In a world fascinated by media, it's shocking how little real communication there is. There's a lot of propaganda, a lot of words and images used as blunt instruments with which to beat down people's resistance, but not a lot of genuine back-and-forth where each person gets to say his or her piece and then listens respectfully to everyone else.
This is largely due to the fact that no one has much to say anymore, and this is almost entirely due to the fact that no one forms their own thoughts anymore. In the absence of thinking, there's nothing to say. The group known as Communicators for Christ wants to change all this, training young Christians to both think, and to communicate their ideas and beliefs clearly.
Toward this end they've produced a series of communication-oriented books to be used in a classroom or co-op setting. These are mostly one-volume programs, and they cover a number of topics and communication forums, including practical debate, value debate, oral interpretation, apologetics, platform speaking, and beginning public speaking.
How Do These Work?
For grades 1-6, Beginning Public Speaking introduces young students to the fundamentals of speechifying by using activities and DVD-based lessons particularly suited to active kiddos. This is not a student-directed program: they'll watch the lessons under the guidance of a classroom facilitator, do the activities, and eventually produce and recite their own speech.
This program is pretty easy to implement: in the kit you'll get the DVDs, a teacher guide, and a student workbook (you'll need as many workbooks as you have kids). Most of the instruction is relegated to the DVDs, and the facilitator need only supervise the activities, encourage the children, and evaluate the speeches at the end of the 9-lesson course.
The rest of the books available from Communicators for Christ are intended for use by high school students, also in a classroom setting but without DVD lessons. In each case there's just one book, and teachers and students alike use the same text (though each should have their own copy).
Jesus Christ and his gospel are the focus of these books, as students learn to organize their thoughts, know what they believe, interact with alien worldviews, and finally articulate their own faith to those who need to hear it. Each volume was written by a student who has studied the topic and had amply opportunity to implement the principles they teach.
All of these high school texts are usually about ten lessons long, though that doesn't mean ten days or ten hours. There's a lot of prep required before each lesson, and plenty of homework to do afterward, as well as lots of in-class discussion, question and answer, and practicing the concepts being taught.
In Beginning Public Speaking and the high school courses, students are expected to work at a higher level than most similar programs require. There's a twin focus that is demanding on their minds and effort—not only are they learning the principles of communication, they're learning to do so as Christians duty bound to proclaim their faith to a dying world.
High school students are expected to have had some public speaking experience beforehand. They'll be tackling applications of both communication and theology and Christian philosophy, and to have to learn both at the same time is probably quite a bit too ask. Still, these courses are easily implemented both by students and teachers.
Our Honest Opinion
There are a lot of programs currently available for homeschool and Christian students that espouse the importance of teaching them to think clearly and to apply a biblical worldview to every situation they encounter. We love most of these, and want them to succeed. Unfortunately, few of them go far enough in training students to articulate these ideas in a public forum.
The books we carry from Communicators for Christ, particularly those for high school students, go a long way toward filling this vacuum with coursework that demonstrates the practical applicability of high-level concepts and teaches students how to integrate thought with action (or speech-making and debate, in this case).
While there are some problems (not all of the student writers have equal gifts, the production values on the Beginning Public Speaking DVDs are lacking, many teachers will wish they had more support materials), overall these communication programs are excellent. They're unlike most of what we've seen, they're Christ-centered, and we highly recommend them.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.