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Archive for the ‘Pedagogy’ Category

Why We Test (and Why We Don’t)

In Pedagogy, Students on April 17, 2013 at 10:56 am


Standardized-testing

"Not everything that can be counted counts,
and not everything that counts can be counted."

Albert Einstein

As is true of many schools in our state and nation, Veritas is administering standardized tests this week. Our Grammar and Logic students (1st-through 8th grades) are taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, while our 9th and 10th graders are taking the PLAN Test. (We're doing some other developmental things with PreK, Kindergarten, and 11th and 12th grades so they don't feel left out.)

We test because we can, not because we have to; this is unfortunately not the case for a majority of American schools. Education in the United States has been preoccupied with standardized testing this past century, but especially so during the past decade. From President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" in 2001 to President Obama's "Race to the Top" in 2009, we have not lacked for modernity's attempts to measure educational success.

There's little conceptually wrong with this; assessment is a good thing,
which is why we at Veritas test our students every year. For us, good uses of testing include identifying general areas of instruction
that need improvement as well as facilitating home/school interaction as to
future specific differentiated instruction within
our unique blended model. We take test results seriously, but not so
seriously that they blind us to the bigger picture captured in our
portrait of a graduate.

Over the past eight years, Veritas
students have scored in the 90th percentile of the ITBS.
In addition, over this same period of time, we've tracked a 10-point
improvement over students' own pre-admission assessment scores, which
means students are improving while with us (for comparison, most public schools report only a 1-to-2-point improvement over the year).

In 2012, across the core subjects (defined by the ITBS as language
skills, reading, and mathematics), our students’ national percentile
rank for K through 8th grades was 84th and our school’s national
percentile rank for K through 8th grade was 97th. This means that, on
average, Veritas students scored higher than 83% of American students
and we as a school scored higher than 96% of American schools taking the
ITBS in these subjects. Also (and as in previous years), our
students tested an average of three grade levels above their grade
level.

Most of what you hear or read about testing is negative, and rightly so due to the unintended consequence of
schools choosing to "teach to the test" for the sake of
increased government funding. In addition, the modernist mentality of
"all success must be measurable" is limiting in evaluating
what a student has learned and not just what he or she can regurgitate.
Test
scores can be a helpful measure of past and/or current realities, but
often are poor predictors of true success (especially a more biblically-informed definition of success currently missing from our Department of Education).

Here are just a few things that testing does not help us
evaluate about a student's experience across a school year:

  • Leadership potential and growth
  • Enjoyment of spontaneous creation
  • Value of actively engaging with community
  • Risk-taking and innovation
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Ability to ask deep questions
  • Reception of constructive criticism
  • Integrity and humility
  • Desire for truth, goodness, and beauty
  • Collaboration with others
  • Overall love of learning


The list could go on and on, but the point is this: testing provides some insight into a student's academic achievement, but not all of it.

Of course, on the flip side of the testing question is the concern that kids shouldn't be made to test for reasons of pressure creating or contributing to existing test anxiety. Some argue that standardized testing (and its results, particularly if they're not what the parent – not always the student – hoped for) could work against a kid's self-esteem and confidence and therefore should not be used.

We must not forget that the only real way students build
confidence is to attempt, struggle through, and overcome challenging things.
The lie is that education should be easy; learning (i.e. that which goes beyond
mere regurgitation of information and crosses over into character formation) is
difficult. When it comes to helping our students deal with testing anxieties, the key for us as parents is not to over-emphasize perfect test results, but to help students shoot for improved ones.


Our goal should be to help students
lean into and learn to stand up under stress rather than run away or hide from it.
Stress is both a part of life and an important formation tool God uses in the
lives of people (think of all the stress He intentionally brought upon those in
the Bible He chose to use!). We should help students respond with
faithfulness as they take hold of the task at hand, for as James 1 speaks specifically to spiritual growth, the principle applies to growth that is of an educational nature as well.

So we test our Grammar and Logic School
students and take seriously the results. But we want to help them understand that the ultimate goal of assessment is not to pass the test and then fail life.
That just would not not be very smart at all.

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Easter Sunday Slogan or Real-World Reality?

In Parents, Pedagogy, Students, Veritas on March 30, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Tomb-21

If you’ve been alive the past seven days, you know it’s been quite a week for our nation. I won’t rehash the events of the Supreme Court hearings in this email (though you’re welcome to read my personal thoughts here), but it’s ironic (or perhaps not) that so much of the vitriol of the debate has coincided with Holy Week. If anything, the events of this week have reminded me that we – that I – need Good Friday and Easter as much as ever.

In our 8th grade New Testament class this week, we began our study of the book of Romans. I had asked students to have read the book before our discussion, and they came with questions not just about the text, but in light of the pink equal signs and crosses found across Facebook, about what Paul’s most systematic doctrinal treatise (and the latter half of its first chapter in particular) means for us today.

If you know some of our 8th graders, you know it was a spirited debate, not so much about right and wrong, but about the nuances of how Christians respond concerning both. We talked about how easy it is to make Romans 1 only about the topic of homosexuality, when what Paul is more fully describing is the process that leads to practicing such sin (as well as many others – see Romans 1:29-31) when God is not honored or given thanks.

These are the kinds of discussions that happen everyday at Veritas. Our goal is to teach students to respond, not just react; to appeal to cohesive biblical doctrines and virtues, not just decontextualized verses and proof texts; to think in solid logic, not just sound bytes. We want to help students learn to discuss and debate the nuances that come with the huge issues of our day, not for the sake of winning arguments, but for gently restoring a fallen world, for which Paul, in the first few chapters of Romans, reminds us that we are responsible and inhabit.

In true gospel (“good news”) fashion, there are 14 chapters after these first two, throughout which “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This hope is what we celebrate this Easter weekend, what we as Christians need, what the world in its fallenness requires to flourish, and with which we desire to educate our students.

“He is risen; he is risen indeed.” May this be less Easter Sunday slogan and more real-world reality for us and for our kids.

On Teaching Atrocities (My Advice to a New History Teacher)

In Calling, Education, Humanity, Pedagogy, Poetry, Politics, The Academy, Young Ones on March 25, 2013 at 1:35 pm

“In both 7th grade and 12th grade, we are about to talk about World War II. With that, comes discussing atrocities such as the Holocaust and the Rape of Nanking. However, I am unsure how to appropriately teach the specifics. They were very important events that need to be understood, but I also know I need to be aware of the level of the students that I teach. As much more experienced teachers than I, I was hoping that you could give me advice on how to talk about these subjects with the students.”

The biggest thing to think through is your own personal preparation; that is, understand that the kids will take their cue from how you present and process with them, so if they see you being ONLY objective, then anything truly awful will seem shocking because we as humans shouldn’t be unemotional when it comes to these things. In other words, students need to see you deal emotionally with the grief and not just the facts of these atrocities.

That said, you have to really check your own heart in presenting some of this. It’s easy to throw something gratuitous out there either via image or story in order to get a reaction and reassure yourself that the students are listening, but we as teachers have to resist that temptation. The kids need to know what happened, and they also need to know how we feel about what happened. Definitely hold off on an overuse of graphic images at the 7th grade level, as well as be careful even at 12th grade – it’s just too easy to go for the easy gut reaction and miss the nuance and respect that these events require.

For 7th grade, students read “The Hiding Place,” so they get a pretty good feel for at least one expression of the Holocaust. In general, for that grade, keep it fairly objective and general. While they need to know these things have happened, the number of dead, the sort of categories of offenses (using Jews for scientific experiments, etc.) are more appropriate, probably, than the specific instances, descriptions, etc. It is a good opportunity to talk about human depravity and the nature of evil AND that the greater majority of Germans (for example) didn’t actually participate, but nor did they act against. It’s useful to discuss, in general, that the feeling of “I would never. . .” is exactly what often allows evil to take place.

For 12th grade, there is more of an opportunity to talk more directly about the experiences and the factual accounts. Here’s where images would perhaps be more appropriate. There are also lots of good connections with our Comparative Religions class, and again with the nature of evil and the fallen nature of humanity. Since it’s American History, focus on American perceptions (or misperceptions) and the same sort of willful ignorance as other nations. Perhaps connections with how Americans view events today and how we expect our country/government to act, intervene, etc. Or, in other words, what makes the Holocaust so special given the number of atrocities and scale in the 20th century?

Finally, be very careful what the kids see/hear you laugh about; humor is a natural protection mechanism we use when dealing with atrocities like these, but it can come off very crass. There needs to be a sacred approach, not just a funny self-protective one, to dealing with these matters of life and (unfortunately) death.

The Best Kind of Goodbye

In Parents, Pedagogy, Students on March 4, 2013 at 7:56 am

Goodbye_goodbye

In these months when families are finalizing schooling decisions for next year, sometimes plans change and we lose a student or two to out-of-town moves. We just received notice of this from one of our first-year families and, while we hate to lose them, if they have to say goodbye, this is the way we like to hear it.

"I just felt led to explain to you why we won't be returning to Veritas next year. My husband and I have been offered positions as young adult pastors at a church in Pryor and we will be moving to Claremore this summer.

Although we are both VERY excited about the direction God is taking us in, we are ALL very sad in realizing Veritas will not be an option for us next year. I cannot express to you how much we have enjoyed being at Veritas this year. Our daughter has learned so much and most importantly gained a deeper love for learning and the things of the Lord.

That being said, even though we will not be close enough to attend Veritas next year, we believe in the methods of the school so much that we would like to continue the same curriculum with our oldest next year, as well as with our younger daughter who will begin Pre-K. I would love your insight on how to maintain the classical learning and methods of Veritas while being solely a full time homeschool family. If you know of any 'part time' schools similar to Veritas I would also love your input.

And finally, if ever you find yourselves thinking 'Hey, a Tulsa Veritas is an option,' LET ME KNOW! My mother and I have tossed around the idea of starting something similar and she feels with my education background, it would be the perfect scenario. Although I appreciate her confidence in me, I'm not sure she realizes how much starting something up like this entails!

We appreciate the Veritas staff so much and their hearts for our children's education!"

Here at the beginning of March, we've already exceeded our current enrollment and spots are filling fast for 2013-14. If you've yet to enroll/re-enroll, go here!

On Being “Gifted”

In Parents, Pedagogy, Students, Veritas on February 18, 2013 at 9:48 am

Gifted

Whenever
parents describe their student as "highly gifted" (either because the
student has been identified as such by a school or because his parents
just think he is), their field of vision for that student's overall
development can narrow
tremendously, with the student's gifting (rather than his person)
becoming the lens through which all decisions (academic or otherwise)
get made.


The
same thing often happens if/when a student is particularly talented in a
sport or other extracurricular – that activity can become the prime
driver for all else at all costs, a mentality often reinforced by the
well-meaning words of coaches and instructors who understandably (at
least for their activity) demand this kind of narrow commitment.


At
Veritas, one of our goals as a school is to help students (and their
families) remember that they are not their gifts, academically or otherwise.
Yes, while our school is (and is considered) an educational institution
primarily, our vision for that education is a broad – not a narrow – one
in the tradition of a what a true classical liberal arts education is
and should be.


Make
no mistake, none of us (myself included) is perfect in our pursuit of
this kind of education as we're all more influenced by our culture's
call to "specialize or else" to get ahead, but if we rightly understand
classical Christian education, this is what we desire (or should).


To
that end, we offer a few electives (and plan to offer more), but they
aren't random ones just for the sake of offering them; they serve our
broader (not narrower) goal of exposing (not focusing) students in their
study of the world (our 9th grade Aesthetics course comes to mind). For instance, we provide training in faith defense and evangelism, just not in a
decontextualized or isolated "how-to" course (talk to my eighth graders
about what we just covered in Acts 17 in New Testament class).


Our
goal for Kindergarten is not to help students "get a jump on the
system" with an over-programmed, hyper-workload curriculum; rather, in
the context of whole of our trivium education (grammar, logic,
rhetoric), we want to establish and develop basic foundations of order,
discipline, and relational skills upon which each grade can build. We
will never have what some may desire to be a "rigorous" Kindergarten
curriculum because that's not what the whole of the child needs at that
stage.


All
that to say, in answer to the question of whether Veritas (and soon The
Academy
) will challenge and engage "gifted" kids in the upper grades, I believe
we do, can, and will, but defining what the ultimate purpose for that
challenge is is the better question. If it's to help students
Christianly grow in their humanity through God's Word doing His work in
His world (which includes the challenging glories of mathematics,
science, literature, history, theology, etc.), then I think we might fit
the bill.

If the goal is purely academic for the purpose of "getting
ahead" in whatever system they're wanting to beat, then I would
encourage parents to look elsewhere.

Introducing: The Academy

In Colleges & Universities, Educators, Parents, Pedagogy, Students, Teachers, Veritas on January 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm




Excited for what's ahead in 2013…and, by God's grace, beyond. Watch, then go here.

Sacramental Science

In Educators, Pedagogy, Teachers, Veritas on October 18, 2012 at 9:06 pm


Bill Smiling


Bill Fix is a retired science teacher who taught 26 years at Norman High. But it wasn't until he attended our Constructing the Vision banquet this past March that he finally had the language to name his classical education tendencies.

"A Veritas staff member invited me to attend the banquet and I was so glad I did," he recalls. "I was blown away listening to Susan Wise Bauer describe classical education's grammar, logic, and rhetoric progression, as it was exactly the way I always tried to think about and teach science. I was inspired."


Janet and Bill

So inspired, in fact, that he agreed to sit in with me (Craig) in the spring as I interviewed applicants for our vacant Upper School science positions. We also got together periodically during the summer to discuss longer-term plans for more solidly developing our entire school science curriculum in conjunction with Academic Dean Todd Wedel and our curriculum mapping team.

A member at Wildwood Community Church in Norman, Bill gets what we're trying to do through classical Christian education, and he has the expertise and experience to help us do it across the sciences.


Bill Explaining

"The way to learn science is to do science," says Bill. "The experiment
is the focus at the beginning, not the tag-along at the end. If we're
going to get students talking about science, they have to have
content to talk about. The experiments are the database from which they
can draw."

This lines up well with our desire at Veritas to do what one of our board members has called "sacramental science" – a hands-on approach to the study of the general, physical, and earth sciences, as well as to our biology, chemistry, and physics courses.


To that end, just yesterday Bill stopped by to drop off nine boxes – nine boxes! – of
scientific instruments and glassware he had rounded up free of charge
for Veritas. He also sat in on two of our science classes before joining
our juniors and co-teaching Chemistry. I'm honestly not sure who had
more fun – our Veritas students or Bill.


Science Toys 1


Science Toys 2

In a conversation about deeper goals for our Pre-K through 12th grade curriculum, I asked Bill for his perspective as to what a student and teacher of the sciences should look like. As he is wont to do, he paused before answering, then offered this:

"I want to see students learn and demonstrate good
observational skills and ways of going about, sorting, and synthesizing
data and systems. The science teacher's job is not to be the source
of information, but the guide through the unknown."

Which is why I've asked Bill to serve as a mentor for us in the area of the sciences. I'm excited to see where he guides our students and teachers as they explore God's world.

The WISE Parent Training Conferences

In Books, Educators, Parents, Pedagogy, Veritas on August 15, 2012 at 12:10 pm

VCA WISE Logo (Low Res)As a former conference director, I know firsthand the value of taking a day or two (or longer) to focus with likeminded others and attempt to learn, think, talk, feel, and do differently and (hopefully) better. The time can be challenging, but is almost always encouraging as well.

This past summer, through the generous contribution of our school community, 42 of our Veritas staff and parents experienced this challenge and camaraderie at the Association of Classical & Christian Schools conference in Dallas. Coming home, we all wanted our Veritas community to have the opportunity to participate in what we had experienced. Through a lot of hard work by so many, now they can.

I'm thrilled to have parents join us for our first ever WISE (Walking in Step Educationally) Parent Training Conference – a gathering we hope will become an annual event to help our families and our school continue to improve our unique blended model of classical Christian education. It’s important for us to be together for two reasons:

  1. We all need renewed clarity (and help) regarding our roles in this partnership. As a school, we are “in loco parentis” – in the place of parents, but not in place of parents. We would be wrong to assume more responsibility than appropriate in teaching these kids, but this has implications for parents in our blended model that they not abdicate their responsibility either. We all have much to continue to learn about the big picture and details of a blended model of classical Christian education.
  2. We all need the opportunity to renew our covenant with each other in our relationship. This is why we’ve asked our staff to join our parents in this time together to re-affirm (or affirm for the first time for all our new families and staff) our relational covenant with each other. To learn, think, talk, feel, or do any of this well, we need to be present together to do it – not just in the same location or in the same building, but in our hearts as well.

The WISE Conferences are our best shot at meeting both of these goals before school starts later this month. We hosted the first one at our North Campus last weekend, and this coming weekend is all about our Central Campus. My hope is that our steps both weekends will be only the first of many as we seek God along our classical Christian education journey.

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (6)

In Books, Educators, Pedagogy on August 3, 2012 at 10:16 pm

DTK cover

Quotes from chapter six, "A Christian University Is for Lovers":

"What is education for? And more specifically, what is a distinctly Christian education for? But since we first asked the question, I hope we've come to appreciate three things: First, we humans are liturgical animals, whose fundamental orientation to the world is governed not primarily by what we think but by what we love, what we desire…Second, some practices are 'thicker' than others – rituals of ultimate concern that are bent on shaping our most fundamental wants and desires, trying to make us the kind of people who desire a vision of the kingdom that is antithetical to the kingdom of God…Third, Christianity is not only (or even primarily) a set of cognitive, heady beliefs; Christianity not fundamentally a worldview; rather, Christian practices, and particularly the practices of Christian worship, are the matrix for what can be articulated as a 'Christian world.'" (p. 215-216)

"But what if that's not enough? Or worse, what if a Christian perspective turns out to be a way of domesticating the radicality of the gospel? What if the rather abstract formulas of a Christian worldview turn out to be a way to tame and blunt the radical call to be a disciple of the coming kingdom? Could it be the case that learning a Christian perspective doesn't actually touch my desire, and that while I might be able to think about the world from a Christian perspective, at the end of the day I love not the kingdom of God but rather the kingdom of the market?" (p. 218)

"In too many cases, a Christian perspective doesn't seem to challenge the very configuration of these careers and vocations. To be blunt, our Christian colleges and universities generate an army of alumni who look pretty much like all the rest of their suburban neighbors, except that our graduates drive SUVs, inhabit their executive homes, and pursue the frenetic life of the middle class and the corporate ladder 'from a Christian perspective'…Such an approach reduces Christianity to a denuded intellectual framework that has diminished bite because such an intellectualized rendition of the faith doesn't touch our core passions." (p. 219)

"The domestication of Christianity as a perspective does little to disturb or reorient our practices; rather, it too often becomes a way of affirming the configurations of culture that we find around us – we just do what everyone else does 'plus Jesus'…What's the alternative? If Christian education is not merely about acquiring a Christian perspective or a Christian worldview, what is its goal? Its goal, I'm suggesting, is the same as the goal of Christian worship: to form radical disciples of Jesus and citizens of the baptismal city who, communally, take up the creational task of being God's image bearers, unfolding the cultural possibilities latent in creation – but doing so as empowered by the Spirit, following the example of Jesus's cruciform cultural labor." (p. 220)

"If the Christian university's motto is, 'I believe in order to understand,' the ecclesial university's motto is, 'I worship in order to understand.'" (p. 223)

"One of the most crucial things to appreciate about Christian formation is that it happens over time…Christian education 'takes practice.'" (p. 226, 230)

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (5)

In Books, Pedagogy on July 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm

DTK cover

Quotes from chapter five, "Practicing (for) the Kingdom":

"If we read the practices of Christian worship, we would conclude that Christians are a people whose year doesn't simply map onto the calendar of the dominant culture…The church is not a people gathered by abstract ideas or teachings or ideasl; it is a people gathered to the historical person Jesus Christ." (p. 156-157)

"As a messianic people, the church is a people who inhabit the present with a ceretain lightness of being…Resisting a presentism that can only imagine 'living for the moment,' the church is a people with a deeply ingrained orientation to the future, a habit we learn from Israel…We go through the ritual of desiring the kingdom – a kind of holy impatience – by reenacting Israel's longing for the coming of the King…We are a futural people who will not seek to escape the present, but will always sit somewhat uneasy in the present, haunted by the brokenness of the 'now.'" (p. 156-158)

"At the same time, the rhytms of Christian worship and the liturgical year stretch us backward. They are practices of remembering – another habit we learn from Israel…We are constituted as a people who live between times, remembering and hoping at the same time. Each week this between-ness is performed in the Eucharist, which both invites us to 'Do this in rememberance of me' and by doing so to 'proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.'" (p. 158)

"The thrilling drug of novelty is drunk deeply by such presentism; but it is a narcotic with diminishing returns. At stake here is a forgetting of 'higher times' and the stretching of liturgical time…Strangely, it fails to be expectant about the future. It is an orientation to what's coming that lacks hope; instead, it simply records the onslaught of events." (p. 159)

"To be human is to be called. But called to what? Gathered for what? The congregation gathers in response to a call to worship, which is the fundamental vocation of being human…The very reason that we are gathered for worship under the cross is because of humanity's fundamental failure to carry out the task and mission of being the image of God. The imago Dei is not a thing or property that was lost (or retained); it was a calling and a vocation that Adam and Eve failed to carry out…Jesus takes up and completes the vocation of Israel, whose vocation was a recommissioning for the creational task of being God's image bearers. Thus Jesus is our exemplar of what it looks like to fulfill the cultural mandate." (p. 162)

"We fulfill the mission of being God's image bearers by undertaking the work of culture making." (p. 165)

"Worship is best understood on the order of action, not reflection; worship is something that we do…The practices of Christian worship do this work nonetheless because of the kind of creature we are…In the action of gathering, there is a visceral training of our imagination that shapes how we subsequently think about our identity and our calling as human, in relation to God and in relation to others." (p.166)

"Because we are so fundamentally creatures, being aimed at the Creator, so to speak, is a necessary condition for being fully or properly human." (p. 169)

"Authentic worship, like toddler talk, expresses who we are and forms what we are becoming." (p. 172)

"Implicit in Christian worship is a vision not just for spiritual flourishing but also for human flourishing; this is not just practice for eternal bliss; it is training or temporal, embodied human community." (p. 174)

"God's law is not a stern restriction of our will but an invitation to find peace and rest in what Augustine would call the 'right order' of our will. In this respect, the giving of commandments is an expression of love; the commandments are given as guardrails that encourage us to act in ways that are consistent with the 'grain of the universe,' so to speak." (p. 174-175)

"The conception of autonomous freedom as freedom of choice – freedom to construct our own ends and to invent our own visions of the good life – chafes against the very notion of a law outside of ourselves…Human and all of creation flourish when they are rightly ordered to a telos that is not of their own choosing but rather is stipulated by God…It is an invitation to find the good life by welcoming the boundaries of law that guide us into the grooves that constitute the grain of the universe and are conducive to flourishing." (p. 175-176)

"Just as the Fall means not that we stop desiring but rather that our desire becomes disordered, so too sin does not mean that we stop being culture makers; rather, it means that we do this poorly, sinfully, unjustly." (p. 178)

"Image-bearing is a social reality: we are not deputized as little isolated images; rather, we bear the image in our collaborative cultural labors." (p. 184)

"Unfortunately, in the Reformed tradition, because we are rightly concerned not to accede to the modern gnosticism that would denigrate the goodness of creation, we can also be prone to blur Scripture's marked distintion between the world and the new creation (of which the church is a part). We even get a little embarrassed about the New Testament's stark claims about the people of God. In short, in the name of defending the goodness of creation, we paper over the distinction between structure and direction; thus our affirmation of creation slides into an affirmation of the world, which then slides toward an affirmation of 'the world' even in its distorted, misdirected configurations. In the name of the goodness of creation, we bend over backward to affirm common grace and are embarrassed by the language of antithesis, which feels dualistic and otherworldly. In short, we forget the reunciations that attend our baptism." (p. 190)

"In contrast to secular liturgies that are fixated on the novel and the new (including the liturgies of the university), which are trying their best to get us to forget what happened five minutes ago, Christian worship constitutes us as a people of memory." (p. 191)

"The good news announced in the Great Commission is that God has made it possible for us to actually participate in the cultural mandate. We are sent into the world to make disciples, which means we're being sent into the world to invite them to find their identity and vocation in Christ, the second Adam, the model of the new human." (p. 206)

"When Christians engage in the practices of hospitality and Sabbath keeping singing and forgiveness, simplicity and fasting, they are engaging in a way of life that is formative and constitutive of Christian discipleship." (p. 212)

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (4)

In Books, Educators, Pedagogy on July 20, 2012 at 11:58 am

DTK cover

Quotes from chapter four, "From Worship to Worldview":

"It might be more helpful to talk about a Christian social imaginary than to focus on a Christian worldview, given that the latter seems tinged with a lingering cognitivism. By focusing on social imaginaries, the radar of cultural critique is calibrated to focus on exegeting practices, not just waiting for the blips of ideas to show up on the screen." (p. 133)

"What if we sought to discern not the essence of Christianity as a system of beliefs (or summarized in a worldview) but instead sought to discern the shape of Christian faith as a form of life?…This will require undoing some habits we've acquired in theology and philosoophy, as well as in discussions of Christian education and the formation of Christian worldview. In particular, it requires that we reconsider the relationship between practice and belief." (p. 134)

"Emphasizing the primary of worship practices to worldview formation both honors the fact that all humans are desiring animals while at the same time making sense of how Christian worship is developmentally significant for those who can participate in rituals but are unable to participate in theoretical reflection." (p. 138)

"Before Christians had systematic theologies and worldviews, they were singing hymns and psalms, saying prayers, celebrating the Eucharist, sharing their property, and becoming a people marked by a desire for God's coming kingdom – a desire that constituted them as a peculiar people in the present." (p. 139)

"If one temptation is to level the sacraments in the name of the sacramentality of the world, a second is the temptation to naturalize the liturgy as just an embodied practice like any other (another kind of leveling)…While worship is entirely embodied, it is not only material; and though worship is wholly natural, it is never only natural." (p. 149)

"Worship is not for me – it's not primarily meant to be an experience that 'meets my felt needs,' nor should we merely reduce it to a pedagogy of desire (which would be just a more sophisitcated pro me construal of worship); rather, worship is about and for God…We may have construed worship as a primarily didactic, cognitive affair and thus organized it around a message that fails to reach our embodied hearts, and thus fails to touch our desire." (p. 150)


Learning from Our Mistakes

In Educators, Parents, Pedagogy, Veritas on July 10, 2012 at 11:32 am

Facepalm_statue

Six month ago, I spoke with a very disheartened returning Veritas mom about her family's fall semester experience. She confessed that both she and her husband felt disorganized and lacked clear routines for their homedays, that their kids were unable to focus for any length of time alone, and that they wished they had taken more seriously the orientation help at the beginning of the year.

As we processed together, it was obvious they felt like failures. But it was also obvious we could do better helping them do better.

School starts in five-and-a-half weeks. Between now and then, all parents new to Veritas will take part in our new 2-day WISE Parent Conferences (North: August 10-11; Central, August 17-18) designed to orient them in the ways and nuances of Veritas.

But this orientation is not just for new families. Returning parents are required to join us for at least the second day of each conference, and will be welcomed (and encouraged) to join us for the whole time as well.

We've given great consideration to parent and staff suggestions, expanded the allotted time to interact with each other about intricacies of the blended model, and are confident that the conferences will be worth your time. (We wouldn't ask you to be a part if we weren't.)

If you're a new parent, you already know you're going. However, if you're a returning parent, we need you to RSVP and let us know how much of the conference you plan to attend (at minimum, the Saturday that goes with your respective campus…or more). We've made the process simple and quick.

Returning families, don't make the mistake in thinking you've "got" this. Every year is different, and the more we can prepare each other for this reality, the better off we're all sure to be. Learn more about the WISE Conferences. See you in August!

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (1.1)

In Books, Educators, Pedagogy on June 15, 2012 at 8:30 am

DTK cover

Quotes from the first half of chapter 1, "Homo Liturgicus" :

"Behind every pedagogy is a philosophical anthropology; that is, implicit in every constellation of educational practices there is a set of assumptions about the nature of human persons." (p. 37)

"A dominant model, as old as Plato but rebirthed by Descartes and cultivated throughout modernity, sees the human person as fundamentally a thinking thing." (p. 39)

"Protestant Christianity (whether liberal or conservative) tends to operate with an overly cognitivist picture of the human person and thus tends to foster an overly intellectualist account of what it means to be or become a Christian…We could describe this as 'bobble head' Christianity, so fixated on the cognitive that it assumes a picture of human beings that look like bobble heads: mammoth heads that dwarf an almost nonexistent body." (pgs. 41-42)

"What defines us is not what we think – not the set of ideas we assent to – but rather what we believe, the commitments and trusts that orient our being-in-the-world. This moves the essence of the human person from the more abstract, disembodied world of ideas to a prerational level of commitments that are more ingrained in the human person. Before we are thinkers, we are believers." (p. 42)

"While it contests a narrow, naive focus on ideas, this model of the human person seems just to move the clash of ideas down a level to a clash of beliefs…The person-as-believer model still tends to operate with a very disembodied, individualistic picture of the human person…The believer feels like a chastened rationalist: beliefs still seem to be the sorts of things that are more commensurate with thinking." (p. 44-45)

"While the Reformed tradition of worldview-thinking generates a radical critique of rationalism and its attendant claims to objectivity and secularity, the critique still feels reductionistic insofar as it fails to accord a central role to embodiment and practice. Because of this blind spot, it continues to yield a quasi-rationalist pedagogy." (p. 45)

"The point is that the emphasis on belief does not go far enough…In contrast to both the person-as-thinker and the person-as-believer models, I want to articulate a more robustly Augustinian anthropology that sees humans as more fundamentally oriented and identified by love. Only such a robust anthropology – which accords a more central, formative place to embodiment – can yield a truly alternative understanding of pedagogy." (p. 46)

"If humans are conceived almost as beings without bodies, then they also are portrayed as creatures without histories, without any sense of unfolding and development over time…In contrast, we need a nonreductionistic understanding of human persons as embodied agents of desire or love." (pgs. 46-47)

"The point is to emphasize that the way we inhabit the world is not primarily as thinkers, or even believers, but as more affective, embodied creatures who make our way in the world more by feeling our way around it…The human person is the sort of creature who can never be captured in a snapshot; we need video in order to do justice to this dynamism." (p. 47)

"Our model of the person as lover begins from an affirmation of our intentional nature; further, with Heidegger, we would affirm that our most fundamental way of intending the world is not cognitive but noncognitive…Augustine would argue that the most fundamental way that we intend the world is love." (p. 50)

"This love or desire is a structural feature of being human. It is not just a characteristic of passionate people or romantic people or even specifically religious people. To be human is to be just such a lover – a creature whose orientation and form of life is most primordially shaped by what one loves as a ultimate, which constitutes an affective, gut-like orientation to the world that is prior to reflection and even eludes conceptual articulation. To say that humans are, at root, lovers is to emphasize that we are the sorts of animals for whom things matter in ways that we often don't (and can't) articulate." (p. 51)

"What distinguishes us (as individuals, but also as 'peoples') is not whether we love, but what we love…Our love can be aimed at different ends or pointed in different directions, and these differences are what define us as individuals and as communities." (p. 52)

"Augustine would say that the effect of sin on our love is not that we stop loving but that our love becomes disordered. It gets aimed at the wrong ends and finds 'enjoyment' in what it chould merely be 'using.'" (p. 52)

"To say that we are dynamic, intentional creatues entails a second characteristic: we are telelogical creatures. We are the sorts of animals whose love is aimed at different ends or goals…In other words, what we love is a specific vision of the good life, an implicit picture of what we think human flourishing looks like." (p. 52)

"Our ultimate love is oriented by and to a picture of what we think it looks like for us to live well, and that picture then governs, shapes, and motivates our decisions and actions…A vision of the good life captures our hearts and imaginations not by providing a set of rules or ideas, but by painting a picture of what it looks like for us to flourish and live well. This is why such pictures are communicated most powerfully in stories, legends, myths, plays, novels, and films rather than dissertations, messages, and monographs." (p. 53)

"Our ultimate love moves and motivates us because we are lured by this picture of human flourishing. Rather than being pushed by beliefs, we are pulled by a telos that we desire…When our imagination is hooked, we're hooked (and sometimes our imaginations can be hooked by very different visions than what we're feeding into our minds)…To be human is to desire 'the kingdom,' some version of the kingdom, which is the aim of our quest." (p. 54)

"Our habits constitute the fulcrum of our desire: they are the hinge that 'turns' our heart, our love, such that it is predisposed to be aimed in certain directions…Because for the most part we are desiring, imaginative, noncognitive animals, our desire for the kingdom is inscribed in our dispostions and habits and functions quite apart from our conscious reflection." (p. 56)

A Discipline Imposed from Outside the Mind Itself

In Pedagogy on May 4, 2012 at 9:31 am

Ann Taylor, our new Central Grammar Campus Principal, sent me this excerpt from the late Richard Mitchell's Underground Grammarian newsletters:

"The mind is a rudderless wanderer blown here or there by any puff of breeze. If I mention watermelons, you must think of watermelons; if giraffes, giraffes. The very rare genus can keep his mind on course for a while, perhaps as long as a whole minute, but most of us are always at the mercy of every random suggestion of environment. We imagine that we sit down and think, but, in fact, we mostly gather wool, remembering this or that and fantasizing about the other. In our heads we recite some slogans and rehash the past, often repeatedly. Even in this foolish maundering, we are easily distracted by random thoughts, mostly about money or politics but often about sports or sex. Left to its own devises, the mind plays like a child in a well-stocked sandbox, toying idly with trinkets and baubles and often doing the same thing over and over again until some slightly more interesting game presents itself.

If we want to pursue extended logical thought, thought that can discover relationships and consequences and devise its own alternatives, we need a discipline imposed from outside of the mind itself. Writing is that discipline. It seems drastic, but we have to suspect that coherent, continuous thought is impossible for those who cannot construct coherent, continuous prose (pp. 39-40)."

Yet another argument for why writing is important…and why we (and our students) need to do more – not less – of it here in the 21st century.

Veritas Video Goodness

In Parents, Pedagogy, Students, Veritas on April 3, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Really proud of these videos produced for our Constructing the Vision banquet in March. Thanks to Veritas parent Jody Wickersham and all our parents, faculty, staff, and students for their good thoughts and inspiring examples.

Learning Together

In Parents, Pedagogy on March 9, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Dunhams 2012 (low res)

Ten months ago, Veritas Classical Academy seemed little more than the name of my (Craig's) new employer. Arriving in June, my family and I made a few acquaintances during the hottest summer on record, but it wasn’t until August – when we began to meet and get to know our families – that I began to understand how God had already been very much at work in the midst of our community.

This, of course, should have come as no surprise, for God has always educated his children:

  • Think of Adam and Eve in the Garden with their sons, Cain and Abel – the first family of homeschoolers (and you think you’ve got angst on homedays).
  • Then there’s God’s Patriarchal class – Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel (and Leah), Joseph and his brothers (how much of a dysfunctional co-op that must have been).
  • Consider Moses and the Israelites in the desert and the self-inflicted unschooling experience, with God shepherding his chosen people despite their disobedient choices to finally arrive in the promised land.
  • Think of how God educated his children Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the public school hallways of Babylon High (and got all kinds of grief for doing so from the Israelites who remained in Jerusalem).
  • Don’t forget God’s instruction of the dispersed and captive nation of Israel by way of the prophets and the first-of-its-kind distance-learning program.
  • Finally, consider how God the Father personally tutored God the Son, for Luke 2:52 mind-bogglingly records that, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”

What is the Master Teacher teaching us at Veritas? It seems the curriculum is similar to the one Paul lays out for the Corinthians: faith, hope, love – faith in Aristotle’s unmoved Mover, hope in Aquinas’ Cause of effect, and love for each other and the One the Reformers insisted first loved us.

Are we learning? I think so, but as any serious student knows, there’s much to learn. By God’s grace and our parents' partnership, I’m glad we – with our children – get to do it together.

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

20110515182837!Rembrandt_-_Daniel_and_Cyrus_before_the_Idol_Bel,_1633

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.
[2]
Daniel 1:3b-4.
[3]
Daniel 1:8.
[4]
“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).
[5]
Daniel 1:15
[6]
Keil & Delitzsch, p. 535.
[7]
Keil & Delitzsch, p. 541.