Steve Tisch, The chairman and Executive Vice President of the New York Giants said, "Any foundation you build, if trust is part of that foundation, whatever you're building, whatever you're creating is gonna have a rock-solid foundation." And that "trust" must be completely in believing that God is capable of carrying the vision forward and "trust" in the "completeness" of the planning process which is bringing the institution to life!
Having been involved at "ground level" in the planning process of a Christian school, discussed school development with other institutions and analyzed still other schools weakened my "trust" on the founders and founding committees. It is not unusual to discover that a school is proposed in response to fear or of a desire for isolation. It is not strange to discover a desire to protect from divergent philosophies of life, theology or science.
Certainly I am aware that all of the above are concerns of Christian families, but to establish an institution solely based on negatives makes for a pejorative image to the surrounding community. The "positive" which should drive that founders is that of providing mentoring a solid foundation, a "Christian worldview." Dr. Jeff Myers President of Summit Ministries in Cultivate: Forming the Emerging Generation through Life-on-Life Mentoring writes, "Mentoring is the cultivation of young adults, the tender caring for and nurturing of them so that they will grow, flourish and be fruitful."
The idea of mentoring a Christian worldview often scares organizers and side-tracks plans to an easier path to the detriment of the entire project. In order to successfully accomplish the mentoring process organizers must hire Christian teachers who understand what Christian education is, what it actually looks like, and how to implement it from the start. During the 1990s, Dr. Arthur F. Holmes impressed this upon me and also pressed the idea that the teachers I would hire would often need to be mentored themselves. Art offered to do this for me when the time came.
The institution must be characterized by its "distinctive mission and contribution," that which Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff calls, "a classic standard." The late Chuck Colson stated, "We're in an ethical mess...Why are we surprised? It's an inescapable consequence of neglecting moral training." This is the result of our government schools, our American colleges and universities, and at its most basic our family life. Dr. Robert George says, "It has to begin in homes, churches and schools. At every level, we have to be working together to build a consensus around a sound and coherent ethic."
Do our founding committees "Build a consensus around a sound and coherent ethic?" My answer is "No!" These individuals in their zeal act in haste and find no time to center thinking on worldview, ethics, biblical apologetics or solid Christian educational philosophy. Will those responsible ask faculty candidates if they have the gift of teaching, if they have been called to teach, or can they provide examples that they have the gift and have been called? "No" to that as well!
Educating Christians is very serious business! Asking parents why they send their children to a Christian school has become very disappointing for me. The answers are shallow. They appear to be uninformed, even misguided. My advice to founders and to parents is to consider the alternatives. Consider the life which is a stake here, the future of a young and impressionable youngster. Furthermore this should not only be for primary and secondary school, but for college as well.
About six weeks ago I read an article Truants Go to College. It illustrates what now, in some places, passes for education. While this is obviously an extreme it is simply that which exits and has been pushed to the extreme. I attended a meeting with a "special studies committee" concerning a struggling student, a student who was failing every subject. At one point I said, "I guess this student will be repeating grade seven." Their response was "Of course not, he will be passed along to grade eight." Think carefully. Think prayerfully!
Part two in a three-part series: A Sure Foundation.