Education Sunday 2010
Sunday, September 12 2010
Pastor Joe Fuiten
Passing it on to the next generation is a biblical mandate. Very early on, God gave the pattern. In Deuteronomy 4:9-11 Israel is instructed: “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children."
We have it again in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” God ways are to be taught in every way, all the time. There should not be an endeavor of life which is separated from God’s teaching.
Out of these commands, Judaism developed a pattern of formal education.
Justin Martyr, around 150 AD, started catechetical schools in Ephesus and Rome. These schools majored in theology, but quickly expanded in mathematics and medicine. Within a century they had added grammar. By the 4th Century those first Christian Schools were called Cathedral or Episcopal schools. A century later monastery or nunnery schools were developed.
What was revolutionary about these school was both boys and girls attended the same classes. That was largely a Christian invention. Further, it was not limited to just the rich.
The first University at Bologna, Italy was started by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in 1158. Martin Luther began the first public schools in the West. That was followed by public schools, universal education for all in the 1530s, tax supported education and compulsory education. The first University in America was Harvard, developed to train Christian ministers.
In America, education was closely linked to Christianity from the very beginning. I have on display a replica of Noah Webster’s first dictionary along with an old leather-bound, but not first edition of the dictionary. Webster was explicit in saying that the dictionary was so America could know the Bible and that our Republican form of government rested firmly upon the Scriptures. In the preface, written in 1828, Webster said, “If the language can be improved in regularity, so as to be easily acquired by our own citizens, and by foreigners, and thus be rendered a more useful instrument for the propagation of science, arts, civilization, and Christianity;…it would be a source of great satisfaction to me to be one among the instruments of promoting these valuable objects.”
The New England Primer was the single most influential Christian textbook in history. Most scholars agree that most, if not all, of the Founding Fathers were taught to read and write using this volume. First published in 1690, the goal of the Primer was to combine the study of the Bible with the alphabet, vocabulary, and the reading of prose and poetry. This is the book that introduced the children's prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep." More than five million copies were sold in the nineteenth century alone.
In Christianity and in American Christianity, education has always been a very high priority. If we measure the priority in dollars, we would conclude that education is still a high priority. The average cost in Washington State in K-12 government education is over $10, 000 per student. We will spend over $10 billion dollars for public education in Washington State. Adjusted for inflation, this number has increased by 20% in the last ten years. We spend over 500% more on education that in my parent’s generation and that is after adjusting for inflation.
However, only 67% of those who enter High School will graduate according to a study funded by the Bill Gates Foundation. This is considerably below the 82% reported by the State of Washington. More than “half of those who do earn a diploma and go on to a community college must take remedial courses in the basics.”
If I had my way, every student would attend Cedar Park Christian Schools. I understand that economically, that is not possible. We have worked very hard to keep our tuition low, and we are the lowest in the region. However, it is still out of the reach of too many. One of my hopes has been that our business efforts would be more productive. That has not happened except in the area of land. I have been encouraged that more people are appreciating the importance of the education we provide and have been coming forward with scholarship money.
I understand why many people choose homeschooling these days. We support those efforts and want to do more as a church to do so. Homeschoolers are an important part of our church and these families are very active in this church.
I also understand that many also choose public education. I don’t want to give up on public education. I would just like to see it get back to its foundation. I have had a friendship with one of the local teacher’s union leaders and proposed that Cedar Park should build the public schools and lease the facilities back to the District. It would save the District a lot of money, but the idea never gained much traction. As a nation, we need better solutions to the high cost and low yield of public education.
As a church, we have a mission. Jesus gave it to us in Matthew 28:18-20. “Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Education is not necessarily an end in itself. I liked the way Webster said it. Education is to be “a more useful instrument for the propagation of science, arts, civilization, and Christianity.” For Cedar Park, education is the means by which we obey Jesus in the Great Commission. We want to do our part in the academic areas but to locate that work within the context of civilization and Christianity.
Jesus promised to be with us in this mission. He has all authority. He is with us to the very end of the age. He didn’t jump ship in the 1960’s when the US Supreme Court started its march against the church. His power is not impacted by the ups and downs of politics. God did not change his vision for the church when America started becoming more secular. He didn’t change the mission when the first public schools were started in the mid to late 1800’s.
The mission remains for his church. Christian education is a key means for fulfilling that mission. We disciple nations and pass the faith on to the next generation. In the meantime, a civilization is created.
Prayer for the educators:
Heavenly Father, we lift before you today the enterprise of educating and training the next generation. Help us to properly appreciate the sacred duty that it is to train a generation in what is true and right.
We pray that the lives of those who teach may be a right example so that we can teach the successful life with both words and deeds. By your grace, make us fit for this task because we each have our own failings as well as successes. Lead us by your Spirit so we in turn can lead others.
We pray for the students that their hearts would be open to you, their minds ready to learn, and their attitudes receptive to the process. Keep them safe physically, morally, and spiritually. Make them examples of the blessing of God.
We pray for Cedar Park Christian Schools that we will continue to have your favor and blessing upon that effort. We pray for homeschooling families and for those in the public schools. May all our student thrive and do well.
We pray that through our students, you will impact a nation and the world.
 In 2003, there were just over a million (1,015,968) K-12 public school students in Washington. When all public funding sources are included, the average cost per student for a public school education in Washington was $9,454 in the 2002-03 school year. Source: http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/Centers/education/policynote/04_milewski_publiceducation.html. Washington spent an average of $10,121 per student in 2004-05. http://www.effwa.org/knowthefacts/education/
 “Average per-pupil spending increased an inflation adjusted 20 percent over the past ten years (1995-2005, based on IPD). Thus, the state is spending 20 percent more per pupil today than it spent ten years ago.” http://www.effwa.org/knowthefacts/education/