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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.)