When a carpenter builds a house he uses tools. When the carpenter, who is a Christian, builds a house, he uses the same tools as the non-Christian. The method whereby he builds the house varies little except as the particular likes and dislikes of the builder may determine the variations.
Because this is true in the carpenter’s trade this argumentation is often used to characterize the process of instruction in the Protestant Reformed Christian School. This characterization is also true of the curriculum or course of study which determines the pattern of instruction in the school. Many think that the only difference between the Christian School and the Public School or State school is that the Christian School is a school in which the Bible may be read and is one of the source books for instruction. This is certainly a basic distinction but it is not an accurate characterization nor a complete acknowledgement of the instructional program of the Christian School in the Protestant Reformed Churches of America. Much more must be said if one is really to understand the importance of the curriculum in the Protestant Reformed Christian School.
The term curriculum is derived from the Latin Currere which means “to run.” This term as translated from Latin can also be interpreted to mean a course or career; and literally means a running. The implication seems to be that there is a race to be run. The term curriculum, as it used in the educator’s book of terms refers to the aggregate of courses of study given in a school. The term is used to refer to the regular or particular subjects which are taught in a school.
The curriculum or the course of the study which is followed in the Protestant Reformed Christian School is from a formal point of view not very distinctive. If one were to compare the curriculum of the State school with that of our own Protestant Reformed Christian Schools he would find very little difference. The facts are there to bear out this statement. The fact of the matter is that the Christian School is required by the State to teach certain courses in the School and to this the School accedes.
What is the curriculum in the Protestant Reformed Christian School? From a formal point of view the courses which are taught are the language arts, which includes reading: mathematics; English which includes grammar, rhetoric, and literature; science; history; fine arts (music and art); and a series of courses in formal Bible instruction.
Ever since the time of Thomas Jefferson and Horace Mann the schools in America were changed from private schools to publicly controlled schools. Education or instruction in these schools was adapted so that the instruction would be practical and would fit the needs of every child because every child was entitled to a free education. The rationale for this lay in the fact that an educated citizenry was necessary if the nation were going to operate democratically and if the control of the government were to be placed in the hands of all the people and not remain in the hands of the “enlightened few,” the aristocracy, those who were literate, and the land-owners.
Besides it is generally held that philosophically the leaders in America were addicted to the theory of the Enlightenment and of rationalism which held that education was the method whereby the individual would be saved.
The Latin grammar school became a thing of the past. Utility became one of the determining factors in American education. The necessity for a knowledge of foreign languages and other more academic studies made way for the more practical fields of study.
Our own Christian schools are, to an extent, a by-product (at least with respect to curriculum), of this liberalizing movement in the American culture but they are also affected by the work of the Reformers of the 16th century. Martin Luther, particularly, and other of the Reformers stressed the need of education for all children. The Reformers were interested that all children be given training so that they might be literate. In this way they might be able to read the Bible in the vernacular, that is their own tongue.
In 1647 in America the Old-Deluder Satan Act was passed in Massachusetts Colony. Hereby the legislature made it necessary for each community to establish schools so that the children might learn to read and write. This was intended by the colonists, who were Bible believers, to make it possible for the children to read the Scriptures in their own language.
I do not wish to be a reactionary nor do I wish to cast doubts in the minds of the supporters of Protestant Reformed Christian Instruction concerning the value of our own system of instruction. You all know my attitudes about this, I am sure. I do wish to suggest hereby, however, that it is dangerous to be complacent and apathetic in the face of everything that is going on in America, particularly in the realm of education and particularly in the area of curriculum. It is in the area of curriculum which is of such vital importance that many of the most sweeping changes are being made.
I believe that it is highly important that we keep abreast of the changes; that we know what is happening; and that at the same time we evaluate what is happening in terms of the principles which we hold to be of determining importance in the instructional situation.
To me the whole area of curriculum is a vital concern. This is an area where not only the administrator or principal of the school must be active but this area needs the devotion of every classroom teacher, every knowledgeable friend of the system, and every dedicated parent.
It is my intention to write in some length about each area of the curriculum and to elicit some principles of instruction which I believe have been determining factors in our instructional program and must continue to be determining factors. I believe that everyone must know these things and must be interested in them.
I am not one who believes that the status quo is necessarily good. Just because things have always been done in a certain way in the school from an instructional point of view and curriculum-wise does that make it impossible for change and improvement to take place? I also am not so naive as to think that every new or different idea is good. One must evaluate and consider all the facets of these innovations as well as the things which have always been done to prevent the incorporation of error and to implement improvement.
I should like at this time to suggest somewhat prematurely that I am not happy that our schools are simply patterned curricular wise after the pattern of the State school in our community. I believe that there are sound principles for the insertion perhaps of a study of at least one foreign language in the grade school. This is an area of study which has been sadly neglected in our schools.
May God give us grace to persevere in the study of these important things.
NOTE: – A serious error crept into my article of March, 1967, issue of the Beacon Lights. It distorts the meaning of the paragraph. In the last paragraph of page three the sentence which states, “Christian education is adjustment or redemptive,” should state “Christian education is neither adjustive nor redemptive.”