Transformational education

Our intentional involvement in what God is doing to draw people to Himself and make them like Jesus through education.

Durance George

It seems to me that transformational education is not easily defined because the construct brings together two words which are in themselves complex and difficult to define, especially in a short sentence. How can we know that the reader or listener is bringing together the relevant underlying suppositions we have in mind to create a meaning like ours?

Education is about change, growth, and development. What happens when we qualify this with a word that implies a radical change in form? Must transformational change be dramatic and cataclysmic? Can it be in fits and starts or even incremental? Does it mean a complete change in form or is something less all-encompassing also in view? These and many other questions are on our mind and leave us shy of anything that has the appearance of being a definitive and final one-sentence definition.

Having taught at a classical Christian school for five years and followed the classical Christian education movement for some years prior, I have come to believe that it is the best approach to K-12 education available today.

Due to its understanding of education as the reshaping of a child’s soul (in contrast to “discovery” models of education, for example), the method tends to develop thinkers defined by who they are instead of workers defined by what they do. Its focus on the Great Conversation gives students respect for history and helps them see themselves as contributors to that conversation. Unlike inward-facing fundamentalist approaches to education, this movement does not shy away from the world, but instead teaches students to interact thoughtfully with contemporary culture.

Classical Christian schools do these and many other things well, and consequently their numbers, acceptance, and influence are on the rise. However, as this form of education comes of age, it needs to be wary of certain temptations. Five specific cautions come to mind.

We are bombarded by more and more information every day. One study noted that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By 2013 knowledge was doubling every 13 months. One can only imagine how fast knowledge is doubling today.

What is even more mind boggling is how much data is being produced on the internet. It is now predicted that there will be 40 zettabytes of data available by the end of 2020. This is a whopping 40 trillion gigabytes! It would take a person 180 million years to download all the data that is currently on the internet.

It is hard to comprehend what is important from all the headlines that flood our minds every second. These so-called vital facts are on topics ranging from global warming to Harry and Meghan’s exit from the Royal Family. Let me ask you a question as an example of how difficult it is to discern fact from fiction these days. What is the coronavirus and what is the real danger we are facing concerning it?

There is one thing for certain related to information overload – we have lost our ability to discern truth! This is a big problem and it has significant impact on how we educate future generations.

To grow an apple tree, we plant a seed, not a cup of applesauce. The seed has within it a new tree; applesauce is the derivative product from the fruit of the mature tree.

To grow a worldview, we plant the correct biblical principles: the seed of the idea, not the product of the mature idea.

We err in our ‘orchards’ when we believe that teaching our children what they should think permanently impacts their worldview. We must train them how to think by equipping them with the tools with which to reason for themselves—the seed thoughts of all thoughts—the principles.

The sad fact is, the secular culture around us displaces our heritage of Christian principles with secular principles. It's time to re-sow the eternal, absolute, unchanging biblical principles of natural and moral law in the education of our children, every day, in every subject, in every way.

As believers we seek to live a fully integrated life, weaving our understanding of the scriptures and the doctrines of the faith into every nook and cranny of our existence. This is a pretty lofty and abstract goal, and it can be difficult to figure out what it means in practical terms. What, for instance, does the doctrine of the incarnation have to say about the way you engage students in the classroom?