and how do we use the Scriptures to discern culture’s truth, lies, and consequences?

 “…and Daniel had understanding…” (assessment)

  • How and when will we assess our students’ comprehension?

 “…in all visions and dreams.” (purpose)

  • Why will our students prayerfully consider and pursue God’s purposes, ideas, and goals on behalf of creation, culture, and the Kingdom?
  • How can our students benefit from our examples of prayerfully considering and pursuing the same purposes?

Daniel 1:17 and the River Life: A Metaphor
Having walked through a brief biblical exposition and summary of our application, perhaps a visual interpretation of the text would be beneficial. Let's use the metaphor of a river – what we'll call the River Life – as an illustration of our humanity.

Concept Map (Web)
Like human nature, the nature of a river is not stagnant; its waters move, change, and blend. Again like human nature, a river is not dichotomized; no divisions separate it into parts. In sum, our lives are neither static nor partitioned, but dynamic and fluid – shaped by the banks of culture even as we, at particular times and by God’s grace, shape them.

As alluded in Daniel’s story, God enables us in our educational capacities; He gives us learning and skill in initially understanding the how of the what. He does this through his Scripture, his Spirit, and his community (the Church), all of which create their own “ripple effect” within the waters of our fallenness, educating and enabling us to affirm what is good, to challenge what is not, but never to withdraw from the river altogether.

At the same time, as a result of his Creator image within us, humanity creates a variety of “literature and wisdom” flowing from our collective experience. However, whereas everything God creates is good (1 Timothy 4:4), our works are blemished because of our sin and are manifest in the world as “truth, lies, and consequences.” The “ripple effect” of all our created works is not without negative taint, but by God’s common grace, neither is it all without beauty or value.

God directs the River Life to flow through the banks of culture, shaping them as it goes. Because God calls us to think Christianly and care about His world, He drops stones of learning and skill and literature and wisdom as means to teach us when, where, how, and why, and to help us understand “visions and dreams” – the ones He gives to us as His children – for the good of creation, culture, and Kingdom.

Christian education, then, as outlined in Daniel 1:17, is given by God, engages the world, and applies redemption to it – all while redeeming His chosen agents of redemption as well. This is our understanding from the Scriptures, and this is the worldview that both drives and powers our classical education methodology.

Christian Education: God’s Pedagogy (Part 3)

In Educators, Pedagogy on August 23, 2011 at 6:25 am

5) “…and Daniel had understanding…”
Here the writer assesses Daniel’s grasp of the reality of his learning. Indeed, there is output from Daniel’s life because of God’s input into it; there is recognition of harvest coming from sown seed, a frequent theme and concept throughout Scripture, as God is not one to waste effort (educational or otherwise). This mention of measure is important, as its inclusion in the text signifies the writer’s (and presumably God’s) concern with honest assessment of learning.

As a teacher or as a parent – regardless of intellectual discipline – change in students is what we long to see: change in thinking; change in convictions; change in behavior; change in results. As educators, we cannot merely hope that understanding is happening without measuring for change, for if there is no way to measure for change, there is no way to measure for understanding.

Biblically speaking, assessment is not a dirty word. Paul implies as much in Romans 12:3 when he says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” As Christian parents and teachers, we are to evaluate our students and ourselves as we journey together the road of teaching and learning.

While there are many means (tests, quizzes, presentations, papers, projects, discussions, etc.) to this end, perhaps frequency of assessment is as or more important than its form, as frequency focuses on the process of evaluation, whereas variety focuses on its event. The “teaching to the test” critique of recent years is precisely what we are trying to address here: if our mentality of assessment is more form- than frequency-based, then we will find ourselves teaching to the test rather than teaching to the student.

Without end-of-class “what did you learn today?” questions, between-class “what did you think of class today?” interactions, and outside-of-class “what are you thinking about from class today?” conversations, we have little comprehension of how our students may actually do on the test, quiz, or project until after it’s given, a practice that encourages students to master the assessment mechanism instead of the material over which they are being assessed.

Daniel and Dreams 6) “…in all visions and dreams.”
Here we begin to understand the ultimate why of God giving Daniel gifts. Simply put, everything God gives to Daniel has much to do with what the second half of his book records – specifically its prophetic revelations and Daniel’s ability to interpret visions and dreams concerning Israel’s future. Ultimately, we could say God’s goals for His pupil bring purpose to His pedagogy.

Our hopes for our students must be rooted in God’s goals for them; thus, our pedagogy must be formed not only by what and how to teach, but by why to teach as well. We are called to teach not because we are teachers, but because God is the teacher – One who teaches not just for the sake of comprehension but also for the sake of change in His students and within His created world. Because of this truth, we do not have the luxury of saying we teach subjects; no, we teach students, for subjects matter when God enables students to learn them and change as a result.

This mentality manifests itself (or should) in daily prayer – for God’s will to be done in the world, in the lives of our students, and in us as their parents and teachers. Our students need to see in us hearts for God through our own relationship with Him, that we might model dependence upon God as part of our gifting to help students interpret visions and dreams He gives to them.

Painting: Daniel Interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's First Dream, Mattia Preti (undated).

Christian Education: God’s Pedagogy (Part 1)

In Educators, Pedagogy on August 16, 2011 at 6:49 am

Ignatius Education God's Pedagogy in Daniel 1:17
More than a decade before I (Craig) had any formal educational aspirations, I remember reading Daniel 1:17 and marveling at what I perceived to be a rubric for the way God teaches.

While I had little formal language (and even less formal training) at the time to put into words my intuition, the passage stuck with me through the years, becoming more and more important as my desire to pursue the calling and vocation of teaching grew.

Finally, after five years of seminary training in theology and education, my instincts found support biblically and pedagogically. What I had known instinctively I now began to understand pedagogically: as God did with Daniel, so we must also begin with the student in mind.

1) “And as for these four youth…”
We’ve already discussed to a degree who Daniel and his companions were as people, but who were they as products of their dual cultures (Israelite and Babylonian)? Any consideration of education has to begin with the consideration of those we may be trying to educate. Who are our students as people and as products of their culture(s) – familial, church, community, national? Where are they in terms of historical and cultural contexts – geographical, economical, political, technological? And when are they – mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, spiritually – with regard to developmental theory and their own growth?[1] Questions like these have to be asked and answered to only begin to understand those we teach.

In the school context, the entire process of getting to know my students begins with learning their names, asking questions (both formally and informally) about their lives, and learning family backgrounds and education history. It’s connecting with other teachers who may have taught them in the past as to what they said or believed at the time. It’s meeting and talking with their support systems – parents, pastors, and counselors – about the issues and ideas that are unresolved. It’s identifying peer group associations and keeping loose track of whom they hang out with, for upper schoolers – as are all of us – are defined by our communities and what they believe.

In addition to the personal exegetical work, cultural exegesis with regard to the social environments in which students live and have grown up is crucial to understanding them. Familiarizing ourselves with media referents and memorable touchstones of their lives is key to earning their trust, not to mention understanding shifts across and within their generation. Entering into their spheres of existence – especially the digital one – in a natural way is an important avenue for learning about those we hope to teach.

2) “…God gave them…”
The second aspect of God’s educational pedagogy that we see in Daniel 1:17 has to do with the Teacher and the Teacher’s character[2] – one that is expressly initiating and generous. As previously discussed in Daniel 1:4, God has already been at work in the lives of Daniel and his friends, gifting them with the basic capacities they will need to handle the capabilities He will later develop in them.

This generous initiation, of course, has much to do with God and both His omniscience and sovereignty. While we possess neither of these two qualities, we as parents and teachers have been gifted with the capacity and capability to model God’s initiation and generosity with our students in other ways, namely by actively seeking to know them and generously granting them access to get to know us as well. Though we are not God, we have the ability and the authority as their parents and teachers to initiate and generously provide the structure, support, and challenge they need to learn about themselves and us…but we must make the first (and often risky) move.

Whether at home or in the classroom, this involves sharing our own stories – the successes and failures – rather than defaulting to more generic and nameless examples to illustrate key points and ideas. It’s bringing our own creativity in the form of an original song or poem, taking a risk by putting it out there for those we parent and teach to consider, evaluate, and (gulp) pass judgment on, all while resisting the temptation to endlessly qualify or defend our attempts at doing so. It’s letting our students see our heart for them not only as their parents and teachers, but also as friends and fans. Granted, this potentially compromises a degree of authority in the adult-child relationship, but the risk is worth taking because of what it may yield in true respect.

[1] See “Life Span Development” by Ellery Pullman, pages 63-72; “Moral Development Through Christian Education” by James Riley Estep Jr. and Alvin W. Kuest, pages 73-82; “Faith Development” by Dennis Dirks, pages 83-90; and “Spiritual Formation: Nurturing Spiritual Vitality” by Nick Taylor, pages 91-98 in Christian Education, edited by Michael J. Anthony. Also, see “Patterns of Growth: The Structural Dimension,” pages 65-83; and “Patterns of Growth: The Functional Dimension,” pages 84-99 in Teaching for Reconciliation by Ronald T. Habermas.

[2] See “God for Us: The Trinity and Teaching,” pages 15-36; “God With Us: Jesus, the Master Teacher,” pages 59-86; and “God in Us: The Holy Spirit and Teaching,” pages 87-112 in God Our Teacher by Robert W. Pazmino.

Painting: Ignatian Pedagogy and The Ratio Studiorum, the original set of guidelines for those directing Jesuit educational institutions in Europe (1599).

Christian Education: God as Master Teacher

In Educators, Pedagogy on August 12, 2011 at 9:42 am


Above: Daniel and Cyrus Before the Idol Bel, Rembrandt (1633).

A Brief Theological Exposition of Daniel 1:17
In the Old Testament book named after him, we have the story of Daniel, an Israelite captured and living in exile in the ancient city of Babylon from 605 B.C. (Daniel 1:1) until the third year of King Cyrus (536 B.C.; Daniel 10:1).[1] The first chapter of Daniel tells us much about who he is as one included in King Nebuchadnezzar’s initial decree,

“to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans… They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.”[2]

As we continue to read the story, our tendency is often to focus on what Daniel does in order “not to defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.”[3] We read about how Daniel and his friends ask to be tested for ten days of non-Babylonian food, letting their appearance be compared to those eating the king’s food, for most certainly his breaks Old Testament food laws (among other reasons[4]). We also read how, “At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the kings food.”[5] Truly, Daniel and his friends are role models of faith for us now.

But then we come to Daniel 1:17, in which the writer records that, “As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” Remembering Daniel 1:4, we recall that Daniel and his friends are already listed as “youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace.” Why the double inclusion of this information in verses 4 and 17? What does it tell us about Daniel? What does it tell us about God?

The double inclusion is important in that it reveals to us that God has already given Daniel and his friends great learning capacity (1:4) in anticipation of their ultimate capability three years later (1:17). Keil and Delitzsch, in their Commentary on the Old Testament, write:

“Skillful, intelligent in all wisdom, i.e. in the subjects of Chaldean wisdom, is to be understood of the ability to apply themselves to the study of wisdom. In like manner, the other mental requisites here mentioned are to be understood, having knowledge, showing understanding, possessing a faculty for knowledge, a strength of judgment, in whom was strength, i.e., who had the fitness in bodily and mental endowments appropriately to stand in the palace of the king, and as servants to attend to his commands.”[6] (emphases ours)

The youths’ dramatic didactic development seems to have much to do with their obedient response to God’s gifts. Again, from Keil and Delitzsch:

“As God blessed the resolution of Daniel and his three friends that they would not defile themselves by the food, He also blessed the education which they received in the literature and wisdom of the Chaldeans, so that the whole four made remarkable progress therein.”[7]

Daniel’s story illustrates the fact that our progress depends on God’s process – one He has initiated, planned for, and provided structure, support, and challenge for to serve and educate as His creation’s Master Teacher.

[1] ESV Study Bible, notes.
Daniel 1:3b-4.
Daniel 1:8.
“It is unlikely that the king’s food would have been prepared in accordance with the standards of the Mosaic law. It is also possible that it would have been previously offered to Babylonian gods in a pagan temple.” (Handbook on the Prophets, 295).
Daniel 1:15
Keil & Delitzsch, p. 535.
Keil & Delitzsch, p. 541.

Christian Education: An Introduction

In Educators on August 8, 2011 at 3:39 pm

“As for these four youths, God gave them
learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel
had understanding in all visions and dreams.”
Daniel 1:17 (ESV)

“To be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner.
I am not a teacher, only a fellow student.”
Soren Kierkegaard

Several years ago, a friend had his second grader enrolled in a local Christian school. All seemed well. By the end of the school year, however, news broke that the second grade teacher had failed to teach any form of language arts to her students; as a result, our friend’s daughter expressed no vision, passion, or experience in language arts.

Throughout the school year, neither she nor her classmates knew what they were missing: none of them were wearing sensors that went off when their language arts tanks got low; no “check child” light came on mid-year to alert administrators and parents as to any malfunction.

For understandable reasons, the teacher was fired. But what really happened here? Perhaps the teacher was never properly trained in rationale and methods for teaching grammar and writing skills to children; maybe she didn’t have or use proper resources when faced with the unrelenting challenges of teaching young students day in and day out; possibly there was little structure in place to support her when she needed it.

What we do know is that the fired teacher was hired by another school (and fired later for the same reasons), while our friend’s daughter and classmates have been playing language arts catch up ever since.

When parents and teachers do not learn to teach, students are not taught to learn. What we hope to provide in this first series at Docendo Discimus is a philosophy of Christian education to overcome such realities and to guide our classical methodology.