Scott & Sarah Kennedy

Monday, February 22, 2010

Idols in the Classroom

Last week, while on practicum for my graduate diploma in primary teaching, I taught a lesson on bullying. The text I used was a cautionary tale called “Don’t be a bully Billy”, which tells the tale of a young bully Billy who treats his classmates nastily until he gets sucked up into a spaceship by an alien – English literature at its finest. In the lesson I was attempting to communicate to the 5 and 6 year old children why they shouldn’t bully. In the end the angle I adopted was that “Bullies don’t have friends.”

A couple of days later as I was mulling over my first week of practicum and in particular this lesson I had an epiphany. I understood in a powerfully new way the religious nature of a state education. State education is not some benignly neutral environment in which children learn bare facts.

In teaching that lesson on bullying I could not make reference to the God of the Bible and his expectations of human behaviour. Rather I taught as if he did not exist, and instead appealed to the children’s desire for friendship to help them avoid bullying. I removed Jesus from his place as the one who is before all things and the one in whom all things hold together, and instead set up the false god of ‘peer acceptance’ for the children to worship. While the result may be a reduction in bullying, the children have been taught that there is satisfaction to be found in someone or something other than Jesus Christ, namely peer acceptance. This is a lie of the devil. He is constantly seeking to trick people that they can find satisfaction, true meaning and abundant life in something or someone other than Jesus Christ.

You see, many people make the mistake of thinking that state education is neutral because it keeps religions like Islam, Buddhism and Christianity from being promoted in the classroom. This seems a fair assumption. The state is not giving any religion an opportunity to ‘proselytise’. Young impressionable minds are protected in an environment that will not lend support to any one religion. This leaves schools in a position to teach the supposedly neutral bare facts of life:- maths, reading, writing and perhaps more controversially history and science.

But this is a fallacy. You see, when we remove Jesus Christ from the classroom we are effectively denying that he is Lord of all. We are banishing the Creator from our classrooms and then expecting that we can make sense of his world without reference to him. There are no ‘bare facts’. The facts belong to Jesus and any attempt to interpret his world whilst ignoring him is folly. The facts cannot be interpreted correctly by those who deny the one who owns all knowledge.

Christian education is not about saying a prayer or two and inserting a Bible verse in your lessons. It is not about mentioning God here and there as one might sprinkle salt and pepper on ones meal. A true epistemology (theory of knowledge) must recognise that all knowledge belongs to Jesus Christ – who John describes as the one without whom nothing was made that has been made. A truly Christian schooling will have its curriculum, methodology and practice saturated with Jesus Christ.

All this thinking has left me with two dilemmas. The ethical dilemma for me as a Christian teacher starting out in the state system is how can I teach without denying my Lord Jesus Christ and setting up idols in his place in the classroom? The ethical dilemma for the Christian parent with children in the state system is how can we keep our children from seeing our Lord Jesus Christ as irrelevant in their lives when he is ignored and replaced with idols in their classrooms?