Monday, June 14, 2010

"Teach [my words] to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

Deuteronomy 11:19

"What good will it be for a child if he gains a whole world of knowledge,

yet forfeits his soul?"

Matthew 16:26, My paraphrase

In this day and age, parents are, well, paranoid. We require police checks and background checks, questionnaires and reference checks on every manner of person who comes within any contact of our children. This is both wise and insulting--wise from the parent and professional point of view and insulting, in many cases, from the viewpoint of the one being check, check and doubled checked.
We like to think we are very careful when it comes to who we allow to influence our children. Some of us send our kids to private school, or Christian school---because we are concerned that our children get the very best education, or a faith-based education. We shuttle them around to sports practices, music rehearsals, social and community clubs because we are convinced that they need to to have these opportunities to develop their gifts, find their niche, flourish, thrive...
And of course, we are trusting all the instructors that are teaching the classes, coaching the teams and running the programs. Or perhaps it's just that we trust the organization behind these leaders.
Let me just think through the people I entrust with my children:
  • Verity takes gymnastics. I trust her coach Sandy. I also sit and watch her every week for an hour and other than not really hearing the exact words Sandy is saying, (because I watch through a window) I'm trusting her ability to coach effectively, compassionately and with professionalism. Because I don't have any extensive gymnastics experience, I have to trust her in that. But I signed up Verity before I even met Sandy. I plunked down hundreds of dollars at the beginning of the season to put her under the influence of a woman I had never met. Who did I trust? The gymnastics club. How did they earn this trust? The website. Yeah. Pretty much their advertising. Which of course we all know is always truthful. (shnark). After the classes started, I was able to view Sandy's qualifications which were posted on a wall along with her picture. And who did I trust then? The letters that followed her name. The national gymnastics organization that deemed her qualified to instruct children. How do I know they are trustworthy? I have no earthly idea. I'd never heard of the organization before I got Verity into gymnastics. I suppose something that comes into play here is reputation. With some sleuthing, you can usually find out something about someone--or some organization's reputation. I didn't, really. But there was the general reputation that clubs of this type are trustworthy. This came through the experience of two people I can think of specifically--a friend and a family member.
  • Honour took a 10 week ballet course over at the Ancaster Rotary Centre. It was part of the programming offered by the city of Hamilton. I trusted her teacher Kristin. I also sat and peeked in the room (not watched quite as much as this was discouraged and during the whole second half of the 10 weeks there was paper over the doors so we couldn't see the wondrous choreography they were perfecting for the final recital) for 45 minutes every week. I trusted Kristin's ability to teach Honour effectively, compassionately and with professionalism. I have absolutely no experience in ballet, so I had to trust that Kristin knew what she was doing. Going to see her dance at Hamilton Place in a primary role of the ballet Hansel and Gretal helped that trust along significantly. But how did I trust her in the beginning, when I was signing Honour up and had never met Kristin? The city of Hamilton was who I trusted. I trusted that they had hired Kristin with full knowledge of her abilities and trustworthiness. I would imagine that they even have police checks done on all their instructors although I can't be sure, because, honestly, I didn't check that. And I'm trusting the city that even though they don't require instructors of this calibre to have some kind of teaching credential, Kristin has some idea of the pedagogy of ballet for children--likely just from the process of having gone through it herself. Which in alot of cases is fine, right?
  • I send Jairus to public school every day. Of all the things I've 'signed' my kids up for, this is the one that I did the most praying, the most investigating, the most in depth consideration. I was advised by trusted family members. I of course had my own experience of having come up through the public school system. There's a natural trust there. I met with the teachers, the principals, the special needs advisors. I walked that line carefully; waiting on , and listening to the Lord for guidance. Who did I trust? Well, yeah, God. (Who of course I also trust in the girls activities). But otherwise, I trusted those teachers, principals and advisors. Who was I trusting beyond that? The Hamilton Wentworth board of education, who hired these people. The province of Ontario, the nation of Canada who set in place the standards for school boards to follow.
So why am I going on like this?

I see a glaring inconsistency here. And I will be the first to admit that I've likely fallen into that glare in my child-raising up until now.

One of my underlying principles in educational philosophy is that my children's spiritual welfare is more important than their general schooling education. Alot of people might raise their hands to their mouths in horror over this one. Take a look again at the second verse I quote/paraphrase up at the beginning. What will it matter if my daughters can read years ahead of their age, do multiplication tables at 5 years old or tell me the capitals of all the provinces....if all the "recommended reading" they've done results in an eternity spent separated from God? If all the math equations they've mastered far outnumber the principles of God they've committed to their hearts? If they can tell me where countries are, but not about how much God loves the people in them? I am convinced that while the Lord wants us to educate ourselves, certainly, when we stand before him at the finish of our earthly lives, it will all be as Solomon discovered--'vanity' compared to the riches of knowing and growing in Jesus Christ. All the success our world has to offer cannot hold a candle to that.

As well as a general educational philosophy, I also have some opinions concerning Christian Education. Since the advent of public or community schools, we've been quite willing to hand over the education of our children to other people. (It would be quite interesting to see why this ever came about. Was it just a matter of some having higher education than others? Did Ma Ingalls really think that Mrs. Garby or Liza Jane could teach Laura and Mary and Carrie better than she could? But I digress) I don't think scripture really has much to say on this idea. But I could be wrong.
Christian education however....I think scripture has alot to say about that, starting with the first verse up there--God's direction to the Hebrew parents on teaching their children scripture. I think it's mighty clear that we as parents are responsible for our children's spiritual instruction. This is why we have baby dedication ceremonies; because we recognize that raising our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord is highly important.

And then came D.L. Moody and his Sunday Schools.

I'm just kidding, he didn't start Sunday School, but his were well known. I do think it's interesting that Robert Raikes, credited as really getting the Sunday School idea off the ground apparently started it because he saw children from less fortunate families getting into trouble with the law. How to prevent that? Instruct them in the Bible and introduce them to Jesus. The ugly underside of this premise is that he realized that the parents were failing.He took over the job of Christian education--and these families handed him that reign.

Now, I'm not slamming Sunday Schools, because, well, that would be like shooting myself in the foot. I'm not willing to go as far as to say that Sunday School is a usurption of our parental responsibility as handed down to us by God. It may be true. But I'm not going there.

I'm back to the trust issue. So here we have this situation of Sunday School--a place where we deposit our children every week and trust that the teachers are doing an adequate job in our place of teaching our children the most important truths known to man.

And where again are we putting our trust?

In the teachers. Whom we may or may not know. (Yeah, go ahead, ask yourself if you know your children's Sunday School teacher. Do you even know their name? Do you know anything about their spiritual walk or comittment to the Lord? Just a little something to chew on there.)

But like the hierarchy of trust we see in public school and extra-curricular activities, we ultimately trust in those higher than the teachers. We trust the Sunday School superintendent. The Children's Ministry Co-ordinators. The Deacons, the Elders, the Mission Boards....whatever all those higher-uppers are called in your church. The Pastor. The church as a whole. The Denomination.
So you might not know a darn thing about your children's Sunday School teacher except that she's got brown hair and glasses, but you are trusting that those in authority over her put her in that position because....why?
  • Because she's got a teaching degree?
  • Because she's got graduate or doctorate level training?
  • Because she says she loves God and has accepted Jesus as Saviour?
  • Because she's a natural-born teacher and the children love her?

I find it interesting that one web source says the following about Sunday School teachers:

Sunday school teachers are usually lay people who are selected for their role in the church by a designated coordinator, board, or a committee. Normally, the selection is based on a perception of character and ability to teach the Bible rather than formal training in education.

No degrees. No training necessarily. Perception of Character. What's that? Yeah, our gut.

And this is who we trust to instruct our children in the most valuable lessons on the planet.



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