Friday, June 6, 2014

What Are The Real Subjects In Education?

Now once our proper end in education is determined, this informs what the real and proper subjects are.  So what are the real subjects in education?   Reading, writing, arithmetic?  Or perhaps history, philosophy, science, the languages, civics, and the fine arts?  Actually no.  Those subjects simply provide the occasion to study the real subjects.  Those are the shadows. The real substance of education lies behind them.  The real subject of education is God.  He is the chief thing that we are studying.  So in each particular subject, what we are actually studying is one or more of His attributes.  This shouldn’t at all surprise us.  Psalm 145:10 says “All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!”   This is not just referring to speaking creatures such as human beings and angels.  It is speaking about every thing God has made, visible and invisible.  All of God’s works will praise Him.  The only way this can be accomplished with a non-speaking thing is by how it reflects God, in the way that it was made.  In other words, the subjects act as mirrors reflecting God’s attributes to the cosmos. A clear example of this is the subject of astronomy. Psalm 19:1-4 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”  The heavens speak.  How do they speak?  Non-verbally.  What do they speak about?  The glory of God.  How do they do that?  By reflecting His attributes.  What attributes do astronomy show?  Astronomy shows the wisdom of God in His arrangement of the galaxies.  Astronomy also shows the self-sufficiency of God in the life-span that He gave stars.  Astronomy shows the infinity of God, in the seemingly endless nature of the universe.  In all these things and numberless more Astronomy’s chief speech is about God.  Now this is true of all of God’s works, including every other subject in school.  Because every other subject is a shadowy reflection of God’s attributes.  Let’s take a look at another syllogism, with the subject of math. 

P1.  All subjects are reflections of God’s attributes
P2.  Math is a subject
C.  Math is a reflection of God’s attributes

What does math speak about God?  One recent blogger, Joe Carter, tackled this question in a piece entitled What Does 1 + 1 = 2 Mean?Why Christianity Matters For Math(and Everything Else).  In it he provided different perspectives weighing in on this simple math problem. First he provided atheistic philosopher John Stuart Mill’s answer.  Mill “...believed that all that we can know to exist are our own sensations -- what we can see, taste, hear, and smell....Mill claims that 1 and 2 and + stand for sensations, not abstract numbers or logical classes. Because they are merely sensations, 1 + 1 has the potential to equal 5, 345, or even 1,596. Such outcomes may be unlikely but, according to Mill, they are not impossible.”

Next he gave John Dewey’s answer, the father of the modern education. Dewey believed  “...that the signs 1 + 1 = 2 do not really stand for anything but are merely useful tools that we invent to do certain types of work. Asking whether 1 + 1 = 2 is true would be as nonsensical as asking if a hammer is true. Tools are neither true nor false; they simply do some jobs and not others. What exists is the physical world and humans (biological entities) that are capable of inventing and using such mathematical tools.”
  This is why I said at the beginning that the modern educational system only produces workers, not thinkers.  In other words it’s aim is to produce slaves, utilitarian tools useful only for the advance of the state.  And this is seen in their philosophy of 1 + 1. 
The right view was put on the lips of Leibniz, who was one of the inventors (discoverers) of calculus.  When [he] was asked by one of his students, "Why is one and one always two, and how do we know this?" Leibniz replied, "One and one equals two is an eternal, immutable truth that would be so whether or not there were things to count or people to count them."
Those are God’s attributes.  Eternal. Immutable. Truth.  Like God, the answer to 1 +1 is an eternal answer.  Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”  Like God, the answer to 1 + 1 is an immutable answer. It will never change.  Malachi 3:6 “I the LORD do not change...”  Like God, the answer to 1 +1 is a true truth, even if all the world decided it be something else.  Romans 3:4  “Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,”  Any other view is not only lying about math but more importantly it is lying about God.   
I’m not saying that atheists or non-Christian religions can’t believe in 1 + 1.  I’m just saying that they can’t believe in consistently.  Their worldview doesn’t justify the truth of 1 + 1.  And if left to themselves they will eventually unravel.   And if left in charge, they will unravel others.  Case in point is the Common Core.  Teachers have now been instructed to give their students at least partial credit even when they get their math problems wrong, as long as they show their work.  In other words, as long as they are sincere it getting it wrong, they can be partially right!  Sincerity, rather than truth is the new currency of modern education.  The only problem is, that sincerity means nothing without truth.  If the meaning of sincerity is not an eternal, immutable truth, then it is nothing at all.  What might be sincere to you, could be totally different than my definition.  And so what we are left with is complete relativism. This is the fall of western civilization.  The only antidote to this inescapable reality is to teach the subjects from a Biblical worldview.  This means that we need to give our children a christian classical education.  In other words, we need to disciple them the way the Scripture informs us.  We need to educate in such a way where we demonstrate that God speaks to all the subjects and all the subjects speak back Him.   

  1. God speaks to history, and history speaks about God.  Acts 17:26 “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place...”
  2. God speaks to civics and civics speak about God.  Romans 13:1, 3-4  “...there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
  3. God speaks to the languages, and language speaks about God. In Scripture, Jesus is called Word of God.  John 1:1  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” 
  4. God speaks to philosophy, and philosophy speaks about God.  Colossians  2:3 tells us that in Christ “...are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  

And the same thing can be said about every other subject under the sun.  God commands every subject to reflect His attributes, so that every subject speaks about Him. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”  Romans 11:36  

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