Biblical, Christian Schools have had more of an impact on educational development than most people realise.
Christian Schools have always been keen to express their purpose through Mission and Vision Statements – the majority of schools everywhere, faith based or not, now have some form of purpose statements.
Most Christian Schools have service learning programs – a growing number of schools everywhere have adopted this position.
The majority of Christian Schools have a defined set of values that help to shape the nature of their communities and a vast number of schools around the world now readily proclaim their key values.
Those who know me, will realise that my critical question is always “Why?”. So, why have a set of values? Why choose the values that we choose?
Greek philosophers talked frequently of the values of a good society. They disagreed concerning why these values were important and the origins of such values. Protagoras, for example, suggested that, when discussing Truth – “humans are the measure of all things” – so the understanding of values for him, and many people since, is relative.
Plato attempted to see things more objectively, insisting that some values were “constant”. He was however, never able to satisfactorily give a good argument for such a claim. He tended to suggest that God (or other gods) did not initiate good values and behaviours, but endorsed them when He (they) saw them!
More recently, world leaders such as Benjamin Franklin, compiled a list of values that he saw as important, and he made strong efforts to build them into his life. He identified thirteen examples which he thought would cause a person to live morally. We could conclude that he did the right thing, for the wrong reasons. It would be reasonable to say that self-imposed values, without clear origins and purposes, simply results in a moralism.
The Gospel writers, as well as Paul, in his letters, spend much time helping us to see that legalism is not a consequence of what we do, but more an outcome of why we do it. Legalism rears its head when we attempt to determine moral status, for ourselves or others, simply by conformity to rules.
In our school communities we need to be careful in the identification of our values and encouragement of their practice, that we are not simply developing a humanist moralism. Is there something we need to understand before we consider values? Let’s explore that next week.