Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

To Link To The Worldview Matters Main Website

Friday, December 28, 2012

Forward With Anticipaiton To 2013

Christmas time is family time for the Overmans. Although this is not a Christmas photo, it is our extended family. This picture was taken last July on our deck, as we gathered following Mom's memorial service. She passed through the veil to glory at the age of 87. My father is in the front row, sixth from the right. He will be 90 in the coming year, and he is doing very well. My awesome wife of forty-two years, Kathy, is fourth from the right, also in the front row, with her head peering between two of our ten grandchildren. Our four adult children, and spouses, are sprinkled throughout the photo, along with my siblings, their spouses and children, numerous cousins, and other relatives. I'm standing in the back row, on the far right, with only half of my head in the frame. (The best half, mind you.)

2012 was an extraordinary year, in every respect. We thank the Lord for his continued faithfulness in guiding and directing our steps, and we look forward with anticipation to 2013, because Jesus is Lord of alltoday.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Greatest Christmas Gift

Just hours after last week's post went out, twenty 6 and 7-year-old children, along with seven adults, were brutally murdered as another school day began at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, a little, idyllic American town, referred to this past week in the media as "Anytown, USA." Our prayers go out to each family touched by this cruel and senseless act. The screenshot (above) of the school's webpage is from Sunday, 12/16/12.

For a variety of reasons, America feels darker to me this year than last. But as John the Apostle wrote, "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it." (John 1:5, NLT) This is what Christmas is about: the Light of Christ Incarnate shining in darkness. At the Christmas season we mark the occasion when the Word become flesh and dwelt among us. Think about this. The Light shining in the very darkest of darkness, far as the curse is found.

Far as the curse is found.

[This post first appeared on December 25, 2009.]

One of my favorite carols is Joy To The World. The words are by Issac Watts, based on Psalm 98: "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh to judge the earth, with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity."

Some say Joy To The World is not about the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. They say it is about His second coming, not His first. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joy_to_the_World.)

The joy that is sung about, then, is a future joy that will occur when Christ returns, to “make the nations prove the glories of His righteousness,” in that full expression of His Kingdom (yet-to-come).

But for me, the song also makes sense as a celebration of the first coming of Christ in Bethlehem. While I’m looking forward to that full and perfect expression of Christ’s Kingdom-yet-to-come, I’m also celebrating the Kingdom-already-here. Jesus is Lord of all. Today! Not just in the future, but in this present moment (Acts 10:36-37)!

The Lord is come! No, the Kingdom of God isn't fully recognized yet, or perfectly functional right now. This will happen when Christ comes the second time. But the domain over which Christ is King (that is, His King-domain) presently includes both Heaven and Earth.

This is the greatest Christmas gift: Christ the King has come to Earth “to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.” Right now. Our Savior has come to make His blessings flow through people who are reconciled to God, and reconciling all things around them to Him, including the things of Earth. That's the big idea behind Christ's coming in the first place. See Col. 1:16-20, and To Reconcile Not Only People But Things.

So, no more let thorns infest the ground. By God's amazing grace, let's put our work gloves on, go to our workplaces after the Christmas holiday, both at home and in the community, to pull up bramble bushesand plant redwood trees.

Joy to the Earth! the Savior reigns; Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sounding joy!

Far as the curse is found.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

A Hard Thing To Bury

Does it take faith to believe that "Nature" is all that is, or was, or ever shall be? Does it take faith to believe morality is determined by human beings alone, with no regard for any higher moral order than ourselves? Does it take faith to believe all "truth" is equally "true," and all cultures are equally "good?" Does it rain in Seattle?

As mentioned last week, secularism is a faith. A powerful faith. And, as John Dewey argued, a religious faith. It is a faith with its own dogmas, held resolutely in the minds of everyday folk you walk past in the grocery store, who don't even know they are religious. Such as the dogma that one person’s concept of “truth” is just as valid as another person’s concept of “truth;” the dogma that says “tolerance” is the highest virtue a person can possess (tolerance of any view except an intolerant one, that is); and the dogma of radical whateverism which declares there is no such thing as “bad” culture, just “different” culture.  

As mentioned last week, Dewey's book, A Common Faith, written in 1934, ends with a call to action: "It remains to make it explicit and militant." Looking back over seventy-nine years since, and having lived in Seattle for sixty-three of them, it is clear to me that Dewey's task no longer "remains." 

You see, along the way, some people took Dewey seriously. Such as John J. Dunphy, who wrote in The Humanist magazine back in January, 1983: “The battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith…These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subject they teach, regardless of the educational level—preschool day care or large state university. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new—the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism.”  

Militant enough?

This hardly seems like Christmas season stuff. For welcomed relief, and a powerful reminder that the so-called "rotting corpse of Christianity" is a hard thing to bury, watch this inspiring clip: http://youtu.be/SXh7JR9oKVE.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

There Are Only Two Kinds Of People

“Never before in history has mankind been so much of two minds, so divided into two camps, as it is today.”

Sounds like America of 2012. Actually it's the opening sentence from A Common Faith, written in 1934 by John Dewey.  

The division Dewey referred to was the rift between people “who think the advance of culture and science has completely discredited the supernatural,” and those who believe in a Supernatural Being, and “an immortality that is beyond the power of nature.” 

Dewey embraced materialism, which claims matter is all that is, was, or ever shall be. So when we die, we’re done. Period. Moral order is not prescribed from above, but created from among us. Purpose is what humans alone determine it to be.  

Yet in A Common Faith, Dewey argues materialists are religious. He says you don’t have to believe in the supernatural to be religious. He signed the first Humanist Manifesto, which declares, "the time has passed for theism," and, "we consider the religious forms and ideas of our fathers no longer adequate," but Dewey was a religious devotee, committed to a different faith: a non-theistic, non-supernatualistic faith.

Dewey admitted that understanding how a non-supernaturalist can be religious is difficult for many. So he distinguished between a religious “outlook,” and particular religions. He argued it isn’t necessary to subscribe to a supernaturalist religion to have a truly religious outlook, to be a  religious person, or to partake in religious "functions" of non-supernaturalist faith. He's right!

Dewey further said, "Faith in the continued disclosing of truth through directed cooperative human endeavor is more religious in quality than is any faith in a completed revelation.” Dewey was committed to the outworking of social pragmatism through public schools, a "directed cooperative human endeavor" that continually "disclosed truth," apart from "a completed revelation." Good-bye Comenius.

Dewey called his religious faith "the common faith of mankind," and ends his book with, "It remains to make it explicit and militant."

Dewey’s “case for faith” brings up sticky questions with respect to the practice of faith in public schools. While it is possible to separate church from public school, is it possible to separate faith from public school?

G.K. Chesterton said, "In truth, there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don't know it."

I'll expand on this next.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Biggest Dirty Little Secret Of All

Caution: Information I will be sharing with you over the next few weeks could change the way you look at education forever. Continue reading at your own risk.

In his Aims of Education Address, Professor John Mearsheimer called the University of Chicago "a remarkably amoral institution."

Did the Professor say "amoral?"

I've got a little surprise for him. Perhaps I should say, a "dirty little secret." Shhhh....There has never been, nor will there ever be, an "amoral" institution, or an "amoral" approach to any subject. Even math. From civil engineering, to business, to art, to psychology, to biology, to culinary arts, one thing is ever-present at school, running in the background, as certain as the ticking of time.

Even if there are no clocks on any walls, time still ticks in the background of every lecture, whether it is pointed out by the instructor or not. (Most teachers don't point it out.) It's this way with morality and ethics. If no teacher specifically mentions the word "morality" in class, and no teacher specifically talks about "ethics," the fact is, morality is an integral part of every subject, and this is true from the first day of kindergarten through the last day of graduate school.

I'm sure Comenius and Webster understood this. But somewhere along the way, this elementary truth got swept into the deep postmodern waters in which we are now adrift. Some of the most intelligent educators today, such as Professor Mearsheimer, talk as though they haven't really thought through this point. But surely they have. Yet...maybe...they haven't. And if they haven't thought through it, then how many parents have? How many third grade teachers? And how many high school principals?

Mearscheimer was propagating the great presumption of secularism which says it is possible to be "neutral" about morality, and that secularized education is "amoral." But it simply can't be. That's becauseand now for the the biggest dirty little secret of allsecularism (the accepted and celebrated foundation of American education today), is a faith, and every secularist is a person of faith, even the most rabid atheist.

Have I lost my mind? I don't think so. In fact, with the help of people like Albert Greene, Francis Schaeffer and John Dewey, I think I've found my mind. But I'll let you decide.

Did I say John Dewey? Yes! He helped me see something important. So for my first witness, I call to the stand none other than the Father of Progressive Education himself, the author of A Common Faith.

Lean in. Please.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

The President Asks Americans to Engage in Religious Activity

As I continue my series on education, I am mindful of followers of Christ who teach in state schools. Eric Buehrer (who graduated from the same high school I did) is president of an organization I respect and recommend, called Gateways To Better Education. His organization focuses on helping state school teachers to understand the full legal freedom they have to teach about the influence of Christianity in our history [yes, some states require it!], to educate students about biblical themes in great literature, etc., and to take advantage of teachable moments that afford fitting opportunities to bring up "religious" subjects for class discussion.

One such teachable moment occurred this week when our President issued the annual Thanksgiving Proclamation to the nation. Eric highlighted this in an e-mail I received from him on Wednesday, and I asked Eric if I could pass his comments on to my readers. Thank you, Eric, for permission to do so! Keep up the great work.       

The President asks Americans to Engage in Religious Activity

Yesterday, the President issued his annual Thanksgiving Proclamation calling the nation to thank God for His blessings. No matter what our politics may be, it is important that we highlight the Proclamation to our children and our students as an example of our nation's recognition of being "one nation under God."

The president begins by explaining that it is about "recounting the joys and blessings of the past year." This is an important statement because the majority of people (including teachers) mistakenly think that Thanksgiving is a nostalgic remembrance of the Pilgrims of long ago.

The President explains, "This day is a time to take stock of the fortune we have known and the kindnesses we have shared, grateful for the God-given bounty that enriches our lives." 

In his second paragraph, the President gives a brief overview of its history. He also highlights George Washington's prayer "to our Creator" as well as Lincoln's proclamation.

In his fourth paragraph, the President calls upon the nation to "spend this day by lifting up those we love, mindful of the grace bestowed upon us by God and by all who have made our lives richer with their presence."

I recommend you print out the proclamation and read it to your family. It is important that we not only remind ourselves what God has done for us individually, but that we live in a country that officially does this as well. It is part of being "one nation under God."

If you are a teacher, you can incorporate the President's proclamation in a post-Thanksgiving class discussion. Ask students specifically what they did for Thanksgiving Day. Then, ask them if they did what the President asked them to do. When they reply that they were not aware that the President asked them to do anything, give them a copy of his proclamation, read it aloud, and discuss it. This is a teachable moment -- a time to discuss a few of the following topics:

  1. What it means to be "one nation under God."
  2. The Bill of Rights and freedom of religious expression
  3. America's Judeo-Christian heritage
  4. The often-misunderstood phrase "separation of church and state"
  5. What it means to end the proclamation "in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve" (our calendar dating)

Download the President's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Yours for Creating a Better Future for Our Children,
Eric Buehrer

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Sights Have Been Removed From The Barrel

It takes three things to hit a target: 1) a front sight, 2) a rear sight, and 3) a trained mind to keep 1 and 2 aligned. What soldier removes the sights from the barrel?

For Comenius and Webster, education was a pursuit of truth. But not the kind of "truth-pursuit" I found on the streets of Seattle. The Comenius-Webster pursuit of truth involved using God's Word and God's works like two sights on a rifle. Those two sights, aligned by the reasoned eye of a person supporting the barrel, provided an intelligent way to hit targets. But this is an old-fashioned view of truth, and an outmoded view of education.

No doubt the motto Truth for Christ and the Church was put on Harvard's crest to keep the aim of education in sight. To say Harvard got disoriented along the way is an understatement. Not only has the target been changed, but the sights have been removed from the barrel. Yet not only at Harvard.  

The University of Chicago has a tradition of giving freshmen a lecture called, "Aims of Education." When Professor John Mearsheimer gave the Aims of Education Address to the Class of 2001, he stated: "Not only is there a powerful imperative at Chicago to stay away from teaching the truth [that is, the truth], but the University also makes little effort to provide you with moral guidance. Indeed, it is a remarkably amoral institution. I would say the same thing, by the way, about all other major colleges and universities in this country."

Mearsheimer told the freshmen, gathered in a chapel built in the nineteenth century, that the building's benefactor "cared so much about his chapel because he was deeply interested in promoting Christian values at Chicago." A statement declaring that a building which represents religion "ought to be the central and dominant feature of the university" is etched in stone on the back wall. [Etching in stone is a good idea.]

Professor Mearsheimer informed the students that the first president of the University, William Harper, required undergraduates to attend chapel services once a week. But went on to say, "The importance of religion at elite educational institutions like Chicago diminished greatly in the first decades of the twentieth century," and added:  "Moreover, I would bet that you will take few classes here at Chicago where you discuss ethics or morality in any detail, mainly because those kind of courses do not exist."

For the full speech, click here. Read the section called, "The Non-aims of Education at Chicago." For Mearsheimer's response to criticism of his speech, click here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

What Then, Mr. Webster?

Noah Webster (1758-1843), the "Father of American Scholarship and Education," said education was "useless without the Bible." His American Dictionary of 1828 contained more biblical definitions than any other reference volume of his day (and probably since). In the Preface, Webster wrote: "In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed...No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people."

In the March, 1788, issue of The American Magazine, Webster wrote: "...the education of youth should be watched with the most scrupulous attention. Education, in a great measure, forms the moral characters of men, and morals are the basis of government." He went on to say: "...it is much easier to introduce and establish an effectual system for preserving morals, than to correct, by penal statutes, the ill effects of a bad system."

Webster referred to the Bible as "that book which the benevolent Creator has furnished for the express purpose of guiding human reason in the path of safety, and the only book which can remedy, or essentially mitigate, the evils of a licentious world." [Harry R. Warfel, ed., Letter of Noah Webster, pp. 453-57].

In a letter to David McClure, written on October 25, 1836, Webster declared: "Any system of education...which limits instruction to the arts and sciences, and rejects the aids of religion in forming the character of citizens, is essentially defective."

[The photo above, by Billy Hathorn, is of a painting in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., used here under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.]

Speaking of veritas, what exactly is "truth," anyway?

The answer provided by Professors William James of Harvard and John Dewey of Columbia could not be further removed from that of Martin Luther, John Comenius and Noah Webster. For the modern Professors, truth is what works. For you, for society, for the system…it just “depends.”

I suspect most Americans in Webster’s day could not have conceived of the darwinized notion that truth evolves. Some of them, when pressed, would have said truth is “self evident.” For the eighteenth-century mind, schooled in the biblio-centric education of Comenius and company, it would, of course, have seemed that way. But today, what is “self evident” to some is not “self evident” to others.

Webster said "morals are the basis of government." Now here’s an interesting question for you: what happens to a nation when morality becomes “what works for me?”  What then, Mr. Webster?
What then? Then you see nearly half of a class of 279 students cheating at Harvard. Then you see accountants cooking the books at a multi-billion-dollar corporation in Texas. Then you see traders on Wall Street designing financial derivatives that the head of the Federal Reserve Board says he could not comprehend. Then you see 5.2 billion dollars in U.S. tax refund fraud last year. Not to mention no-fault divorce and state-sanctioned sodomy. You see exactly what we see today.

Truth? By what measurement? The measurement of unbridled reason? Or is reason to be submitted to a higher authority: the Book of God's Word, and the book of God's work?   
A couple of years ago, I did some man-and-woman-on-the-street interviews on a sunny afternoon in Seattle, asking a very basic question: “What is right and wrong, and how do you determine the difference?” I found no shortage of people ready and willing to answer on camera, giving written permission to share their comments with you and others.

In well over an hour of nearly back-to-back interviews, I did not find a single individual who made reference to the Bible, or to the God of the Bible. Not one. I invite you to witness what I did. And then spend a moment in prayer for the post-Christian West. Click here.
What do you think? Is there any room left for the idea that morality is based on objective, universal truths that remain the same, yesterday, today and forever? Weigh in below.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Where Enduring Revolutions Start

John Dewey (1859-1952) was the Father of American Progressive Education. As a world-class philosopher, and head of Teacher’s College at Columbia University, Dewey made a lasting impact on American educators and American schools. 

Dewey’s ideas were influenced by William James (1842-1910), who championed the darwinized notion that truth is always in a state of flux. Truth, according to James, “happens" to an idea, ever evolving and ever in process. Truth adapts to fit its environment. Truth which was once fitting for a particular social environment may not be fitting today. Only the fittest truth survives, and if it doesn’t fit, it is no longer truth.

"Objective," "absolute," "universal," or "total" truth, for James, did not exist. Truth was what works. This way of thinking, called pragmatism, is America’s distinctive (and destructive) contribution to Western thought. It was a radical departure from Luther, Comenius and Webster.

According to social pragmatism, society itself becomes the shaper of what is truly fitting for the times in which one lives. Right and wrong, true and false, good and evil are relative to the current aspirations of the group. As culture changes, values change. As values change, culture changes, and so the evolutionary process of progressive truth goes on and on.

Dewey sought to merge social pragmatism with American education, and helped the process along through “progressive education." The public school is the natural place for social formation to take place. What better place to shape truth? Change requires a certain suppleness of mind, and young minds lend themselves better to the process.

Elementary school. That's where enduring revolutions start.
Progressive education resists unchanging dogmas, such as those taught by the Bible. The very word "dogma" has a negative connotation. The idea of absolute, unchanging, universal truth is shunned, and people who hold such outmoded ideas are "narrow-minded." Puritanical.

Education for the progressive educator is a process by which a person becomes "open-minded," guided by independent human reason, unencumbered by Revelation. People clarify their own values. The "imposition" of values by The Book, is o-p-p-r-e-s-s-i-v-e.

In My Pedagogic Creed, Dewey refers to the teacher as "the prophet of the true God and the usherer of the true kingdom of God." I'll share more about Dewey's "God" and "kingdom" later.

What recently took place among 125 classmates who cheated on the exam at Harvard began in third grade.

John Dewey in 1902. That's not a Bible in his hands. I'm not a betting man, but if I were, I'd wager he's holding a volume of William James' Principles of Psychology.
[Photo public domain]

William James spent the bulk of his career teaching at Harvard. A nice-looking man! His concept of Veritas, however, would not have passed muster with Harvard's first board. But Professor James posed no problem for the Unitarians who took over the school in 1805. [Photo public domain]

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Road To Dis-Integration

A recent case of mass cheating, described as “unprecedented in anyone’s living memory,” made national news last August. It involved nearly half of 279 students in a class titled, ironically, “Introduction to Congress.” Which school? Guess.  (Click here.)

This is the Harvard crest as it appears today. Compare it with the earlier Harvard crest I posted last week. (Scroll down if your memory is fuzzy.) Note that the lower book ("reason") is no longer facing downward, "submitted" to the God's special and general revelation, the Bible and creation. Notice, also, the wide, upward arrow pointing reason toward God's Word and works has been removed from the new crest. One has to wonder why they kept the book of God's Word and the book of God's works on the shield at all, but it's hard to remove them from stone, where they appear around the Harvard campus to this day. Most students, I'm sure, have no idea what the three books symbolize anyway. Notice, also, that the Latin words in the original motto, For Christ and the Church, have been eliminated. The revised Harvard motto has been reduced to simply Veritas (Truth).

The photo above is from Wikipedia, and reprinted by fair use law. The Wikipedia article is worth reading, as it does a good job of relating the history of Harvard's secularization (click here). The article notes that "Charles W. Eliot, president 1869–1909 [40 years, no less!], eliminated the favored position of Christianity from the curriculum while opening it to student self-direction." Yes indeed. The recent cheating scandal attests to that. 

For more on the Harvard crest, see  
David Kirkpatrick's blog, Travels in Transmedia...
 (Thank you, Joan Nieman, for bringing Kirkpatrick to my attention.)

Harvard’s truncated motto, Veritas, (Truth), rings hollow today. Did the founders of Harvard envision this?   
What route did Harvard take from Pansophia to cheating-en-mass? How, and when, was the Bible dropped from its essential role as the provider of light for every academic subject, and the hub of academic integration? What happened to the Panshopic movement, and the three books on Harvard's crest?

A recent master's thesis by James A. Hopson includes a succinct history of Christian education in America that provides clues. Hopson relates how a reaction to the strictness of Puritan Calvinism led to a rise of liberal Unitarianism (which denied the deity of Christ). This, combined with a spiritual decline of the Congregational Church, a rise of "German pantheism," and Protestant infighting, led to a separation of the Bible from academics.

Harvard was taken over by Unitarians. Hopson quotes Blumenfeld: “The takeover of Harvard in 1805 by the Unitarians is probably the most important intellectual event in American educational history. Harvard became the ‘Unitarian Vatican.’ It was, in effect, the beginning of the long journey to the secular humanist world view that now dominates American culture.”
In 1837, Horace Mann, also a Unitarian, became Secretary of Education for Massachusetts. Through Mann, the first public (tax-supported) schools were established. At that time, Protestants were warring over differences of doctrine taught in schools, and Mann's solution was to have schools just retain Bible reading for its moral benefit. Thus the road to dis-integration began.     

But the transition to complete dis-integration took many years. McGuffey Readers, a “God-conscious and God-centered” series by a Presbyterian minister, continued to be used in public schools into the twentieth century. 120 million copies were sold between 1836 and 1920. The public schools were also seen by the Protestant community as a way of “neutralizing the influx of Catholic immigrants,” through the advancement of Protestantism.
But by the 1930s, a radically different vision for education emerged.

I'll pick up from here next week. 

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Friday, October 19, 2012

The Three Essential Books

John Amos Comenius was not alone in his revolutionary biblio-centric approach to life and learning. Just as Calvin and Knox enlarged and developed the practical ramifications of the Reformation Luther had initiated, men like Alexander Richardson, William Ames, and John Alsted, along with Comenius (a student of Alsted), developed their sweeping ideas in a 17th Century movement historians call the Pansophic [or Encyclop√¶dic] movement. 

Pansophism was indeed a movement. A movement that lasted for about 150 years, and provided a curriculum driver for early Harvard and Yale. Dr. David H. Scott calls the movement Integrationism, and he refers to the men who developed it as Integrationists. [Dr. Scott is an authority on the Puritan curriculum known as technologia, which was used at Harvard and Yale. This, along with Jonathan Edwards, was the focus of his Ph. D. dissertation at the University of Notre Dame, published in 2003, From Boston to the Baltic: New England encyclopedics and the Hartlib Circle. If you're not inclined to read dissertations, I recommend Dr. Scott's shorter article, "A Vision of  Veritas: What Christian Scholarship Can Learn from the Puritans' 'Technology' of Integrating Truth." Click here.]

Comenius's educational aim was to harmonize three "books" which he saw as essential for pansophic education: 1) the book of God's Word [the "special" Revelation of the Bible], 2) the book of God's works [the "general" revelation of creation], and 3) the book of reason [or logic].

While there is no direct evidence in the minutes of the meeting on December 27, 1643, in which the overseers of Harvard discussed the crest of the school, Dr. Scott sites other evidence supporting the belief that the three books in the Harvard crest are the three "books" Comenius saw as essential to pansophic learning: the Bible, creation, and enlightened reason. These were the three essential books required for authentic education.

This drawing of the original Harvard crest and motto appears on the website of the Harvard Graduate Christian Community, a student organization related to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and affiliated with the Harvard chaplains.
The following comment accompanies this drawing: "The motto of the University adopted in 1692 was 'Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae' which translated from Latin means 'Truth for Christ and the Church.' This phrase was embedded on a shield...and can be found on many buildings around campus including the Widener library, Memorial Church, and various dorms in Harvard Yard. Interestingly, the top two books on the shield are face up while the bottom book is face down. This symbolizes the limits of reason, and the need for God's revelation."
[To visit this website, go to http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~gsascf/

 The three books can also be seen embedded around Yale, including the example below, where the books appear above a passageway near a courtyard on campus, below the window and to the right:

Below is a close-up of the three books, with "reason" submitted to God's Word and God's works:

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Broken Link To Harvard

Click on this photo once to enlarge it.
Then click the X in the upper RH corner to get back to this page.
[Photo used through GNU Free Documentation License.]
The bas relief above appears on a school building in the Czech Republic. The man on the left is not Jesus. It is John Comenius, the Luther of education, draped in an educator's robe. 

Comenius was a pioneer in educational practices that were radical for his day, but are taken for granted today. For example, he wrote the first text incorporating illustrations. This text, called The World in Pictures, was printed in the United States until 1887. [Not many texts are printed for over 200 years.]

Comenius's The World in Pictures continued to be published for over 200 years. [Photo used under the Creative Commons license <//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/en:Creative_Commons> Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported //creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed]

Comenius advocated educational practices that paved the way for today's theories of mastery learning. For example, taking students from simple concepts to more complex, building in an incremental way. He designed a graded system for schools. He also incorporated drama in education to make learning enjoyable.

Comenius was the first educational leader to champion universal schooling for male and female, rich and poor, gifted and mentally challenged. Note the young girl on the far right holding a book under her arm:

Education for all (male, female, rich, poor, gifted, challenged) was a radical change brought about by Comenius. This was another byproduct of the Reformation. Every woman can thank Martin Luther for paving a way for this, which is another reason I would put Luther first on the list of most important figures of the past millennium.

Why did Comenius champion education for all?  For the same reasons Luther created a translation of the Bible for all. So all people could read and understand Truth for themselves. Truth that would set them free. "Free" to do their own thing? No. Free to practice self-government under God, which was another revolutionary idea the Reformation spawned.

Across the bottom of that relief is written in Czech: "You will once again rule over your own things, Czech people!" By what authority? Observe The Book in Comenius's right arm:

He's not holding a dictionary. Note the faint cross on the cover. Comenius saw the Bible as essential for bringing the rule of God to the affairs of men. He saw The Book as necessary for engaging rightly with all things, academic and otherwise, both public and private. Thus the Bible was central in his approach to education.

For Comenius, there was no sacred-secular split. No division of life into “things of God” and “things of men,” with a gap between. Creation, humanity and the Creator were all parts of one integrated whole. This perspective is the broken link to Harvard, to Noah Webster, and to many American schools through the 18th Century.

In America, the last, tiny, lingering embers of the Pansophic movement were extinguished in 1962, when the Supreme Court outlawed even a little reading of The Book as part of the regular school day. At that time, daily Bible reading was as common in many public schools as the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Thus the ostensible need to nationally outlaw the galling practice.

By that time, however, the Bible had been reduced to an ornamental mantle piece. For Comenius, The Book illuminated every subject.

Friday, October 5, 2012

While Hiding In Cold And Dangerous Woods

John Amos Comenius (1592-1670) is a giant among reformers. He is to today's schools (including American schools) what Martin Luther was to the church.

Like Luther, Comenius experienced his share of suffering. His innovative school in Bohemia was burned, along with his books. His house was also burned, and his property was taken. Some of the nearly ninety books he wrote on the topic of education were written while hiding in cold and dangerous woods.

Although Comenius was born in today's Czech Republic, and did much of his work there, he also worked in Holland, Sweden, Poland and Hungry. In addition, he responded to a request from the English Parliament to come to that country to reform their system of public education, and he also helped start the first modern university at Halle, Germany. This university later merged with Luther's university to form the Wittenberg-Halle University. Today, the Comenius Medal, awarded by UNESCO, honors outstanding achievements in educational research and innovation.

If I had the task of naming a new Christian school, "Comenius Academy" would be among the top contenders.

Vishal Mangalwadi, in The Book That Made Your World, maintains that William Wilberforce, William Carey and other significant 18th and 19th century culture-makers, "were following Comenius, even if some of them were not conscious of it. Not only modern India, but also modern America was shaped by Comenious's vision. The difference is that the pioneers of American education knew the debt they owed Comenius. They invited him to come to the new world to head up their new college, Harvard, in New England. Comenius's optimism through education had such a profound impact on some Puritan settlers in America that they chose to become an educational community before becoming a commercial or industrial nation."

Comenius provided a foundation for Noah Webster's views on education. He was a prime mover in what historians call the Encyclop√¶dic movement [or the Pansophic movement] in education. This was a movement that provided a driver for the curriculum of early Harvard and Yale, which lasted for 150 years (but is gone today).

Never heard of this movement? Wasn't part of your high school world history class? Missed it at the university?

That's why I'm writing this blog. I'll fill in a few more blanks next week.

This likeness of John Amos Comenius is embedded into a stone in Berlin, Germany.
(Photo used via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany license.)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Slaughterhouses Of The Mind

The effects of the Reformation on the development of education in the West (and other parts of the world influenced by the offspring of the Reformation, such as Charles Grant and William Cary in India) cannot be overstated. The ball that Martin Luther got rolling in 1517 was something like that gigantic rolling rock that rumbled with increasing momentum toward Indiana Jones in the jungle cave.

Luther expounded upon essential Truths of the Bible which he believed were as comprehensible to cobblers as Kings, if they had it in their common language [something he provided for the Germans]. This conviction, combined with Gutenberg’s press, made The Book accessible to the people, and changed everything. It provoked a compelling reason for commoners' literacy, driven by the revolutionary idea that Truth would set people free.

Common people, if literate, could read Truth for themselves! Wow! And their children could read Truth too—if they were also literate.

They didn’t just view The Book as a collection of interesting bedtime stories. They perceived the Bible as the very Word of God in print. Reformers like Calvin saw it as the underpinning of cities, like Geneva, where Calvin put theology into practice and transformed what was once called “the smelliest city in Europe” to a city on a hill that inspired an entire continent. [Read Tom Bloomer’s recount of this remarkable story here.]
As mentioned last week, Luther also saw the urgency for educational reform. He wanted to replace the schools' fixation on Aristotle with a love for The Book. But Luther had his hands full reforming the Church, and it fell on one who came after Luther to reform education. His name was John Comenius, born in 1592, in Moravia (now the Czech Republic). He was a bishop with the Moravian Brethren who wrote nearly ninety books on education. Many consider him to be the father of contemporary education.

Comenius saw medieval schools as “slaughterhouses of the mind.” His mission was to make schools an “imitation of heaven.” How? By making connections between all subjects taught in school and the larger frame of reference that a biblical worldview provides. As Vishal Mangalwadi notes in The Book that Made Your World, “[Comenius] called his biblical philosophy Pansophia, integrating all wisdom, secular and sacred, into a biblical framework.”
Pansophia? Integrating "secular and sacred?" A biblical "framework?" What’s this all about?

To be continued...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Most Important People Of The Past 1000 Years

To get to the roots of Noah Webster’s convictions about the purpose of education in America, we have to go back further, to some truly radical voices preceding him, upon whose shoulders Webster stood.

When the popular television series Biography, which airs on the Arts and Entertainment channel, addressed the question of the most important people of the past 1000 years, they placed Johann Gutenberg first, Isaac Newton second, and Martin Luther third. In the 1997 millennium issue of Life magazine, Martin Luther was also named the third most important person of the millennium, behind Thomas Edison and Christopher Columbus. When members of the Religion Newswriters Association (reporters and editors writing for the secularized media) were asked to vote for the most significant religious story in the past 1000 years, the event coming out on top was Martin Luther's nailing 95 theses to a Wittenberg church door, in 1517, which “sparked a Protestant Reformation whose results are still being felt."

Most people know of Luther’s herculean efforts to reform the Church of the 1500s. But, as Vishal Mangalwadi points out in The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, Luther also called for a complete overhaul of medieval education. In “An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility,” Luther said: “I believe there is no work more worthy of pope or emperor than a thorough reform of the universities. And on the other hand, nothing could be more devilish or disastrous than unreformed universities.” [Emphasis mine.]

Luther said the Church-owned-and-operated Renaissance universities were “places for training of youth in the fashions of Greek culture,” where “little is taught of the Holy Scriptures and Christian faith, and where only the blind, heathen teacher Aristotle rules far more than Christ.”

Luther maintained that Aristotle’s books "Physics, Metaphysics, Concerning the Soul, and Ethics, which hitherto have been thought to be his best books, should be completely discarded along with all the rest of his books that boast about nature, although nothing can be learned from them either about nature or the Spirit.” Luther, who knew and taught Aristotle himself, would only keep Aristotle’s Logic, Rhetoric and Poetics—without commentaries. He wanted the Bible to be the center of the curriculum.

But Luther had his hands full reforming the Church. The reformation of education fell upon one coming after him, born in 1592, in Moravia.    

Martin Luther, holding The Book that made our world,
called for a complete overhaul of medieval education.
"Nothing," said Luther, "could be more devilish or
disasterous than unreformed universities."

Friday, September 14, 2012

It Went Far Beyond The Classroom

Last week I quoted Noah Webster, one of the Founding Fathers of America, and the author of the original Webster's Dictionary of 1828, saying that education which neglected the "aids of religion" in developing character, was "essentially defective." But that's not all Webster had to say on the matter. He also declared: "...the education of youth should be watched with the most scrupulous attention. Education, in a great measure, forms the moral characters of men, and morals are the basis of government.”  

What? Morals are the basis of government? I haven't heard this little detail mentioned in any recent political speeches. But that's what the most influential educator in early America said. He didn't say morals are "a good thing." He said they are the basis of government. The basis!

I have no doubt Webster would have also said morals are the basis of business. And medicine. And the media. And art, or any other topic of concern relevant to education itself. 

He also maintained: “...it is much easier to introduce and establish an effectual system for preserving morals, than to correct, by penal statutes, the ill effects of a bad system.” I think we’re finding this true today.

It is worth noting that when Webster talks about “morals,” he has a specific kind of morals in mind. He has a biblically-based, Judeo-Christian morality in mind. He once said the Bible is “that book which the benevolent Creator has furnished for the express purpose of guiding human reason in the path of safety, and the only book which can remedy, or essentially mitigate, the evils of a licentious world.”

In an atmosphere were virtue is the foundation for all arts and sciences, it’s remarkable how much knowledge can actually be transferred in the classroom! In an environment where students practice self-government under God (the way people in Webster's day thought of "self-control"), not only can a teacher accomplish a great deal of teaching, but students can accomplish a great deal of learning. To bring this one element back into American schools would revolutionize the entire system.

It's important to understand that virtue was not a part of the early American curriculum for virtue’s sake. Many early Americans, particularly the Puritans, had a compelling reason for laying virtue as a foundation for education. It wasn’t just to bring order to the classroom. No, they saw a greater purpose for virtue. It went far beyond the classroom.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Essentially Defective

In stating that the foundation of education is virtue, as I did last week, I don't mean to imply that the facts of math, science and history are unimportant, or that the transfer of information is of little value. Yet, for many students and teachers, education has come to be viewed as little more than information being transferred, or the development of certain study-and-research skills. Our current concept of “schooling” has been reduced to the accumulation of facts, or to the development of certain mental skills and abilities that allow people to be "good learners." 

Many parents, teachers, students, and curriculum designers have bought into the curious notion that students are educated through the development of mental skills or the capacity to learn what one needs to know. But the fact is, such students are only half-educated. To see the development of mental capacities and rational skills as the purpose of education while neglecting underlying virtue is, as Noah Webster put it, “essentially defective.”

In a letter he wrote to David McClure on October 25, 1836, Noah Webster, the most influential American educator of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, a "Founding Father" of this country, and the author of the original Webster's Dictionary of 1828, said: "...any system of education...which limits instruction to the arts and sciences, and rejects the aids of religion in forming the character of citizens, is essentially defective." 

In the early days of America, nearly all schools were extensions of the church. In the 1830s, when Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous French historian, came to find out what made America tick, he noted that almost all education was entrusted to the clergy. Nearly all American schools were established by Christians for Christian purposes. Developing people of virtue to take active roles in all arenas of human endeavor was one of those compelling purposes.

By the way, with the exception of the University of Pennsylvania, every collegiate institution founded in the colonies prior to the Revolutionary War was established by some branch of the Christian church, be it Puritan, Presbyterian, Baptist, or the Church of England. These collegiate institutions in the New World included Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown, Rutgers, William and Mary, and Columbia. What’s notable is that prior to the Revolutionary War, there were nine chartered, degree-granting colleges in the Colonies while in mother England there were just two: Cambridge and Oxford.

To be continued...

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Violation Of Good Sense

I've had a great break from blogging during the past six weeks, but it's time to ramp up again. So, onward and upward!

Let me start with this question: If you were given the task of shaping the culture of an entire nation, and had all the resources of the state behind you, where would you begin? Imagine you had full capacity to create laws and use the power of government to force changes in the way people live and work. What would you do?

Some governments have tried this. While the top-down approach might be effective at changing certain external behaviors, it’s hard to change people’s inner worldview and values by command and coercion.

You could, however, shape the culture of a nation in a much less overt way. It would take more time, say a couple of generations, but history has shown it can be done. It’s actually possible to affect fundamental changes in society's values and people's voluntary choices through education.

I have been wanting to do some posts on education for a while now. And since September is upon us, I think now's the time. Since I have spent the bulk of my adult life involved in the field of education, I feel at liberty to be frank about what I believe is essential for increasing meaning in schooling, while at the same time affecting positive changes to benefit the wider community, both now and down the track.

First, let me say that education worth its salt does not rest on an academic base. Of course, academics are of vital importance, and the very nature of formal education is academic, but the foundation upon which all academic skills are to be built is virtue. That’s because knowledge apart from virtue isn't worth much. What's more, imparting knowledge to those who are void of virtue is a violation of good sense. As someone aptly said, “The world already has enough educated fools.” If you’ve ever had your computer hard drive crash as the result of some brilliantly designed virus, you know what I’m talking about. And we’ve seen some extraordinary examples of educated corporate accountants “cooking the books” in recent years, with devastating results. I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

So with this opening shot, we'll turn our attention toward education. Education that can bring extraordinary meaning to "ordinary" schooling, and make great nations in the process.

To be continued...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Half Of Them Voted

As is my custom, I'm taking a break from blogging between now and September. I do this each summer so my batteries won't get drained. And it gives my readers a needed break, too!

I'll sign off with an important word to Americans. But, in principle, it is for anyone living in a country that allows people to vote.

The Los Angeles Times reported last September that a group of venture capitalists is backing a project aimed at registering 5 million currently unregistered evangelicals and conservative Catholics to vote: “The nonprofit organization United in Purpose is using sophisticated data-mining techniques to compile a database of every unregistered born-again and evangelical Christian and conservative Catholic in the country.” (For more, click here.)

This effort, called, Champion The Vote, is non-partisan. Ken Eldred, one of the main financial contributors, author of The Integrated Life (one of my top ten favorite books about faith-and-work connections), is quoted by the Times as saying, “I have the audacity to believe that we can be an influence on both parties.” 

According to www.RegisterOne.org, of the reportedly 60 million Christians in America, only about half of them voted in the 2008 election. One has to wonder, "Why?" Could this be a sign of what Darrow  Miller calls, Evangelical Gnosticism? Is this another outcome of dualism that causes Christians to view participation in the political process as a"worldly" endeavor that has no "eternal value," and therefore unworthy of serious consideration?

Anyway...are you registered to vote? Are your friends? Champion the Vote makes it easy: click here.

You can help awaken the slumbering giant by passing this post along via the "share" button below.

Remember, those who do not vote, do! 

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