Christian education needs help. Jay E. Adams saw this all the way back in 1980, and things haven't changed since then, except to get worse. Back to the Blackboard is a call to the resuscitation and advancement of Christian day school education, though his message is just as applicable for proponents of homeschooling. The answer to the insufficiency of Christian education isn't better academics per se, he says, it's doctrine.
But not the Sunday school doctrine the majority of Christian school teachers got at church or (maybe) Bible college. Rather, the kind of sinewy doctrine that has historically sustained the Church in the face of persecution and heresy. The purpose of education is character- and behavior-driven, designed to fashion a certain kind of person rather than merely to perpetuate knowledge or an intellectual point of view.
This is where Christian schools have failed. For one thing, most of the teachers hold degrees in elementary or secondary education, not in theology, and the methods they've learned are largely the result of secular philosophy and theory. For another, the goal of education is seen as the formation of intellects, not Christian men and women of character, and the spiritual element is often marginalized or overlooked completely.
Can things change? Adams almost shouts, Yes!, but it will take help from outside the established system. He outlines the model teacher for his radical movement, argues for the abandonment of the grading system, and calls for three- rather than four-wall education—meaning that Christian schools need to work and interact directly with the larger Christian community (families, churches, etc.) directly rather than shutting children off from the rest of the world.
He never addresses homeschooling (in 1980 the movement was still in its germinal stages), but for Christian families the principles he outlines still hold true as parents attempt to raise godly offspring without corrupting them through protracted exposure to godless attitudes. The Word and Law of God must be the foundation for any Christian education, whether undertaken at school or anywhere else.
Known and respected for his intellect, Adams ably demonstrates in Back to the Blackboard that it isn't just mental activity that motivates him. The Church as he understands it has the ability and duty to affect the world in the name of Christ, and he sees Christian education as one of the best possible vehicles for the preservation and dissemination of the Gospel message. After reading his manifesto, it's difficult to imagine any Christian who would disagree with him.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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