Scott & Sarah Kennedy

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Purpose of School

Has anybody ever stopped to think about why we have schools? For many of us, like so many other things in our culture, we never use the useful little word 'why' in conjunction with the word school. Schools have become an almost universally accepted part of western culture and life.

So how should the Christian parent see schooling? What purpose should it have? There are many Christians who see school as the place where children learn the skills they need to get a 'good' job later on in life. I would like to suggest this is a poor purpose for schools. There are others who believe schools mystically show children how to socialise in the real world. Again I would suggest this as well as not being true, is an inadequate reason for school. Related to this idea is the idea that schools teach children how to live in society. Once again I would suggest that this is another inadequate reason for schooling.

So then, what should the purpose of school be? For the Christian, the purpose of school must be seen in how it enables the child to be more competent in glorifying God and enjoying him forever. The goal of education for the Christian is training in godliness. We are to bring our children up in the training and admonition of the Lord, as Ephesians 6 tells us.

This is the primary focus of education as God wants it, and therefore the primary focus of schooling for children of Christian parents. If as we believe God has prepared good works for us to do, we must prepare our children for those good works. We act in faith that God will in time bring them into his fold and use them for his service. Our children learn, we learn, so we can better serve God now and in the future with our gifts. We do our best to be approved workmen who can correctly handle the word of God.

But it is not enough for parents to know the purpose of education, we must constantly tell our children why they are at school. This especially applies if they happen to be in a secular school, which promotes unbiblical ideas about the purpose of education. Since most Christians at this point and time have been educated in secular schools, unhelpful ideas of the purpose of education and schooling are rife within Christian circles. I can’t tell you the number of people who have asked me why I bothered doing an Arts degree in philosophy. There seems to be an unhelpful attitude to Arts degrees, as if they are a second class degree. The reasoning is something like “that’s not going to get you a job”. But as we have discussed, the purpose of learning is not primarily about getting a job. It is to prepare you to serve God in your life.

What I believe I have done is given the true and biblical purpose of education. If this is something we agree with, we must ask the question of ourselves: - Where will my children be best equipped for a life of godliness and service to the Lord?


  • Incidentally in support of Arts degrees, I need to say that my Arts papers forced me to think more than any of my Science degree papers ever could have. Go Arts!

    By Anonymous Scotty, at 10:59 PM, May 18, 2005  

  • Thank you thank you. I got tired of people saying that Arts degrees were an easy way out or for dummies or whatever. Arts degrees make you think...and challenge what you believe. Because of this, I was glad that I had a firm foundation to work from.

    By Anonymous Lou, at 12:16 AM, May 19, 2005  

  • Do you really believe you could set a school up where you could achieve these purposes?
    From my experience, my education at a christian school served merely as preperation for university. My growth in Godliness was not really amplified by spending time in a christian school. I often wonder if I might have grown better outside of a christian school. Funnily enough, the christian sub-culture that was created at our school put quite a few people off christianity. A great number won't be coming back. Its a fine sounding argument, indeed we should have God in everything, but seperation from the world does not result in building up in Godliness. And I don't know if we should even bother trying to go round changing stuff like that.

    Sorry, I'm being pessimistic - but since when were christians called to be seperate from the world? and since when were we commanded to make large scale social changes? I always thought we were meant to be infiltrators rather than revolutionaries. As a proof text, I offer 1 Cor 7 verse 17: "Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.". Given that I am the only one quoting scripture, I am correct :P

    By Anonymous Nato, at 12:51 AM, May 19, 2005  

  • Thanks for entering Nato.

    My next post may answer some of your questions. My experience was that my growth in godliness was aplified by the Christian school I went to. Particularly in 3rd and 4th form.

    I'll believe you'll find I have been quoting scripture. I just haven't been giving references (in the last two posts).

    I'm not saying Christians should be separate from the world. But their children should be shielded from it's influence, while their faith is developing. We need a schooling that prepares Christians to live as Christians in the world. It is my argument that secular schooling is not the best way of achieving this.

    By Anonymous Scotty, at 8:53 AM, May 19, 2005  

  • By the way I checked out your use of I Corinthians 7:17. I'm not sure that the context allows for the meaning you ascribed to it...I don't know.

    By Anonymous Scotty, at 9:01 AM, May 19, 2005  

  • My education in catholicism certainly didn't encourage me to believe. Neither did attending the Baptist Tabernacle, the Predbyterian church, the Christian Harvest camp (NZ) or the Pentacostal church over the years.
    I've had friends who were hindu, jewish, muslim, or one of the various christian followings. None of them was overly impressed with their lot.

    What does this mean? That I can't make up my mind? That's one interpretation. Here's another: if god made me, surely he could give me what I need to believe? But i haven't seen it yet. So either its not time yet, or i haven't found it yet, or maybe god doesn't even exist. Personally, i think there is a point to it all, but we (as a species) are not there yet, and should keep exploring.

    "I'm not saying Christians should be separate from the world. But their children should be shielded from it's influence, while their faith is developing."

    That's a serious question for religions and non-religious parents alike. Should children be closeted from the evils of this world, or exposed to them to develop an immunity?

    Ultimately, i believe it does not benefit our kids to shield them.
    My parents NEVER taught me anything about the world - not about sexuality, or the dangers of pedophiles, not how to pay the bills, or how to be a man, and barely how to drive.

    I was a charming little boy, with an empty head.

    There was some dangerous times when things could have gone either way, but fortunately (as in the case of being approached by a pedophile at the age of 15) i figured it out for myself and avoided trouble. No thanks to mom and pa.

    Sure, they had their reasons for being screwed up. Their own parents were screwed up (or, in the case of my dad - his father passed away early).

    They thought by shielding me from the horrors which they had experienced as children it would help me - nadda.

    I'm 29 now, and completely unrecognisable from the kid my parents were raising. All they gave me was a heap of baggage. Its almost all gone now and i'm going places, but only because i brought myself up.

    I guess the moral of this (for me) is that kids need to be presented with alternatives, so they can find themselves, no matter how hard the road seems. Hiding the world from them is only going to enforce a skewed perspective that isn't going to help when they actually do need to get out amongst people fundamentally different from them and survive with their faith intact.

    You could say, if god is in them they'll win out. If not then no amount of christian education will work. They'll just chuck it off later, like my uni friends from catholic schools who turned to drink, partying, and other things to rebel against their upbringing.

    Anyway, just my 2c.

    By Anonymous Damian, at 11:00 AM, May 19, 2005  

  • hey bro, once again nice post.
    don't have enough time to comment properly, but just wanted to say, you've come along way since:

    'Stupid Post

    May the 4th be with you.'

    heh, keep it up dude.

    By Anonymous carl, at 12:50 PM, May 19, 2005  

  • Damian

    "You could say, if god is in them they'll win out. If not then no amount of christian education will work."

    For sure. And I'm sure Scott would agree too. Christian Education is not the saviour of our World. I believe God is soverign and has a purpose and plan for each of us. And as part of that plan He has chosen our eternal destiny. As you say no amount of christian education can change that.

    I think the point is that, from a biblical perspective, the purpose of education is to teach your children about God and teach them to fear Him. Which is a radically different to the angle taken in state education.

    It's not saying that Christian Education will lead to everyone going there into grow into a relationship with Christ. Nor that everyone going to State Education will be lead away from Christ. It is merely saying that as Bible believing parents we should want to do what pleases God. And it is clear from Scripture that teaching our Children to Fear God is pleasing to him and will ultimate bring blessing to them.

    By Anonymous Jonathan, at 1:36 PM, May 19, 2005  

  • Damian, just like to point out there is an inherent circularity in your argument that God hasn't given you what you need to believe. If you assume God hasn't given you what you need to believe, it takes away the motivation to work out waht you need to believe, which leaves you in a state of not searching, which ultimately means you don't have what you need to believe. But its ones own choice, not God who puts you in that position.
    So, that argument can only be made a posteri, rather than a priori (If my latin is right)

    Yeah - 1 Cor 7. I'm not sure whether the context supports what I'm saying. That's why I included a link to the chapter - I probably should have been more obvious in my semi-jokingness. I'm not sure whether the verse supports what I'm saying or not, and I don't have time to sort it out, but I thought I'd throw it out there, while people are discussing things. Caveat Lector!

    At the moment I think we should be aiming for the middle ground - shielding, but not seperating and not abandoning. However, I'm not sure how exactly this would work out in practice.

    By Anonymous Nato, at 2:39 PM, May 19, 2005  

  • :-)

    One thing I guess should be pointed out. When we talk of Christian kids being separated in Christian schools from the rest, we do not mean that we don't teach them about secular ways. In the case of evolution, I would want to teach them more about it than secular kids.

    In fact, that's what I did with myself. I literally knew more about some of the arguments than the teachers did. Which made for interesting physics lessons, and most likely put me on the teacher's bad side. But the point of it was I did not believe what she did, and I made sure that when defending my position I knew more about the topics than she did. Which simply meant that she either had to agree with me or dismiss it without countering it - which she/they did.

    Funny thing was my Roman Catholic Electronics teacher actually gave up with me and let me do my little rants/lectures during the class - so long as the work got done. He agreed with my position, although didn't see the value of the data I was conveying.

    Which, going back to school kids, is part of the schooling we'd want for them. They would be separated in that they would not be learning from secular teachers' bias, but at the same time they would be learning the same stuff, and more, and in fact being able to see logically why they were or were not valid conclusions.

    Example: anyone seeing a fossilised mining hat would easily conclude that fossilisation does not take millions of years under the right conditions. (it was 50 years btw)

    Christianity is a thinking religion. It's not purely emotional as some teach. The Bible constantly tells us to evaluate, to reckon, and to think about what it says. Question it - don't just accept it for it's words, but on it's merits also. Jesus himself said to be ready to give reasons for what you believe. (and as you can see we readily try to hehe)

    Men writing the Bible. Yes they did. But the text was inspired by the Holy Spirit - kinda like God told them what to write, but in their own style. The text was written with God overseeing it - not by God just letting them go for it. It wasn't a robot type action either, more like a conjoined work.

    In the same way we believe that God preserves his Word over time and translation. I mean.... that's obviously not too hard for a God who could create the stars in every detail, or who flooded the earth (there's scientific data on that one too).

    One last quick note: Roman Catholics. Although the Pope speaks of heaven, and the people think they are being taught from God, in reality what is said there often contradicts scripture. In fact, the Bible was on the Roman's list of banned book for 600 years! (might have the date wrong but it was hundreds)
    When we say Christian we mean person who believed the Bible is the ultimate authority, and one who believes on the Christ written in the Bible and what he did and why. That of course is a huge topic we could spend hours debating, but I thought I should clarify that position :-)

    One of these days I'll learn to keep it under 300 words

    By Anonymous Allan, at 5:26 PM, May 19, 2005  

  • Wowsers, lots of healthy educational debate, just what I like!

    Just from quickly skim-reading through post and comments I want to put in my two cents worth...

    There are lots of different flavours of Christian school out there... traditional acedemic with a good smattering of devotions here and there and grace before lunch christian schools... 'children should shut up and listen to their teachers or get a wack on the arse' Christian schools... 'Jesus loves you at school assembly but doesn't really mind what happens in the classroom' christian schools...

    And Christian schools can become dangerous sub-cultures (interesting that the word 'cult' should be in there...) especially if it is in the schools aims to shield children from society. Christian schools need to realise that relationships play a necessary part in the education of young'ans, in particular relationship to the community. At a Biblical, Gospel-centred Christian school, pupils should be given the opportunity to apply their faith to social issues being 'salt and light' and 'demolishing strongholds'.
    They should invite the community to celibrate their learning with them by allowing them to contribute to it and participate in it at times all the while seeking to be discerning. Being involved in the community also provides opportunities to demonstrate a servant heart by helping the needy and being good stewards of the environment as it applies to their education.

    It is not the mission of Christian schools to produce good people who don't party and drink, but to make disciples of Christ who live in the world, with with world, but are not fooled by the lies that the world will offer.

    Gah, i wush i cud right good.

    By Anonymous Alana, at 6:53 PM, May 19, 2005  

  • Good points Alana!

    A school with a secular curriculum that prays at the beginning of each day will not fulfill the purpose we just discussed very well at all. There definately different types of Christian school. Some I wouldn't ever send my kids to. Some are Christian in name, but they have a state curriculum, and would be barely distinguishable from a state school if you walked in on a lesson.

    What I'm currently doing as looking at foundations. Questioning the status quo, and seeing if there is a biblical mandate for something different. When we get to the 'yes' stage, I will try to describe how I think things should work.

    By Anonymous Scotty, at 8:27 AM, May 20, 2005  

  • Jonathan - you wrote:
    "..the purpose of education is to teach your fear Him [God]."
    "..teaching our Children to Fear God is pleasing to him and will ultimate bring blessing to them."

    I can't express how revolted i am by this idea, no matter how many times I have heard it over the years.

    God is supposed to be our holy 'father', right? What kind of father wants his kids to FEAR him?!?
    Any human being who enjoys the fear of others is called a bully, and in extreme cases a terroriser or terrorist.
    An omnipotent entity who enjoys fear is the ultimate obscenity.

    I am a father to two kids. If they learn to respect me at all it will be because i've earned it with compassion, fairness and providing a good role model. The moment they truly fear me is the moment I've failed them.

    You may feel differently about parenting but you probably don't like being intimidated - whether at work, home or elsewhere - so why would you let yourself be intimidated in your beliefs? How could anybody respect an entity who feeds on the fear of powerless creatures who can do him no harm?
    Its cruel and it just doesn't make sense!

    What kind of love is based on fear?

    By Anonymous Damian, at 11:18 AM, May 20, 2005  

  • Damian, this is a common question. Ultimately it's based on a wrong definition. People, such as those you have heard this from before, tend not to define the details when quoting Biblical concepts like this one. Perhaps they don't even know how to define it. This is a case of an english word "fear" being misunderstood from what it actually means in context.

    This is not fear in a sense of God blowing us up with a lightning bolt when we tell a lie. Rather it's fear in a sense of respect of his perfection. A fear that comes when we compare ourselves, where one verse describes us as maggots on a dung hill (relating to our sin), comparing that to the awesome perfection and glory of a creator who is spotlessly sinless. One graphical representation might be like comparing a speck of dust to the majesty of a blazing star/sun. That image falls far short of reality tho as it can't account for the whole sin vs perfection side of it.

    Its a fear of awe and respect at someone infinitely greater than us. An awe at the lengths he took to bring us undeserving “maggots” (I like that word hehe) up to his level - sending Himself in the form of Christ to suffer and die in our place so that we through that merit, not our own, would be counted by God as perfectly righteous. (big concept there obviously outside the scope of this comment)

    Additionally, the term Father is not the only term the Bible uses to describe God. Lord and master are frequently used too. Not in a sense of worldly selfish dictator type kings, but as a King who actually does what is right and demands good things and rewards accordingly. Someone actually worthy of respect. Other descriptiosn are "slow to anger, abounding in love" and mercyfull.

    I guess English is a stupid language for this sort of thing. It's so degraded that simple words aren't specific any more. Proof that natural selection doesn't increase information content :-)

    I hope that clears that up a bit.

    By Anonymous Allan, at 10:05 PM, May 20, 2005  

  • oh...
    "What kind of love is based on fear?"

    One with deserved respect and awe :-)

    By Anonymous Allan, at 10:06 PM, May 20, 2005  

  • (I'm not sure this is really that relavant to discussion of the current topic. Just thought it ought to be said.)
    Allan, could it be that christians are using a misguided defintion for fear, and in fact, Damian's use of the word fear is more valid than Jonos?
    We need to accept that english language is dynamic, and changing. We do not define the english language, the way people use it does. The bible isn't designed to define english words - It was written in greek (and hebrew). I'm not sure, but from your comment it sounds like the you are accusing non-christians for using the wrong defintion of fear. That could be offensive. The only place where fear is used like christians use it is as a theological codeword. Aside from that, the defintion of fear is as what Damian presents. Therefore in the english language, the defintion of fear is not as we use it.
    So, its like there is a christian dialect, and a mainstream dialect. I am a firm believer in communicating in a language that is understandable, therefore, when there is someone who doesn't speak our little dialect, it is up to us to speak in the mainstream dialect, not expecting others to have to learn our language.

    By Anonymous Nato, at 1:06 PM, May 21, 2005  

  • I can’t tell you the number of people who have asked me why I bothered doing an Arts degree in philosophy. There seems to be an unhelpful attitude to Arts degrees, as if they are a second class degree. The reasoning is something like “that’s not going to get you a job”.

    I fully agree with ya. Thx for making a point of saying that. I've already had enough people dissing Arts degrees, and i've only just started it, as well as before i even applied for one. I'm always like 'yeah well you try doing an Arts degree well, essays and all'. Like Lou said, it does help you think and be able to analyse (i've already found that) and you have to be on the ball with the many different viewpoints that are put forward. A degree is a degree, after all.

    By Anonymous Silla, at 3:36 PM, May 21, 2005  

  • tru Nato. There are two dialects. The difference is the Authorised version is in print and doesn't change whereas the spoken word does change.

    I used Biblical dialect because we were discussing the written word from verses talking about fearing God. For that reason I tried to clear up the definition a little :-)

    By Anonymous Allan, at 8:23 PM, May 21, 2005  

  • Hi Alan, interesting ideas - although, with our technological power over the planet, is there such a thing as 'natural' selection anymore? (But that's another topic).

    Still, whether you call God Father, Lord or Master, I believe a being deserving of our awe or respect should be big enough (personality-wise) not to expect it. And especially not to be gratified by it.
    Isn't pride supposed to be sinful? Isn't attributing pride to God an act of non-sensical anthromorphisation?

    I absolutely agree with Nato on the mainstream dialect. In a course example, I had to learn English upon coming to English speaking countries.
    I couldn't expect you all to understand Polish, right? If words like fear, awe or respect were used in their proper context, or perhaps different words were used as appropriate, this whole thing could be a lot clearer.

    By Anonymous Damian, at 11:02 AM, May 23, 2005  

  • Small sidestep: Natural selection is mutation causing decrease in genetic capacity or mixing existing information. Or it could be simply turning on and off genes such as those that produce eye colour.
    Evolution requires new information from somewhere. Which is what when I say natural selection I'm not talking about evolution :-)
    More on that at

    As for pride and God, while to man it might be rude that God can expect our praise, the crucial thing is to remember that he is not man. He is not bound by man's state towards pride and respect. We are talking about the only being that does deserve all good things. Man is sinful and will never deserve, for example, forgiveness for his sins based purely on his own merit. Man is unable to deserve such things on his own. So using human views to understand God doesn't really work. Which is why God has gone to great lengths to explain Himself in Scripture. The Bible is not only a road map to salvation, but also a description of the character and nature of God – albeit only a small portion of his infinite being but still enough that we can comprehend a portion.

    The deeper you go into the Bible's way of thinking, the more you start to understand and the deeper the well gets. I've just spent three years in Romans (along with weekly sermons at and it's totally changed the way I view such things as the Old Testament law, pagan religion involving human merit earned, and all sorts of other things. Simply because it's a new level of detail that I have now understood.

    Similar I guess to the English use of fear vs the Bible's use... it's new understanding that piece by piece makes the whole picture clearer and clearer. In the case of the Bible it's a never ending lesson simply because there is so much detail in it that we'd still be learning new things 'til the day we die

    By Anonymous Allan, at 6:08 AM, May 24, 2005  

Post a Comment

<< Home