Strength in Diversity

This workshop will help you understand how diversity in your student body, faculty, staff, and administration makes you a better and stronger school. This session will highlight how experience with diversity helps students to develop better cultural competence and ultimately better results in their work. This presentation will also include a brief review of the theology of diversity.

Peter Vandebrake

Peter Vande Brake attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan (BA 1988) where he was an All-American decathlete and philosophy major. He attended seminary at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia (M.Div. 1992) and then did his doctoral work at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan (Ph.D. 2000). He taught, coached, and was headmaster at North Hills Classical Academy from 1996-2010. He worked at The Potter’s House in Grand Rapids, Michigan from 2010-2019 as a teacher, coach, curriculum director, and high school principal. He is a leadership consultant for the CiRCE Institute and the Director of the Upper School at The Geneva School in Orlando. He is married and has two daughters.

Alfonso Clark

Alfonso "Alf" Clark has spent a combined 20 years working in public and private education. With Alf’s educational, personal, and professional experience, he brings a unique approach to better understanding the need for diversity in leadership and gives the tools and support for successful implementation. Alf attended Grand Valley State University where he played basketball and majored in Psychology-Special Education with endorsements in Emotional and Cognitive Impairment and a Minor in Elementary Education, with an emphasis in conflict management. He received his Master’s in Educational Leadership at Cornerstone University, with his master’s thesis titled “Cultivating Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Leadership: Moving Beyond Awareness”. He is the principal at The Potter’s House High School in Wyoming, Michigan where he has taught, coached and administered for the last 14 years. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with his wife of 24 years and 7 wonderful children.

What Does the Kingdom of God Look Like? An Apology of Diversity in Classical Christian Schools.

We all have “blindspots” in our lives, or things that we just can’t see. This isn’t because those things aren’t right in front of us, but because we don’t have eyes to see them. Having students from diverse backgrounds — racially, ethnically and socio-economically — helps us to eliminate the blindspots from our lives. Having a diverse school helps to prepare our students for life in the world in ways that a monolithic, monochromatic student body cannot. Students who have experience in a diverse student body are able to navigate cultural nuances, preferences and differences more ably than students who don’t have that kind of experience. Diversity in a student body better reflects the kingdom of God, encourages empathy, helps students see difficult issues from more than one perspective and allows students to experience life in a more abundant way. Achieving diversity is much easier to talk about than it is to do, but this seminar will look at some of the challenges of diversification and how to overcome them.

Peter Vande Brake

Peter Vande Brake grew up in the southern states of Georgia and Tennessee, but attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was a four-time, All- American decathlete. He went to seminary at Union Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, and then did his doctoral work at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, obtaining a doctorate in systematic theology in 2000. He was ordained as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the PCUSA in 2001. Peter completed the Van Lunen Fellows Program for Executive Leadership in July of 2009. He taught, coached and administrated at North Hills Classical Academy from 1996 to 2010, and served as the Headmaster there beginning in 1998. He is a leadership consultant for the CiRCE Institute and works at The Potter’s House, an urban, Christ-centered school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is married and has two daughters.

Classical Education and the Special Nature of Inquiry

At its core, classical education is about asking questions. David Hicks in, Norms and Nobility, states:

Classical education is not, preeminently, of a specific time or place. It stands instead for a spirit of inquiry and a form of instruction concerned
with the development of style through language and of conscience through myth. The key word here is inquiry. Everything springs from the special nature of the inquiry (18).

The Spirit of Inquiry

The special nature of the inquiry is fundamental to classical education. Every educational methodology known to humankind touts inquiry as an essential element, but it is the nature of the inquiry that makes all the difference. In classical education, the order and method of inquiry are crucial. The classical educator asks normative questions first; everything else follows from that.

Hicks divides questions into two basic categories: normative and analytical. Normative questions are questions that direct the inquiry and render value. Hicks offers some examples of normative questions as follows: “What is the meaning and purpose of man’s existence? What are man’s absolute rights and duties? What form of government and what way of life is best? What is good, and what is evil?” These are the kinds of questions that must “precede and sustain analysis” if a student is going to learn anything from his or her experience (Hicks, 64). Normative questions reveal the essence or nature of things and are especially concerned with human nature.

Analytical questions, on the other hand, provide information, but they don’t determine moral value or dictate order for inquiry. Some examples of analytical questions would be questions such as: What color is it? What are the results of the experiment? Who is the main character? What is the theme of the book? What is the sum of 2 + 2? Which army won the war? and What can human beings do? If analytical questions are allowed to lead the inquiry, then education inevitably devolves into relativism and subjectivism. Asking analytical questions may allow people to talk about values, but this line of questioning does not make any binding or absolute claims. Analytical questions are not bad or unimportant questions. In fact, they are necessary, but they do not force students to wrestle with issues that are of ultimate or absolute importance.

Thus, to properly implement classical pedagogy, normative questions need to come first in terms of chronological order and in terms of their importance for inquiry. When normative questions lead the search for learning, then the answers to those questions will guide our analysis of literature, art, math, politics, science, or whatever it is that we are trying to understand. The information that we gain from analytical questions then falls into place and is useful to us in our learning.

The Development of Conscience through Myth

Classical education, then, is a special kind of inquiry in which we ask the right kinds of questions in the right order. So, once we have the right questions, where do we go for the answers? Hicks tells us that we find the best answers in the great myths1 because it is in myths that we find the Ideal Type. The Ideal Type offers the best prescription for how we should live.

The record of man’s study of himself suggests answers falling into two broad categories: the prescriptive and the descriptive. The early record favored a prescriptive understanding of man embodied in myths . . . Myths whether they sang of the exploits of demigods or of heroes, caught in their perpetual flames a unifying vision and standard of man, an Ideal Type striding between the poles of human strength and human frailty (Hicks, 4).

The human condition, as it is described in myths, gives a picture of humans and demigods that are often heroic and courageous, but imperfect. The characters of interest are always flawed and frail in some way. They all have their “Achilles’ heel.” This manifestation of the Ideal Type found in ancient and modern myths provides an ideal that no human being can match and yet an example to which all people can relate. The Ideal Type is resolute in its expression and yet always requires improvement. It is prescriptive rather than merely descriptive. It provides a pattern, an example, a way of living that is desirable for all people in all times and all places. Hicks explains this concept and offers some illustrations of the Ideal Type in this way:

This Ideal Type was at once immutable yet ever in need of refinement. It was the metaphorical incarnation of wisdom and truth, empowered by education to metamorphose the diligent student. Both an elaborate dogma and a man, it defied comparison with any man, yet all men discovered themselves in it. The Ideal Type embraced Gilgamesh’s love for Enkidu and David’s love for Jonathon, Odysseus risking his precarious safety to hurl gratuitous insults at the Cyclops, and Achilles deciding at the dawn of human history to die at the supreme moment of glory rather than to live through the long, wizening, connubial years. What made these stories valuable was not their historical authenticity or experimental demonstrability, but their allegiance to a pattern of truth. Whatever fit this pattern was retained and added to the education of future generations. What fell outside this pattern was judged superfluous to the education of the young (Hicks 4).

Thus, the characters in art and literature that embody this Ideal Type provide a pattern for education because it conforms to the more comprehensive and more important pattern of truth. Their lives, actions, and attitudes provide a template for living that is worthy of imitation.

They show us our potential for greatness and our penchant for weakness and self-indulgence. We are better people when we emulate their strengths, and when we learn from their mistakes and flaws, we avoid trouble and calamity. This pattern of truth is regarded as the heart of classical education. The central concern is how we should live and what we need to know in order to have a good life. In this way, art and literature become the conduit for learning and true education. Hicks describes this phenomenon as follows:

By insisting upon descriptions conforming to a prescriptive pattern of truth, our cultural forebears made art and language the midwives of sound learning, while behaving, to our enlightened eyes, like tribal doctors intent on making the disease match their cure. They never hesitated to prescribe good manners and proscribe bad taste by falsifying the infallible proofs of their five senses. Fabricated descriptions, mere imaginative inventions in homage to the Ideal Type, served the chief aim of their education: imitatio Christi, the incarnation of a metaphor (Hicks, 4-5).

So, we answer normative questions by appealing to myth. We point to the incarnation of a metaphor as an answer to the most important questions that we can ask— questions about the meaning of life, the nature of a human being, the best way to live, and what is good and what
is evil. We find answers to the most important questions we can ask by reading Homer and Vergil and Dante and Dostoyevsky, but our greatest and most definitive resource for answers to these questions is the Bible. It is in Christ, the hero of the Bible, that we find the incarnation of the Logos, who gives our lives new meaning and provides us with perfect concepts of righteousness and justice and humanity. The highest form of education is to imitate Christ, the true Ideal Type, who shows us perfect humanity without the flaws of hubris or self-interest or a vengeful spirit.

This is how classical education is done. We begin with the normative questions. We find answers to these questions in studying, analyzing, and imitating the Ideal Type because this is where normative questions find their best and strongest answers. Then we can go on to ask and answer analytical questions so that our experience may become valuable to us. Once we have rightly answered the first questions, we can fulfill the true purpose of education:

The purpose of education is not the assimilation of facts or the retention of information, but the habituation of the mind and body to will and act in accordance with what one knows (Hicks 20).

True education helps us to make the connection between knowledge and action. It goes beyond teaching us what we can do to teaching us what we ought to do. True education is not merely descriptive but prescriptive. It insistently and adamantly points us toward imitation of the Ideal Type.

The single greatest problem of modern education is that the hierarchy of questions has been reversed. The analytical questions have been given precedence in progressive education, and they guide how normative questions are answered. The prescriptive understanding
of man, the Ideal Type, is dismissed and tossed aside. The aim of education becomes descriptive, but not prescriptive. Hicks states:

Now, the modern educator is apt to dismiss prevarications told in deference to an Ideal Type, while he condemns the arbitrariness of a prescriptive understanding of man. He presumes to have found a method for replacing it, at least initially, with a descriptive understanding. . . . So without much sober reflection, the early record is quietly dismissed as unscientific—therefore, error- ridden and useless. In its place, the educator erects a sort of science without reason, random induction predicated upon gnomic utterances like those of Marshall McLuhan: ‘Data accumulation leads to pattern recognition’ (Hicks, 5).

The accumulation of information does not constitute a real education. As C.S. Lewis once said, this practice of educating people without prescribing values may have the undesirable effect of creating more clever devils instead of producing people of substance and virtue. The primary problem here is that the link between knowledge and action is severed. There are no guiding principles, no virtues. Information alone does not lead us anywhere without the help of normative inquiry to instill value and to guide our journey. Without knowing where we are starting from and going to, a map does us no good regardless of the level of its detail and accuracy. Only normative inquiry can give us a sense of direction and purpose.

The Development of Style through Language (in the Context of Relationship)

Finally, there is much that can be said about how a classical education can develop a student’s style through language that has to do with the study of language itself—Latin, Greek, Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric and all the rest. However, I will conclude by highlighting a different aspect of this development—personal engagement in the correction and formation of the language of a student. When we are teaching a student how to wisely and eloquently articulate his or her thoughts, whether it is in speech or in writing or in a work of art, it is always most effectively done in the context of a relationship.

Each student brings his or her own unique challenges to a teacher. They do not all share the same favorite story. They do not all enjoy poetry. They do not all see the beauty of math. They do not all find illustrations from sports insightful or revealing. They do not all respond the same way to correction and constructive criticism. For some, lots of red ink on a page challenges them to work harder and dig deeper, for others it makes them want to give up. It is part of the job for a teacher to be judicious in his or her critique and encouragement to bring each student, as much as possible, in line with the Ideal Type.

In a classical education, the special nature of inquiry takes place within a relationship between teacher and student that goes beyond superficiality or perfunctory mechanical delivery. A teacher who is trying to develop style in a student through language will know something about how to motivate and direct that student in the most effective way. The point of common interest, the heart of that relationship between teacher and student, is the inquiry itself and the maieutic process by which a teacher brings a student to a maturity of style and expression as he or she engages the mythology of the Ideal Type.

Classical education is not tied to any particular historical era; its methods are timeless. It is a spirit of inquiry that is concerned first and foremost with normative questions that lead us to wrestle with truths about human nature and virtue. In this quest for meaning, we look to heroes who teach us how best to live our lives. The ultimate and best answers for life are found in Jesus Christ who most completely and prescriptively manifests to us the perfection of our fallen but redeemable selves. It is through the archetype of Christ that we learn how to effectively connect our knowledge to our actions and live with integrity and purpose.

Now We See in a Mirror Dimly

This summer there was a headline in my local paper that caught my eye. In large, bold, capital letters were the words, “FACING FACTS,” and then in bold type below that was the sub-heading, “Survey debunks negative opinion of teens and social media.” I wondered what negative opinion had been “debunked” and how the “debunking” had happened. So I read on.

The article explained that most teenagers (ages 13-17) have positive rather than negative experiences with social media. Social media platforms such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter have helped young people “keep in touch with their friends, get to know other students at their school better, or connect with those who share a common interest.” Also “half of teens said they feel social networks helped their friendships . . . Three out of 10 (sic.) teens said social networks made them feel more outgoing.” Other benefits listed in the article were that teens felt more confident, popular, and sympathetic to others as a result of spending time utilizing social media.

Some negative effects were mentioned too such as the “adult-like weariness” that teens can feel from the constant pressure to text or post something new on their Facebook page known as “Facebook fatigue.” Nevertheless, the general consensus of the article was that even though teenagers may be overindulging in social media a bit, it is helping them make friends and it is causing teens to feel better about themselves. Thus, the article concluded that, contrary to popular opinion, social media is basically good for teenagers rather than bad.

More specifically, according to the author, the negative opinion that has been discredited by this study is the “popular perception that using social-media sites is inherently harmful because of the dangers of isolation, bullying from peers, the release of private or personal information, or online predators.” Evidently, she thinks that the possibility of these dangers becoming a reality is so remote (only four percent of respondents reported a harmful effect of social media on their relationships) that we shouldn’t worry about them.

There are several problems with the claim of “debunking” that is being proffered in this article. First, it states that most people think that “using social media sites is inherently harmful.” In other words, the majority of people think that the use of social media sites inevitably results in some kind of harm for teenage users because of the dangers listed above. This opinion is offered without substantiation. However, this seems like an unreasonable claim. It may be that this is not a claim that needs to be “debunked” because it is a claim so extreme most people don’t really hold it.

Second, the author makes the assertion that social media was once thought to be inherently harmful, but now that opinion has been “debunked” by virtue of the fact that most teenagers report having a positive experience with it. However, this is something like saying that automobiles were once thought to be inherently harmful, but that perception has been “debunked” because the vast majority of teenagers do not have fatal accidents in them. This is a false portrayal of the issue. Using social media is not “inherently harmful” to everyone who utilizes it, but the dangers are real and need to be carefully avoided. An automobile is not inherently harmful either; not everyone who climbs into a car will get into an accident. But driving a car is a dangerous undertaking and care must be taken to avoid an accident. Just ask any parent who has recently placed his keys into the hand of a novice driver; the potential for disaster is enough to keep you awake at night even if the probability for a serious accident is relatively miniscule.

Third, this study, which was conducted by Common Sense Media, is based on self-reports from teenagers who are immersed in social media. The study itself states that “those who are immersed in social media may not be best positioned to assess whether it is having an impact on them or not.” It also warns that this kind of research is “useful for providing descriptive statistics and exploring associations between variables, but it cannot demonstrate causality between any of those variables.” So to draw the conclusion from this study that we no longer need to worry about the harmful effects of social media because most teenagers report having a positive experience with it is overreaching the scope of the evidence to say the least. The conclusion of the report states, “None of this means that there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to teens and social media. The concerns are real: about privacy, bullying, hate speech, body image, and oversharing, to name a few.”

So it is perhaps more accurate to say that there are some benefits to using social media, and there are some dangers that, if possible, need to be carefully avoided; however, this is merely stating the obvious. There is also a deeper sense in which social media and technology can have a negative effect on those who use it by chipping away at the kinds of interactions that make us most human. Social media offers the illusion of companionship without friendship, it promotes the de-incarnation of the bond between word and body, and it encourages interaction that is efficient and shallow rather than real and authentic.

Most of what I see on my Facebook page is trivial and superficial. By perusing profiles, I can often find out where my friends from high school live and where they work. Sometimes when I read their posts, I can get some idea of their political stances or religious views. I see pictures of their families, their pets, and their vacations,
but I don’t really know them anymore because I don’t see them face-to-face or talk to them on the phone. I don’t know what their lives have really been like, what they have suffered and what they have celebrated. They post witty sayings on their walls or funny pictures or videos. We share a laugh alone in front of our computer screens and then comment with an “lol” or click on the “like” button to show approval. Sometimes it even seems like we laughed at it together. Someone might post something sentimental that will put a lump in your throat or make your eyes well up, but the real stuff doesn’t get posted very often. Facebook isn’t designed to bear the weight of real life.

Shelly Turkle, the author of Alone Together, has said that one of the problems with social media is that “there’s this sense that you can have the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. The real demands of friendship, of intimacy, are complicated.” Friending and defriending someone on Facebook is accomplished with the click of a mouse; it is a process that is both sterile and uncomplicated. Real friendship demands time and attention. It is joyful and rich, but can also be painful for a host of different reasons. Real friendship can be as comfortable and warm as your favorite sweatshirt, but it can also be inconvenient and awkward. Social media, by its nature, removes much of what is required for true friendship to exist between two people. Friendship is best accomplished face to face in the real world without a cyber intermediary. Maybe there are some people on your Facebook “friends” list that you would call at four
in the morning in the midst of a personal crisis, but that is probably only because you spend a lot of time with them in real life.

Almost half of the young people (49%) who participated in this survey carried out by Common Sense Media prefer face to face encounters with friends over any form of social media interaction. They seem to realize that there is a distinction between Facebook friends and real friends without too much trouble. They understand that sharing a laugh in person is better and more fun that posting something witty online that you hope your friends will laugh at with you.

All forms of social media de-incarnate language. The nature of social media is to take language out of context by separating the words from the one who spoke or thought them. This is not a new problem; it is as old as written language, but technology has allowed written messages to occur instantly and often. When you write a letter by hand, you have more time to think about what you are going to say because it takes longer to do. If you say something that is difficult or confrontational or controversial in the letter, you also can take time to decide whether or not you should send the letter. If you send the letter you know that it is going to take some time for the person to receive the letter, and you can call and apologize before the letter gets to its intended destination if you  need to. However, when you can send a message with the click of a button in the heat of the moment without fully considering what you are saying, you can easily say things that you wish you had not said. For instance, twenty-five percent of teens admitted that they had said something bad about someone online or while texting that they would not have said in person.

This kind of separation of the word from the flesh that is inherent in social media can also encourage a sense of boldness or perhaps even wantonness that one would not otherwise have in a face-to-face encounter. Thirty-one percent of the teens surveyed revealed that they had flirted online with someone that they would not have approached in person. When you are using social media it is far too easy to have one face online and another in person.

Steve Baarendse has rightly pointed out that “so much of human communication lies in the incarnational bond between word and body. Think about the volumes conveyed by a piercing glance, an eye moistened with tears, a tender hand on the shoulder.” The human incarnation of language brings a great deal of context and meaning to language. The teens surveyed said that the top reason why face-to-face communication is preferred is because it is more fun, but second on the list was because you “can understand what people mean better.” Being there really does make a difference. As Baarendse says, “Pointed sarcasm or a tough word of confrontation can be tempered in person—the surgeon’s scalpel that cuts in order to heal—but these words are often blunt meat cleavers on Facebook.”

Perhaps the most disconcerting finding in the Common Sense Media survey is that one third of thirteen to seventeen year olds would rather text than talk to someone face to face. The basic reason they gave for this is that it is more efficient. Thirty percent of those who preferred texting said that it is the quickest and twenty- three percent said that it is the easiest. Sixteen percent said that it gave them more time to respond. Sherry Turkle also comments on this saying that texting “is less risky, (young people feel that they) can just get the information out there. (They) don’t have to get involved.” Texting someone can circumvent awkwardness that cannot be avoided in person. Cultivating friendships is demanding; it takes lots of negotiating. People use technology to skip and cut corners and to not have to do some of these very hard things. Turkle proposes that “this generation is given the option to not do some of the hardest things in adolescence.” She worries that they “are growing up without some basic skills in many cases.”

Texting rather than talking allows friendships to be more efficient, but it also means that friendships can become more mechanical and shallow, especially if texting is the primary vehicle for communication between friends. In order to have relationships that are real and authentic, face-to-face communication is necessary. Technology encourages face-to-screen communication. Next time you are in an airport take notice of how many people are absorbed in their laptops, tablets, or smartphones. People rarely even people-watch anymore; they are too riveted to their screens to even notice what is going on around them.

Using social media is not inherently harmful, but reasonable precautions are always advisable and even necessary to avoid the pitfalls of bullying, isolation, hate-speech, oversharing, and predators. The more subtle dangers that we need to be aware of are how it affects
our communication and our relationships. Among these hazards are the illusion of companionship without real friendship, the de-incarnation of the bond between word and body, and the temptation to move toward interactions that are efficient and shallow rather than real and authentic.

Cultivating the Affections of our High School Students in the Age of Lady Gaga

Our high school students live in a culture where narcissism, materialism, concupiscence, and relativism are nurtured and rewarded. This seminar will look at some practical ways that educators and administrators can cultivate the affections of our young people toward virtue in a world where this has never been a more difficult task.

Peter Vande Brake

Peter Vande Brake grew up in the southern states of Georgia and Tennessee, but attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was a four-time, All- American decathlete. He went to seminary at Union Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, and then did his doctoral work at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, obtaining a doctorate in systematic theology in 2000. He was ordained as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the PCUSA in 2001. Peter completed the Van Lunen Fellows Program for Executive Leadership in July of 2009. He taught, coached and administrated at North Hills Classical Academy from 1996 to 2010, and served as the Headmaster there beginning in 1998. He is a leadership consultant for the CiRCE Institute and works at The Potter’s House, an urban, Christ-centered school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is married and has two daughters.

Cultivating the Affections

Our job would be easy if all we had to do was transfer knowledge. If a student really were like an empty bucket that merely needed to be filled in order to be “educated,” then the hardest part of our task as teachers might be deciding what the most appropriate “filler” would be. The rest would just be an uncomplicated task of filling the bucket. But, of course, it isn’t so simple because the end of education is not knowledge retention or even thinking; it is acting based on what we know. In other words, we want our Christian classical schools to produce discerning, virtuous students who will act in accordance with the Good. This can only happen when we cultivate the affections of our students.

Jonathan Edwards defines affections as “the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul” (Edwards, 24). So when we are talking about cultivating the affections, we are talking about reaching the wills of our students as well as their minds. Thus, as David Hicks rightly states, “The noble intention of [the great teacher’s] teaching, like that of all great literature and art, is the antithesis of pornography: to move his students to will a moral act, as opposed to an immoral one” (Hicks, 73). The question is how do we do this? How can we move a student to will a moral act? There is, of course, no fool- proof way to ensure that a student will act morally of his or her own volition, but if we are going to make any head- way in this endeavor, then we must cultivate the affections; we do this by means of liturgy, love, and example.

We human beings are basically lovers, not knowledge receptacles. We are more apt to act on our affections than on our knowledge. We go with our gut. However, this does not mean that we are creatures that are entirely ruled by instinct. We are also creatures of habit. As James K. A. Smith has pointed out, we participate in various “cultural liturgies” that have the power to shape our desires. Smith has broadened the concept of liturgy to include any kind of formative practice in which we participate. To make this point in the introduction to his book, Desiring the Kingdom, Smith describes an outing to the mall in religious language as a form of a “cultural liturgy” in which many of us par- take from time to time. He affirms the power of these kinds of liturgies in the following way:

Liturgies—whether “sacred” or “secular”—shape and constitute our identities by forming our most fundamental desires and our most basic attune- ment to the world. In short, liturgies make us cer- tain kinds of people, and what defines us is what we love. They do this because we are the sorts of animals whose orientation to the world is shaped from the body up more than from the head down. Liturgies aim our love to different ends precisely by training our hearts through our bodies. . . . In short, every liturgy constitutes a pedagogy that teaches us, in all sorts of precognitive ways, to be a certain kind of person. Hence every liturgy is an education, and embedded in every liturgy is an implicit worldview or “understanding” of the world. (Smith, 25)

Thus, our affections and desires are trained by our schedules and rituals. This is also affirmed by Hicks in Norms and Nobility when he says that “the purpose of education is not the assimilation of facts or the retention of information, but the habituation of the mind and body to will and act in accordance with what one knows” (Hicks, 20). Education is not merely the vehicle for training the mind but also the way in which we bridle the heart.

So then, the kinds of liturgies or rituals or habits in which we participate on a daily basis are important because they shape us in significant ways. Liturgies cultivate the affections. The ways we choose to spend our time shape our desires and affections. The liturgies we observe on a daily basis serve as a kind of practice or training for decision-making and living. There are times that we know what to do because we have been trained to do it. For example, players on a basketball team know which lanes to fill on a fast break because they have done it in practice hundreds of times. Soldiers on the battlefield follow orders to put themselves in harm’s way because they have been intensively trained to overcome fear and press forward into certain danger. They don’t have to think about it or de- bate it, they know what to do, and they act in accordance with what they know.

If we want students who will be servant leaders, then we need to train them through a liturgy of servant leadership. We need to give them the opportunities to serve others. We need to find ways to help our students practice humility and instill a strong work ethic. We need to give students the chance to lead their peers in authen- tic ways. In order for students to act in accordance with what they know, they must be trained to know how to act. This involves the mind, but it also involves the will and the body. If our schools are only interested in training the minds of our students, then we are cheating them out of the most important facets of an education.

The second way in which we cultivate the affections of our students is by loving them. This love that we have for our students arises out of the task of mastering a body of knowledge together. This activity of learning pro- vides a common ground of friendship for the teacher and the student while also accentuating their unequal status (Hicks, 40-41). The love that a teacher has for a student is personal and exhibits itself in genuine concern for the well- being and proper formation of the heart of the child.

This concept of love of a teacher for his or her stu- dents is almost incomprehensible to the modern person be- cause of the frequent sensational stories of sexual scandals between teachers and students that are reported by the tabloid media. Most people in the age we live in are “un- able to distinguish between the erotic and the pornograph- ic, between the love that moves the spheres and enlightens men’s minds and a love kindled in the loins” (Hicks, 41). The proper love that a teacher has for his or her students is not sexual, but it is intimate because the concerns of clas- sical scholarship are fundamentally human and normative concerns that touch people’s lives and prepare them to live more fully in all the domains of their lives—the individual, the social, the religious (Hicks, 41-42). Hicks describes the fitting progression of the relationship between the teacher and student in this way:

The pupil becomes a part of the teacher’s own studies, his intimate relationship with the school- teacher making him, perforce, even more than an observer—an assistant and participant in the ongoing inquiry. A lively dialectic arises, educating both. In truth, such mutual learning is the un- avoidable, happy consequence of a profound and intimate relationship between the teacher and his pupil. (Hicks, 42)

The result of this relationship for the classroom is manifested in all students treating each other fairly and with respect. Students don’t put themselves or their own interests ahead of others, but they create an environment where people can flourish. Love engenders trust. If a student trusts his or her teacher then the teacher can be much more effective as a guide and a mentor to the will of a student.

Finally, we teach our students to will moral choices by being an example to them. If we profess to teach the knowledge that makes a person virtuous and wise, then our lives need to illuminate our teaching (Hicks, 41). Our students learn more from our actions than our words. The commander who leads his men into battle cultivates their affections much more deeply than the one who calls in a plan of attack over the radio. A teacher who embodies hu- mility and self-sacrifice will always have attentive pupils.

In The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis compares teachers educating children to grown birds teaching fledglings how to fly. The grown birds do this by example and by pushing the young birds out of the nest—beyond their comfort zone and beyond what they think they can handle. Lewis says that this kind of teaching is an act of “propagation.” It is the “transmitting of manhood to men” (Lewis, 23). This act of propagation is what gives shape and integrity to the “chest” or “middle element” between the cerebral man and the visceral man where the emotions are organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. He says that this middle element is where “man is man: for by his intellect he is merely spirit and by his appetite mere animal” (Lewis 24-25).

Cultivating the affections of a child by living as an example of virtue before him or her is propagating virtue in that child. It is teaching a child to will a moral choice instead of an immoral one. It is by this modeling and through the work of the Holy Spirit that the conscience is formed, and good choices are made.

Classical schools educators must not only strive to harness the power of the intellect but also to bridle the heart. Through cultivation of the affections, we help our students steer their desires in the right direction. Our work is much more agricultural than industrial in its nature. We need to think much more like farmers than factory workers. We cultivate, we sow, we weed, and we tend. In this way we form, direct, nurture, and grow the affections of the children that we love.

Book Review: Generation Me and The Narcissim Epidemic

Conventional wisdom would seem to support the proposition that if you raise a child’s self- esteem, then she will get better grades, she will be more likely to treat others with kindness and respect, and she will not be so prone to surrender to common adolescent peer pressures that lead to engagement in premarital sex, binge drinking, and use of illicit drugs. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is dead wrong. As Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell prove by their painstaking research, the preoccupation with raising children’s self-esteem has helped young people feel really good about themselves and their accomplishments (regardless of the quality of those accomplishments), but it has no direct correlation to any kind of improvement in academic performance, relationships, or moral fortitude.

Instead, the focus on raising self-esteem has achieved a marked increase in the level of narcissism in our society. “Narcissism is one of the few personality traits that psychologists agree is almost completely negative” (Twenge 68).

The attempt to improve our children by raising their self-esteem has not only produced full-blown narcissists, but it has led to a much higher level of narcissistic behaviors and attitudes in young people than at any point in our history. Instead of trying to instill the virtues of tenacity, perseverance, and a strong work ethic that will naturally bring about a healthy, earned sense of self-esteem, there has been a concerted attempt to preserve a false self-esteem at all costs by eliminating competition (trophies for everyone), offering unconditional validation, and endorsing the unrealistic sense of the “special” nature of each individual.

The full title of Twenge’s first book is Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Con dent, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before. Twenge’s moniker of “GenMe” is descriptive of this generation of young people in two ways. It gives a nod to the Microsoft Millennium Edition (Me) operating system that came out in 2000 (when many in this generation were coming of age and flooding college campuses), and it refers to the inordinate self-absorption that this segment of the population exhibits. If it seems like this generation of young people is more sel sh, entitled, and demanding than past generations, it is because they really are. They didn’t get this way all by themselves.

Societal forces, educational curricula, and parents have continually drilled the GenMe population with the mantra that each one of them is “special.” “Teacher training courses often emphasize that a child’s self-esteem must be preserved above all else” and that “creating
a positive atmosphere is more important than correcting mistakes” (Twenge, 57, 61-62). Competitive games have been outlawed on school playgrounds during recess; city recreation programs have done away with keeping score in children’s games; and bestowing academic awards has ceased because adults fear that a child’s self-esteem may be damaged if he or she experiences a loss. The fact that a child feels good about himself has generally been deemed to be more important than a good performance (Twenge 56-57). The number of students reporting an “A” average has jumped to 48% in 2004 as compared with 18% in 1968, even though SAT scores have declined over this same period and students report spending less time studying (Twenge, 62-63).

The ripple effect of all of these self-esteem preserving practices has had a plethora of far- reaching consequences. Many young people have an inflated self-opinion that goes unchallenged until they try to get into a selective college or they attempt to get a job in a competitive work force. These attempts often result in what Twenge has termed “Adulthood Shock” (Twenge, 7). Young people relate to the world on their own terms and feel that the world should conform to them instead of having to conform to it. Self-expression and personal opinion are greatly valued by this generation, and this often finds physical manifestation in an assortment of tattoos and body piercings. Relationships among this group have also been significantly affected. Marriage is something that happens later in life if at all. “Hooking up” has replaced the archaic practice of “dating,” and sex has become a recreational activity rather than a creational act. They meet, chat, and promote themselves on Facebook and YouTube. The internet has provided the perfect platform to accelerate narcissistic tendencies. Twenge and Campbell’s book, The Narcissism Epidemic, devotes a chapter to the influence of the internet and social networking that Twenge had only touched on in her first book. Social networking was barely in its infancy when her first book was published in 2006.

“Self-esteem is an outcome, not a cause,” Twenge ultimately professes, “In other words, it doesn’t do much good to encourage a child to feel good about himself just to feel good; this doesn’t mean anything” (Twenge, 67). What we really should have been aiming at to get the desired outcomes was what Twenge terms “self-control” which she defines as “the ability to persevere and keep going” (Twenge, 68). “Children high in self- control make better grades and finish more years of education, and they’re less likely to use drugs or have a teenage pregnancy. Self-control predicts all of those things researchers had hoped self-esteem would, but hasn’t” (Twenge, 67). In fact, Twenge and Campbell found that the ethnic group with the lowest measured self-esteem, Asian-Americans, is the group with the highest level of academic performance and highest level of employment.

Both of these books provide copious information on the characteristics and tendencies of Generation Me. They roundly condemn the methods that have been used to raise self-esteem as wrong-headed and even detrimental. “The self-esteem movement . . . is popular because it is sweetly addictive: teachers don’t have to criticize, kids don’t have to be criticized, and everyone goes home feeling happy. The problem is they also go home ignorant and uneducated” (Twenge, 67).

If you are a teacher, a parent, or an administrator, you already know this generation well because you live with them every day. Twenge and Campbell will help you to understand them better. They don’t merely identify the disease brought on by the self-esteem movement and the inevitable narcissism that results; they also offer some ways to cure the illness. Most of them boil down to loving our children in a healthy way. This means telling our children that we love them rather than telling them that they are “special,” and it means allowing our children to fall down so that they learn to get up and try again.

Worldview and Media

Your students are going to movies, watching TV, reading magazines, listening to music, and “facebooking” on the internet. Are they putting any thought and reflection into any of these activites, or are they just letting popular media wash over them without attempting to discern or examine the cultural influences all around them? Worldview training and cultural discernment are vital for a classically trained student in American society. This seminar shows you how to get your students to think about what they are seeing and listening to from a Christian perspective. 

Peter Vande Brake

Headmaster, North Hills Christian Academy, Grand Rapids, MI

Dr. Vande Brake holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Calvin College, an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Calvin Theological Seminary. Dr. Vande Brake has served as a teacher, coach, and administrator at North Hills Christian Academy, becoming headmaster in 1998. He is the secretary for SCL board and serves on the CiRCE Institute board of directors.

Real Biblical Integration in the Classroom

If we really want to integrate biblical principles into our subject matter, we need to go beyond proof texts, devotions, or prayers to begin class. Biblical thought needs to be woven into the fabric of our subject matter and into the way we think and teach. This seminar will look at practical ways to make sure that our biblical worldview impacts our classrooms.

Peter Vande Brake

Dr. VandeBrake holds a B.A in Philosophy from Calvin College, a M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA, and a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Calvin Theological Seminary. Dr. Vande Brake has served as a teacher, coach, and administrator at North Hills Christian Academy, becoming headmaster in 1998. He is the secretary for the SCL board and serves on the CiRCE Institute board of directors.