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Why Christian Education?
Dr. Dean Nicholas, CHCA Head of School

I was a kid who liked school. As a young boy and even into my teen years, I understood that was not a thing you said out loud. But I liked to learn, was curious about lots of things, and I knew how to play the game of school. Ironically, back then I never would have imagined that I would spend my life continually studying in graduate school and later working in a school. School was an obstacle course to successfully navigate and complete. It was not a place to live your “real” life. And while I grew up in a devoutly Christian home and would always identify as a Christian, all of my education was in the public school system. I received an excellent education in the Milwaukee Public School system with the many passionate, dedicated teachers that helped develop me into a life-long learner. My life of faith grew and developed at church, and my mind developed in school. It seemed to be an effective system, and one I regularly touted. I did not experience a distinctly Christian education until post-secondary school when I attended Wheaton College. Now I am in my 27th year serving in a PK-12 Christian school where all my children have attended. Why Christian education?

Before describing the purpose of a distinctly Christian education, we should consider the purpose of education in the first place. We often think of education as filling heads with facts and ideas, a kind of knowledge collection. We measure success by grades and test scores, college acceptances, and ultimately the boon that comes from a “successful” career. But true education should do more than help us win at Trivia Night. A wholistic education should create an experience that forms us into fully developed human beings, who are well-rounded, critical-thinking, ethical, engaged people who understand the world and our place in it. That type of education cannot be measured on a standardized test. As we all know, outside of school there are rarely written tests of any kind, but there are problems to solve, people to communicate and collaborate with, and meaningful lives to live. Do our educational systems – public, private, or specifically Christian – prepare our students for human flourishing? We will look more at human flourishing and education in a later post.

As we then consider a distinctly Christian education, we build upon two principles.

1) All truth is God’s truth.  As far back as St. Augustine, in his work On Christian Doctrine, he states, “Nay, but let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master” (II.18). If God is Creator and the creation reflects the One who created it, we should pursue a deep understanding of all things. For all the world is God’s and through our studies and investigations, we come to know reality and the One behind it.

2) Christ is central to all.  Most Christian schools talk about “Christ centeredness.” What this means is that we desire to ground our education in the person of Christ and understand that our place in the world is connected to our place in the greater story of Scripture. The Apostle Paul writes to the Colossian church that through Christ all things were made, in Him all things hold together, and it was through Him that God reconciled Himself to the world (1:15-20). In a Christian education, as we consider how our students are being formed as thinkers and flourishing people, Christ is both the unifying principle and the model of human engagement.

As a teacher, I always challenge myself to consider the final question in the end, So what?  Many times, I would finish a lesson and a brave student would ask that two-word question: So what?! What is the overall purpose of knowing; what’s the reason; what’s the use?  After early years of frustration, I realized it was the most meaningful question of all. So what is the end result of our work in Christian education? Our work in Christian education is to create engaged people who understand the world and their place in it; and it does that in order for them to find their unique purpose. I deeply believe that each student has a divine calling and their distinct assemblage of gifts, talents, personality traits, prepare them for a holy vocation in the world. We were created to do work in the world that creates shalom­—a wholeness that both restores the brokenness of the world marred by sin and gives our lives meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.

"Our work in Christian education is to create engaged people who understand the world and their place in it; and it does that in order for them to find their unique purpose." Dr. Dean Nicholas
CHCA Head of School

How do we educate in a way that inculcates these principles into our educational processes? In the next post, I will share our model of Theological Integration.
 

About the Author

Dean Nicholas is the Head of School at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, but is not new to CHCA. 

"I was a classroom teacher where I taught Christian Studies for 11 years. Then I moved into administration where I served as a principal (13 years) and Assistant Head of School for a year.

I didn’t plan to be in a PreK-12 independent Christian school. My training was to be a Hebrew Bible scholar. I went to Wheaton College (BA, MA) and then Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion (MPhil, PhD) with the intention of being a professor. But I’ve found in life that things rarely go as planned. And I believe whole heartedly that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Nothing has affected my thoughts on education like being the father of three boys who all learn very differently. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching all three of them in class and watched each of them navigate the world of school in their own unique ways.

When I’m not doing school work, I love reading, experimenting in the kitchen, gardening, fishing, teaching Sunday School, and traveling the world."

For more of my perspectives on Christian Education, visit:  An Educational JourneyThoughts from a Head of School


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