For a long time public schools were as idols in our nation. Today American educators are howling under the criticism this sancrosanct institution is receiving. But, are we beginning to idolize our Christian schools too?
Under God’s grace they are something in which we may take pride. Yet we must not elevate these schools beyond the pale of criticism. Christian educators themselves can serve their cause well by being sensitive to emerging weaknesses. Self-evaluation must be a continuous process if we are to avoid the pitfalls of over-confidence.
A good reason for discussing publicly our school problems is the fact that schools are not isolated in their problems from society. Schools are expressly supported to perpetuate and produce the type of culture society wants. What we do in school is a reflection of what we do in society at large.
Our schools are confessedly based upon principles basic to a Reformed society. Through them we want to produce men and women committed to the principle that the Reformed view of life is a comprehensive world and life view that touches every phase of our culture. In that view the Bible is normative for every thought and act of life. Do our schools produce graduates saturated with Reformed, biblical principles making for such a concept of life?
I think it is safe to say that many are not impressed with the evidence of principal living among our graduates. Materialism plays a much more impressive role. “Is it a good racket?” is more than just adolescent slang when it comes to choosing a vocation. In spite of all our schools, one feels it is still a bit unusual for a student to ask, “What do you think the Lord would have me do with these talents he has given me?”
Our Calvinists in adult life are not making impressive contributions to the Reformed way of life. Distinctively Reformed contributions by our professional men in their various fields are still very limited in number. Scholarly analyses of today’s varied problems from the Reformed point of view are minimal. As Christian school educators we have not articulated a Christian educational philosophy to govern the development of curricula, teaching methods, or administration. In labor we have a Christian union. Yet our graduates by and large do not concern themselves with it. Among Fundamentalist business men we find Christian Business Associations. But there is no comparable association to express the Reformed point of view in the field of business. We have no daily paper that does the work The Daily Worker does for the Communists or the Christian Science Monitor does for Christian Science adherents. The Roman Catholics and the Fundamentalists have universities, yet the people whose genius it is to claim all of life for God have no university.
We have done some things, but who can say that our schools are producing an alumni characterized by a passion to subdue all of culture under the lordship of Jesus? Few of us escape the maelstrom of indifference and compromise that threatens to disembark our Reformed culture from the vessel heaven gave us.
Articles are also appearing pointing up to weaknesses in our school system. Dr. Lewis B. Smedes’ address, “The Tyranny of Things” (The Reformed Journal, July. August, 1955) challenges our Christian schools to “concentrate on the head and the heart as well as on the stomach and hands, and thus produce whole men, too big to be slaves of things.” In “Our Dilemma of Communication” Dr. John Kromminga speaks despairingly of our “hyper-defensive attitude.” While he does not say that the development of such an attitude is inherent in our Christian school system, he does not hesitate to credit it with making some contribution thereto. “I should say our defensiveness lies not so much in our organizations and institutions as in what we have done with them. Our system of Christian education, for example, might be either a defensive or an aggressive agency. But we have generally made it quite exclusively the former” (Reformed Journal, Jul-yAugust, 1955). That is sharp criticism when we view it in the light of the aim our schools have to train soldiers for Christian Warfare.
Another indication that things are not what we would like them to he is the fact that the Young Calvinist Federation has appointed a study committee to find reasons why our young people lack enthusiasm for the Reformed faith. The leaders of this Federation realize that our young people have many advantages, and yet so pitifully few appear to be “on fire” for their Lord. It will be interesting to read the conclusions of this study committee. Certainly our schools cannot wash their hands from the criticism implied by the very appointment of such a committee.
The teacher shortage tells us that we are not producing enough workers to perpetuate the cause of Christian education. Some of our schools did not open this fall. In others we had to borrow teachers from non-Reformed circles to teach children the Reformed faith! It is easier to recognize than to explain the paradox of more and better Christian school buildings and yet a growing shortage of teachers.
These are things that trouble an administrator. It was not always so. In my next article I hope to touch on some of the contributing factors. The solution of the problem rests not with man, but with God.
He can make alive that which is dead. That is our Reformed faith. That is why we keep working. Let us pray that God may work through us!