Alert educators do well to reflect upon the many rituals of day-school education, testing them along the lines of this matrix. For example, a school might establish the ordered habit of having students stand when an adult enters the classroom, a thick habit that fosters respect. That same school might discover upon reflection that the lunchroom is pure chaos between 11 and 12:30 pm, assuming that how we eat is a thin habit that can be ignored. Habits are uneven and often work at cross purposes to one another.
In Part 2 Dr. Smith takes up the specific question of worship and its relevance to the educational endeavor. He admits that many attempts at formative influences in the affective domain are not explicitly religious. Noteworthy is the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, which overtly borrows religious architecture for an
overtly secular purpose. Nevertheless, such influences are implicitly religious insofar as they mimic religious worship in their power and invitation to a way of being. Christian worship therefore should be considered as a precursor to education, if not its mainspring. At this point, many K-12 educators in classical, Christian schools will find DTK less helpful, but only because they may labor in contexts in which worship is excluded from the weekly or daily regimen of their independent, Christian school. DTK does not assert that chapel should be in your program. More broadly, he maintains that if man is fundamentally homo liturgicus, then what we worship—and most importantly— how we worship moves front and center and should not be overlooked.
This leads to a lengthy evaluation of worship in general, and, judging from the context, reformed worship in particular, although this may be misstating the case. Drawing upon diverse sources that form a broader historical point of view (Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of the World, for example), Dr. Smith clearly advocates a return to an overtly sacramental view of worship and the world, which those of us in the Anglican tradition, myself included, or other liturgical traditions, would welcome.
The project weakens at this point, however, for, in spite of its length, his treatise on worship is less coherent than the first section. There is plenty to tweak the sensibilities of those in the reformed tradition, whom he assumes will not only be unfamiliar with the terminology, but experientially removed and, therefore, resistant to his liturgical proposals. Those in Orthodox, Anglican, or Catholic traditions—all of which are represented on the faculties of classical, Christian schools—will applaud the effort but leave feeling that the book only makes a good start in the right direction.
These are mild criticisms to which I would add that the book is written to the educated reader, and some will find it unnecessarily complex. While the writing style is clear, it often feels like driving down a washboard dirt road. It is heavily footnoted to the extent that the fine print is almost a book within a book. At times the attempts at emphasis or clarity bleed into redundancy. At other times it seems that the harder word could be replaced with the simpler one with a salutary effect.
Finally, there are oblique references to a variety of issues that are in current debate in the author’s circles, which may or may not attract attention from a casual reader. Nevertheless, they may clang on some ears. Two are worth mentioning, as in the reference to “the minister [who] raises her hands, and we stretch out ours to receive (emphasis mine)” (207). Okay, maybe in his church she is the minister and that’s normal; it’s not in mine. Dr. Smith is not even arguing the point, but one wonders at whom he is throwing the elbow. Perhaps more serious is the following explanatory comment which really doesn’t explain: “I don’t mean to communicate an alarmist fear of culture in the spirit of the ‘culture wars’ (which, by the way, I think are often tilting at windmills rather than targeting the real, substantive threats to Christian discipleship—fixated on gay marriage but eagerly affirming capitalism)” (126). This reviewer doesn’t think that opposing gay marriage is tilting at windmills or that it is such a great trespass to affirm free markets.
No author expects that you will agree on every point, even in serious matters. In DTK, Dr. Smith has given voice to what many classical, Christian educators have been thinking for a long time. Education is not merely the transfer of information from teacher to student, but the shaping of a whole person. If you wish to reflect on how that process might proceed, DTK is a very good place to begin the conversation.