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Posted on May 1, 2009

Curriculum as Kaleidoscope

by Bill deJager, SCSBC Director of Curriculum and Instruction  ◊  

A child is born. Immediately curriculum begins:

  • cloth or disposable diapers?
  • classical or pop music on the radio?
  • the soft lullaby or the mindless banter and numbing laugh track of prime-time TV?
  • left to cry after a feeding and changing or quickly rocked and cradled?
  • no-name buys and hand-me downs or designer clothes for kids?
  • parented by a house-dad or day care?

Every parental assumption and action, intentional or otherwise, becomes an incremental piece of a kaleidoscopic pattern of the what, the how, the why and the who of understanding reality and living life. It becomes curriculum for that child.

Whether they wish to admit it or not, all parents are God’s creatures, created to:

  • “reflect the nature and character of God [or a god of their own choosing] in their lives”,1
  • “commune and fellowship with God [or a god of their own choosing]”, 2
  • “develop the ability to creatively and righteously care for the creation [or misuse it for their own selfish needs]”, 3
  • “demonstrate their love to God and to fellow human beings in all appropriate ways”4 [or just to themselves], and
  • “become reconciling, redemptive agents [or self-absorbed consumers] working on God’s behalf [or a god of their own choosing].”5

All parents are God’s creatures.

So are their children.

Contrary to the prevailing assumption in our Western culture, knowledge is the fruit of God’s truth, with its roots of Scripture, the created universe and the person of Jesus Christ. Although rationality is a powerful and useful tool for acquiring knowledge, it has limitations. There is a mystery of knowing beyond the rational mind that our Western culture finds difficult to understand. That mystery of knowing is revealed with intuition, experience, “gut-feel” and a faith in the working of the Holy Spirit within the hearts of God’s people. There must be an acceptance that one’s knowledge of reality can be broadened, deepened and enriched, but it will only be an incomplete rendition of Ultimate Reality-God Himself, the Truth, the Light and the Way.

In some cultures, historically or even today, parents retain the responsibility of curriculum until their children reach adulthood. Then, with new parents and new children, the curriculum begins again.

In our Western culture, a few parents retain the complete responsibility of curriculum by home schooling. For the vast majority of parents, their children are sent to a school, necessitating a curricular partnership.

Christian parents who partner with the secular public school need to be well aware of the underlying disparity between their basic assumptions of life and those of each teacher with whom their child comes in contact. Their child will be exposed to a curriculum that fluctuates from school to school and from teacher to teacher. Christian parents also should be well aware of that those schools and teachers probably share some common values: an unspoken faith in rationality, the growing goodness of human nature, and the autonomy of persons.6

Historically, many Christian parents have partnered with Christian schools: some hoping for a safe haven from the secular school, some expecting and insisting on academic excellence, some demanding only “Christian” curriculum, and some assuming that learning and knowing would be done in the context of schooling for responsive discipleship.

Based on my own experience working in Christian high schools, I believe in Christian schools that provide a culture and curriculum that develops responsive discipleship.7

Responsive discipleship must be reflected in an increasing degree of authentic responsibility expected of students. An effective step in providing a more authentic, meaningful, and experiential curriculum within a high school setting would be providing ownership and accountability for a multitude of tasks, currently performed by adults, that could be done by our teenagers.

Curriculum planning must be a dynamic craft, carefully and creatively selected and arranged by teachers working together. Curriculum crafters will be very aware of understanding their purpose, knowing their audience, and speaking their audience’s language. Besides efficient process and mastery, curriculum implementation will include engagement and the experiential.

Curriculum is much more than courses and classes; it is evident in every school’s culture – in the official policies, handbooks and administrative directives, and also in the underlying unspoken acceptance of how staff and students all will live together as they teach and learn.

The principal is pivotal in establishing a school’s culture and curriculum. Her interest in truly shaping culture and curriculum has a profound effect – “As goes the queen, so goes the country.”

Her leadership in the selection and arrangement of the cultural and curricular “bits and pieces” within the kaleidoscope of a school community will determine the infinite possibilities of design when her school in held up in the Light.

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