Character Training in the Christian School
Character training is one of the supreme goals of Christian education. God says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Children must be faithfully trained, line upon line, precept upon precept, day after day after day. It is not enough to merely present a list of character traits and definitions for students to memorize and then suppose that the job of character training has been accomplished.
Character training through biblical discipline
To train means to exercise, to discipline, to teach and form by practice. When a person is trained, it becomes part of his character to do what he has been taught. It is built into his spirit, and he has to go against his own spirit to do the wrong thing. Training builds habits that are right, and training must take place all through the day, not merely in a “character lesson” taught once a day or once a week.
Every subject area, every teaching method, every attitude, every action of student or teacher is a means of training character. Character training is taking place throughout the day, no matter what else is being taught. The sobering question each teacher must ask is, “Am I teaching right character or wrong character?” The teacher who maintains an orderly, structured classroom and expects the students to work hard to learn content, whether they feel like it or not, is teaching them to
There may be a place in the curriculum for teaching character traits in the abstract, and it is certainly important to give students a wealth of reading material in which good character traits are acted out, but it is not enough to simply talkabout doing right. The child must be expected to do right, and even, so to speak, be forced to do right time and time again by means of godly discipline until the time comes that he has learned to choose the right on his own based on right teaching, common sense, and the Word of God.
Character training through traditional teaching methods and curriculums
A teacher who is faithfully teaching by the traditional methods of lecture, reading, memorization, drill, recitation, and oral and written examination will be doing much to build habits of good character. A school that emphasizes respect for authority trains the student to hearken wisely unto counsel (Proverbs 12:15) so that in time he may be a just authority for future generations. A curriculum that teaches the traditional subject matter of language (correct reading, writing, and speaking), content (Bible, history, literature, science, and mathematics), and biblical character training strengthens and enriches the child’s character through every word, every thought, every example, as the child learns that all truth is God’s truth and that for the Christian there is no difference between the secular and the sacred. (To see how character is taught in every subject throughout the day in the A Beka Book curriculums and texts, see chart below.)
Traditional teaching methods, Biblical discipline, excellence of content—all work together in the Christian school to produce students with outstanding character.
Character training through Bible teaching
The most important area of the curriculum for character development is, of course, actual study of the Bible itself. It cannot be stressed enough that Bible study is the main means of building character—not the study of some man’s distillation of the Scriptures by means of notebooks, workbooks, or systematic theology—but a study of the Bible itself in the way that God wrote it. Such study should begin in the lower grades with the concrete stories of the Old and New Testaments. In high school it should gradually progress to the somewhat more abstract statements in the New Testament epistles and the wisdom books. Doctrines should also be taught at appropriate times.
The teacher should clearly teach the students that it is not enough to merely hear the Bible taught in school and in church, but that it is their privilege and responsibility to read the Scriptures for themselves that God may speak directly to them through His Word. Indeed, the principle of each person reading the Bible for himself is the core, the essence, the key to individual liberty, responsibility, and character.
Character training through the formation of habit
The final aim of Christian education is the production of individuals who will habitually choose to do right because it is right to do right. Christians have a standard of right and wrong, the Word of God, and we must train students to habitually choose to act upon the teachings of that standard.
This goal is accomplished by carefully and clearly laying down rules and principles, and through biblical discipline, getting the students to 1) act in accordance to these principles time after time and 2) learn how to carefully think about the principles and consciously choose to apply them. Finally, by force of habit, each student will on his own be able to deliberate and choose to do right because the faithful training of his teachers and parents has allowed him to choose the dictates of reason rather than the dictates of the passions. It is at this point that God, through Christ, enables the individual to serve the law of God rather than the law of sin (Romans 7:25). God does the work, but it is the responsibility of the parents and teachers to lay the foundation, and it is the responsibility of the individual to choose to do right.
Teaching character through reading
The following guidelines were used for the selection of the stories in the A Beka Book readers:
Teaching character throughout the school day
Traditional Christian textbooks and traditional Christian teaching methods work together as one important means of building traditional Christian character traits. The teacher who faithfully teaches the traditional subjects in an orderly, structured way will be training students in the following character-building habits and attitudes.
Laurel Hicks, Director of Textbook Development, A Beka Book Publications
Dr. Phyllis Rand
We at A Beka Book keenly feel the responsibility to never “remove the ancient landmarks” of evangelism, Biblical character training, and excellent academics. They define true education and sum up our purpose and philosophy. They are our traditions.
It is to these ancient landmarks that we look rather than the latest educational reforms and psychological theories. In fact, we reject those trends and theories. This stance, of course, sets us apart from secular education and even some Christian education.
We still use the names traditional and progressive. Instead of progressivism, we could use the names “experimentalism,” “instrumentalism,” “pragmatism”; but progressivism is a good overall word, and it is accessible to everyone, not just philosophers. Because the term progressive sounds so positive and because the term traditionalmay sound passe or out of step, perhaps it is worth saying that ABB does not reject innovation or improvement. We are always looking for better ways to do things. What we mean when we say we are traditional is this: American education, like our other institutions, was founded on a Christian worldview. American educational traditions are Christian.
Progressive education is the development of those who rejected the Christian worldview and traditions of their fathers and transferred their faith to science, evolution, and psychology. It is secular. It is humanistic. It is more than an attempt to just bring more freedom and activity into the classroom. It is not an exaggeration to say that progressive education under whatever name it goes by today is the greatest force in what Henry Morris calls “the war against God.” By its fruits we can judge the damage of progressive methodology today: dumbed-down academics, self-centeredness, and rebelliousness.
So when we speak of traditional and progressive education we mean two completely different ways of looking at the world. Because a man’s philosophy or worldview informs his thinking and practice, it is not surprising to learn that the methods and purposes of traditional and progressive educators are very different. We have a Christian worldview so our purpose and methods align more with traditional education than progressive education.
As Christians, we know that a child is born on one path, not going in God’s direction at all. God tells parents and teachers that we are to steer children toward another path so that they will choose to leave their natural one for God’s path. There is much important soul teaching to do. Classrooms are not child centered; they are in effect teacher centered. The progressive worldview rejects this and sees children as naturally good.
Because of our Christian worldview we believe in authority—parental authority, the teacher’s authority, civic authority, and so on. Progressive teachers reject the teaching of submission and self-control but instead stress self-esteem and self-actualization and empowerment. Naturally the teacher’s role in these two philosophies greatly differs. Richard Fugate in his book Will Early Education Ruin Your Child? says you can always judge wrong educational practice by asking, what does it assume about authority and the nature of the child? That test judges all popular psychological theory and progressive practices as wrong.
Our Christian worldview teaches us that there are absolutes and objective truth. There are character traits, actions, ideas which are good and bad. There are eternal verities. There is right and wrong. To a progressivist, nothing is always true or always false. Truths change, values change, teaching methods change. He must build new “truths” through experience and group judgment.
A traditional curriculum emphasizes reading and writing and language because our religion is one of the Word—when we do not use language well, we are blunting the edge of our greatest tool. Because of progressive education, millions of Americans are basically illiterate and cannot read the Bible—or are attracted to watered down versions or use words in inexact ways.
When John Dewey and others first promulgated the new progressive philosophy in the early 1900s, it no doubt sounded terrible to the teachers in the classrooms who still thought children needed to be taught skills and information and trained in righteousness. But Dewey and others kept writing and teaching in the graduate schools of education and psychology until progressivism eventually worked its way down to the local schools through the new teachers and administrators. Today we see the full flowering of their work: every manifestation of Christianity has been eliminated from American public schools, and social issues and fads receive more attention than academic learning.
There is a greater need than ever for solid traditional Christian schools and teachers. A Beka Book’s calling is to spread the vision and to be of help to those who share it.
Copyright © 2004 Pensacola Christian College®. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Accountability Is Working in Florida’s Schools
In 1998, nearly half of its fourth-graders were functionally illiterate. Today, 72% of them can read.
By Jeb Bush
In November, voters in 37 states elected governors, most of whom are new to office. Job creation and economic growth will likely top the list of challenges these leaders will tackle first, and rightly so. But let’s hope education reform is not far behind. Florida’s investment in reform is already paying off.
Providing a quality education to every student will strengthen U.S. competitiveness in the world economy. The export of knowledge-driven industry is a far greater threat to our prosperity than is illegal immigration, which seems to dominate the news and political discourse. Without a pipeline of homegrown talent to fuel growth, the lure of cheaper labor, lower operating costs, and less government regulation outside the U.S. will be difficult to overcome.
An educated work force that attracts global investment also helps alleviate the problem of dwindling tax revenue and growing entitlements. Students who learn more typically earn more, spend more, invest more, save more—and pay more in taxes. According to the U.S. Census, a high-school dropout earns around $19,000 a year on average. A high-school diploma raises that average to $28,600. A college degree will nearly double your earning potential, to $51,500.
While preparing kids for college and careers starts on the first day of kindergarten, the first good indicator of their chances for success may come in fourth grade. That is when students transition from learning to read to reading to learn. A Manhattan Institute study found that students who can’t read and yet are promoted fall further behind over time. Alarmingly, 33% of fourth-graders in America are functionally illiterate, according to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Yet failure does not have to be our destiny. Florida’s experience in reform during the last decade gives us the road map to avoid this slow-moving economic calamity.
In 1998, nearly half of Florida’s fourth-graders were functionally illiterate. Today, 72% of them can read. Florida’s Hispanic fourth-graders are reading as well or better than the average student in 31 other states and the District of Columbia. That is what I call a real game-changer.
If Florida can do it, every state can. With 2.7 million students, Florida has the fourth-largest student population in the country. A majority of our public school children are minorities, and about half of the students are eligible for subsidized lunches based on low family income.
Success starts with a bedrock belief that all students can learn. All Sunshine State students are held to the same standards. As we had hoped, more and more are exceeding expectations.
Accountability must have a hard edge, which means that the responsibilities of educators must be clearly defined, easily understood and uniformly enforced. All students matter. No excuses.
Here is an example. For the last decade, Florida has graded schools on a scale of A to F, based solely on standardized test scores. When we started, many complained that “labeling” a school with an F would demoralize students and do more harm than good. Instead, it energized parents and the community to demand change from the adults running the system. School leadership responded with innovation and a sense of urgency. The number of F schools has since plummeted while the number of A and B schools has quadrupled.
Another reform: Florida ended automatic, “social” promotion for third-grade students who couldn’t read. Again, the opposition to this hard-edged policy was fierce. Holding back illiterate students seemed to generate a far greater outcry than did the disturbing reality that more than 25% of students couldn’t read by the time they entered fourth grade. But today? According to Florida state reading tests, illiteracy in the third grade is down to 16%.
Rewards and consequences work. Florida schools that earn an A or improve by a letter grade are rewarded with cash—up to $100 per pupil annually. If a public school doesn’t measure up, families have an unprecedented array of other options: public school choice, charter schools, vouchers for pre-K students, virtual schools, tax-credit scholarships, and vouchers for students with disabilities.
Choice is the catalytic converter here, accelerating the benefits of other education reforms. Almost 300,000 students opt for one of these alternatives, and research from the Manhattan Institute, Cornell and Harvard shows that Florida’s public schools have improved in the face of competition provided by the many school-choice programs.
Florida’s experience busts the myth that poverty, language barriers, absent parents and broken homes explain failure in school. It is simply not true. Our experience also proves that leadership, courage and an unwavering commitment to reform—not demographics or demagoguery—will determine our destiny as a nation.
Mr. Bush, a Republican, was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.
Why Should I consider Christian education?
Ten Reasons Why You Need To Pray About It Today.
Finances. Location. Perceived academic deficiencies. These are just some of the reasons parents spurn Christian education in favor of its public school counterpart. We’ve addressed these and other concerns on our “FAQs” page. (Click here to read about some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Christian education.) But here we’d like to offer you ten solid arguments in favor of Christian education. There are plenty of others, both biblical and practical. But these are the most compelling.
1. God’s Word is taught
The place to start is at the beginning, with the first nation, the first educational system. When deciding how to manage your children’s education, it only makes sense to ask the One who invented education.
“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul …. And you shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)
What we have here is a clear biblical mandate to saturate our children’s minds with the Word of God. It’s a difficult task under any circumstances, but virtually impossible in a public school setting. Once
“I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt…I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth.”
inside those doors, children spend 30 to 40 hours a week being told that God, if He exists at all, is no longer relevant. No matter how spiritually grounded your child may be, the repetition of such destructive ideas can’t help but have an adverse affect.
The harsh reality is that our Supreme Court kicked God out of the public school system more than 40 years ago. A generation later, scientific naturalism and a host of other anti-God values are not only being taught in American classrooms, they’re being championed.
Christian schools offer a refreshing, biblical alternative. Not only is the Bible taught for what it is – the inspired Word of God – but it forms the foundation of all other texts. In math, in social studies, in biology, all academic roads lead to God, in whom all knowledge has its origin. Your children won’t travel that road in the local public school.
2. God commands us to teach kids through the Word
It’s a sad but true irony: public schools, the self-proclaimed shapers of the human mind, have chosen to ignore the God whocreated the human mind. To their chagrin, they have robbed themselves of their most valuable “textbook,” and the only available source of absolute truth.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” writes Solomon. “And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). As students pursue the knowledge of math, biology and music in
“The school system that ignores God teaches its pupils to ignore God; and this is not neutrality. It is the worst form of antagonism, for it judges God to be unimportant and irrelevant in human affairs. This is atheism.”
Gordon H. Clark
a Christian setting, they’re chasing after the knowledge of God. And the by-products of such an endeavor – wisdom and understanding – are the God-given rewards for which every good student strives.
God expects you, as a Christian parent, to plant and nurture His Word in the hearts and minds of your children. This is best accomplished in settings where home, church and school all send the same message, teaching God’s truth with clarity, conviction and consistency. And while the benefits of such a commitment are often realized much later, here’s one you’ll notice in relatively short order. An education that uses God’s Word as its foundational text does more than produce spiritually-mature Christians. It makes them wiser and more knowledgeable. It forces them to be better thinkers. And isn’t that the goal of education in the first place?
3. The school shares your values
If you’re like most Christian parents, you’ve taught your children about God since the day they were born. You’ve taken them to church, read them Bible stories, sung “Jesus Loves Me.” Imagine their shock and dismay when they’re thrust into an environment in which God is hated, ignored, or both.
Even the best public schools are prohibited by law from reinforcing the values you teach at home. They either compete against
“To commit our children to the care of irreligious persons is to commit lambs to the superintendency of wolves.”
them or disregard them altogether. And because you care about the mental and spiritual development of your children, you may spend countless hours trying to bridge the philosophical gap between Christianity and humanism – a gap that would never have existed had they attended Christian school.
By entrusting your children to educators who share your values, you’ll have more time for ball games and bike rides and meaningful conversations. Instead of debriefing your children, you’ll be getting to know them.
With thousands of students roaming their halls and taxpayer dollars funding their bankrolls, public schools can only go so far in the area of discipline. The result? More frequent occurrences of theft and physical violence, not to mention course profanity and open rebellion in the classroom.
Simply put, Christian schools are a safer place for your children
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonistion of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
to receive an education. While not devoid of problems – even severe ones like drug and alcohol use – they are far less likely to occur, and far more likely to be met with firm disciplinary action.
In addition to physical well-being, Christian schools offer a much safer emotional and spiritual environment. Verbal insults and hazing, things that go largely overlooked in a public school setting, are less likely to be tolerated. And the politically-correct, socially-tolerant attitudes that pervade secular classrooms never see the light of day at distinctly Christian institutions. Anti-Christian behavior such as homosexuality and abortion is exposed for what it is, which helps guard your children’s minds against the licentious attitudes fostered by popular education.
5. Academic Achievement
Contrary to popular opinion, students at Christian schools consistently out-perform their public school counterparts. Their standardized test scores are way above the curve, and they’re better prepared for college upon graduation. Even in the areas of math and reading, subjects that are “less spiritual” in content, students at Christian schools have proven their superiority.
The sad truth is, despite their claims of excellence, our nation’s public schools are far less academically rigorous than they once were. Only 67 percent of all public school students entering ninth grade
“A truly Christian education is possible only when Christian education underlies not a part, but all, of the curriculum of the school. True learning and true piety go hand in hand, and Christianity embraces the whole of life – those are great central convictions that underlie the Christian school.”
J. Gresham Machen
graduate with a regular diploma four years later. United States competency in math and science lags behind a host of other countries. And despite the vast amounts of government money being funneled to public education, our SAT scores continue to slip.
Christian schools are far from an academic liability. In fact, in the aftermath of 2002’s “No Child Left Behind” Act, college recruiters are more likely to view public school transcripts with a skeptical eye. The best colleges are likely to pay your children more attention, not less, if they attend a Christian school. For more information, including some test score numbers that may surprise you, click here.
6. Teachers love and fear the Lord
Part of the reason why Christian students perform so well in the classroom is that they have a higher percentage of teachers who genuinely care about them. Most of these dedicated men and women sacrifice greater monetary rewards to serve where they can do the most intrinsic good.
In addition to the passion they feel for their students, the vast majority of Christian educators love God with equal in
“For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 24:6).
tensity. And unlike some of their well-meaning public school colleagues, they are not prohibited by the United States government from making overt claims to that effect.
Teachers are a school’s heartbeat. Its pulse. They are also among the most influential role models in students’ lives. And while you can certainly find Christian educators at a public school, the best of all academic worlds exists when everyone – the school board, the principle, the teachers and the parents – is operating under the same educational paradigm.
7. Individual Attention
In addition to having a higher percentage of caring teachers, Christian schools can almost always offer more individual attention than public schools, many of which are overcrowded and hopelessly understaffed.
Even in cases where the ratio is virtually identical, class size is not. Christian school classes generally have fewer students. They’re smaller, more intimate gatherings that encourage students to be participants rather than spectators. Students learn how to think quickly, and gain valuable experience sharing their thoughts and opinions in a public forum.
“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
8. Success after graduation
Because Christian school students perform at a higher level in the classroom than their public school counterparts, it only makes sense that their options upon graduation are more abundant. Therefore, they are more likely to be better prepared to handle the rigors of higher education. They have also received the spiritual foundation they need to excel in areas of ministry, whether they are career or volunteer-oriented.
In addition to these practical advantages, there is at least one intangible benefit. Students who have been grounded in the truth of God’s
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Word day after day during their formative years – both at school and at home – are better-equipped to handle discrepant ideas upon graduation. Whether in a secular university or in the work place, young adults with a solid biblical foundation are far less likely to fall victim to the subtle lies of our post-modern culture.
The question remains however, how do you define success? Does success equal an Ivy League education for your child, or a certain salary level, or even a prestigious title? Then again, how does God measure success? A healthy marriage? An understanding of biblical truth? These are important issues to pray about.
9. Peer Pressure
If only the Bible had told us that good company improves bad morals, many of us would have a welcome reprieve. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33), the Apostle Paul tells us, and we can assume he was writing to a predominantly adult audience. You can imagine what he might say to a
“Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
group of impressionable children and young teens.
Make no mistake: your kids will be exposed to bad company no matter where they go to school. Sometimes they may even be the bad company. But in a Christian environment, they’ll be much less likely to find themselves surrounded by destructive influences, and far more likely to find positive ones.
10. The State of Public Education
One final reason to consider Christian schools can be found by taking an even closer look at the alternative. If you study the origin and history of modern government-sponsored education, you’ll find some
“The United States system of national popular education will be the most efficient and wide instrument for the propagation of Atheism which the world has ever seen.”
A. A. Hodge
alarming facts. Its founders were atheists whose hatred of Christianity is a matter of public record. Its current agenda – the propagation of humanistic ideals that render God irrelevant or non-existent – can be easily spotted in its curriculum.
The Nehemiah Institute has put together a list of nine reasons why Christians shouldn’t place their children in secular academic institutions. (Click here to read the article from the Nehemiah Institute) It may be useful information as you consider the educational future of your children.
None of this is meant to be a criticism of parents who place their children in public schools. Nor is it an indictment against well-meaning public school educators. But the fact remains that public schools are not allowed to give your children the educational experience the Bible demands. Regardless of what you may think about Christian school, we encourage you to seek God’s thoughts on the matter before choosing an academic home for your children.