One’s philosophy of education is of utmost importance because it drives everything that takes place in the educational process. You need to note that I didn’t say the school’s philosophy but the individual teacher/parent’s philosophy is of utmost importance. The school’s philosophy of education is basically determined by the philosophy of education held by its teachers more than what is written in a handbook, policy manual or accreditation self study.
When most people hear the word “philosophy”, they think about a deep and dry subject that is full of big words that are hard to understand. Most philosophy classes talk about epistemology, ontology, axiology, etc. Even when one reads the definitions of such terms, he can find himself more confused than before. So how can we address the issue of education from a philosophical perspective that is easy to understand and evaluate?
Over 20 years ago I was given a chart at an ACSI administrator district meeting in South Carolina. This chart was not only easy to understand but it also made perfect sense. Through the years I have come to realize that how one answers two questions, will shape that person’s philosophy of education. Every person has to answer these questions one way or another. These two questions are:
- What is ultimate REALITY?
- What is ultimate TRUTH?
Every thing we do in our attempts to educate our children and youth are driven by how we answer these questions. The chart below is the one I was given many years ago. It shows how education has been shaped over time by how individuals and educational systems determine what is real and what is true.
Instead of using difficult terms, the author simply states that what is considered ultimate reality and ultimate truth determines what is valued or desired to be produced through the educational process. I believe that Stiles captured how reality and truth have shaped education in the United States over time. Things have definitely changed. However, the changes that have taken place have not been good but have been quite destructive.
If one looks at how the question, What is Real?, it is evident that God and Jesus Christ are no longer considered ultimate reality when it comes to the current philosophy of education. Since we live in a postmodern era, reality is determined by whatever an individual wants to be real. Society now believes that reality is that which can be verified in the science lab. But even more dangerous is the fact that society now says that whatever you feel to be real is so, even if it goes against science. This is evident in the fact that we are currently debating who can use what restroom or locker room in a school.
The answer to the question, What is Truth?, has also gone through major change. In the early days of our country the Bible was THE source of truth. Human reason was part of it but reason was subservient to God’s Word. As one moves through this chart truth is now determined by one’s experiences and by whatever a person desires to be true. In fact, I heard a person make the following statement on a TV special about education.
Truth is arrived at through one’s experiences.
I had a professor in one of my graduate courses in administration tell the class that you must understand that something is true only to those who share your same philosophy. When I asked him if he was saying that there is no such thing as absolute truth, he said yes. The shock I had because of this conversation was that I was the only one in the class of almost 30 students who questioned the professor’s statement.
As the concepts of ultimate reality and ultimate truth have changed, the goal of education has also changed. No longer is the goal of education to develop godly men and women who live out their faith as they fulfill God’s first commission for man to rule over the earth. History clearly shows how being a good citizen became more important than living a Christian life. Morality in a general sense was still seen to have value in the education we gave our children. However, since God was no longer viewed as absolute reality and the Bible was no longer seen as the only source for absolute truth, morality could no longer be a priority in education. Nor could it be taught that certain values were more important than others.
Education’s goal would eventually be guiding students to live out a life as they wanted it to be. Life became all about “me.” A person must be “true to himself” and do what is best for him, not others. With God and His Word removed from the foundation of education, education’s goal is now to produce a society where political correctness reigns supreme and what was once considered to be immoral is now celebrated and applauded as being good.
So what does this mean for you and me? We need to examine our own lives and see if we are living everyday life as if God is the only ultimate reality that there is. We must also make sure that we live our lives as if God’s Word is absolute truth. As Del Tackett clearly states in his series The Truth Project, Do you really believe what you say you believe is true?
Another implication for Christian parents, church leaders and educators is that we develop a biblical philosophy of education that is founded on the fact that God is ultimate reality and His Word is the only source for absolute truth. When the home, church and school unite together under these two philosophical underpinnings, we will once again strive to educate the next generation to become dynamic disciples of Jesus Christ as the ultimate value behind our educational efforts.
So the challenge for each one of us today is the same one that everyone has faced throughout human history. How are we answering these two questions now and how will we answer them in the future?
- What is ultimate REALITY?
- What is ultimate TRUTH?
Your answers to these questions will not be found in what you might write down if given a test but by what you are striving to produce as you educate the next generation. Think about it!