The Headmaster Unpacks Ends Policies

Focus

Focus on ENDS

When the Board of Directors voted unanimously to amplify ENDS Policies, as Headmaster I sought to unpack each statement to help all school constituencies understand the significance of the Board’s action and how it would affect staff planning and day-to-day operation. Praise God for the strategic thinking of the Board. The amended ENDS section of the Board Policy Governance Manual follows with the instructional essay.

Board Policy 1.0 Ends Policies

The mission of The Academy (TA) is to educate youth in a historic Christian worldview through a vigorous classical curriculum. The goal of TA is to train ethical leaders and wise thinkers who will shape culture for the glory of God. An end of The Academy is to develop Christian learning communities where teachers and learners of all ages collaborate in the development of a Christian mind.

Later other ENDS policies were added as well.

An end of The Academy is to develop multiple locations in the Metroplex as feasible so that constituents need travel less, learn more and have a better opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with each other.

An end of TA is that these communities would not only serve themselves but also serve their greater communities for the glory of God and the advancement of a culturally engaged Christian faith.

An end of TA is to explore development of such communities regionally and nationally as the Lord leads. Later it was determined this ENDS policy better achieved through a separate organization which opened in 2010.

Please allow me to briefly explain the first three ENDS policies. More space will be provided to elaborate on worldview and classical education in the section on The Headmaster as Head Teacher. Other institutions will adopt differing ENDS policies, mission and purpose statements that then require The Headmaster to take the lead in kneading them into the dough of  The Academy all the time.

Focus

Focus

Ends Policy Number One

Ends Policy number one in the The Academy Policy Governance Manual states that “The Academy educates youth in a historic Christian worldview through a vigorous classical curriculum.” From the first informal discussions about starting an academy, Christian worldview dominated thinking about the underpinnings and critique of a classical curriculum. We realized then and now the necessity of commonness of perspective while allowing a range of thoughtful application. The teacher approaching the Iliad of Homer as a modernist will find the words of the story remain the same but the critique will differ from that of a Christian with a consciously held biblical world and life view.

The Academy accepts Al Wolters’ Creation Regained and its derivative works as an answer to the question, “What is a Christian worldview?” To assure reasonable agreement on critique of a vigorous classical curriculum all members of The Academy College of Faculty accept and teach from the general thesis of this 100-page book. “In print for two decades and translated into eight languages, Albert Wolters’ classic formulation of an integrated Christian worldview has been revised and expanded to reach new readers beyond the generation that has already benefited from this clear, concise proposal for transcending the false dichotomy between sacred and secular. Wolters begins by defining the nature and scope of a worldview, distinguishing it from philosophy and theology. He then outlines a Reformed analysis of the [four] basic categories in human history creation, fall, redemption, [and consummation] arguing that while the fall reaches into every corner of the world, Christians are called to participate in Christ’s redemption of all creation. This Twentieth Anniversary edition features a new concluding chapter, coauthored with Michael Goheen, that helpfully places the discussion of worldview in a broader narrative and missional context.” I hope it goes without saying the many other authors provide a growing library of works on Christian world and life view and that Creation Regained was chosen simply to provide a brief and common rubric not as the only or a total treatment of the subject.

Ends Policy number one in The Academy Policy Governance Manual states that “The Academy educates youth in a historic Christian worldview through a vigorous classical curriculum.” Repeatedly the Curriculum Director stresses that children can learn much more than most people think they can learn when given a motivating school and home environment with high expectations. No wonder No wonder TA provides a vigorous learning environment, classical pedagogy and a liberal arts curriculum in the classroom and at home.

Learning at TA compares better to rock climbing than canoeing among the mangroves. It takes confidence, training, equipment, skill and encouragement to reach the top where graduates consistently find success pursuing their post secondary goals. Aware this means teachers cannot lower the bar, parents support with encouragement and refuse to wilt when their children experience temporary lapses in pursuit of the summit – do not look down – just keep climbing! Classical pedagogy subscribes to a timeless approach to developing a sharp, disciplined mind while educational content embraces the seven liberal arts and theology. By employing the classical trivium, students learn the grammar or knowledge of each field of study. They progress to think logically and reason skillfully and then to persuade artfully through rhetoric. Moreover, in the four arts of the quadrivium they study mathematics and the sciences as reflections of the created order, the arts as an expression of humane soulfulness and godly order, especially music as known to the Greeks as harmonics. Added to the seven liberal arts is theology as what some called the queen of the sciences.

Finally, they view the body as integrated as part of human fullness through health, conditioning and athletics.

The view from the top is worth the climb. At TA the curriculum director and I lectured regularly on classical pedagogy. Additionally we elaborated on The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory, An Introduction to Classical Education by Christopher Perrin, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson and other publications to constantly remind all constituencies of our classical learning distinctives.

Focus

Focus

Ends Policy Number Two

ENDS policy number two states, “It is the goal of The Academy to train ethical leaders and wise thinkers who will shape culture for the glory of God.” This lofty goal combines the need for ethics and wisdom in the classical education of children. One does not need to look far to find supremely educated thinkers and leaders that seem to lack one or both of these qualities. While some schools employ what they call a character curriculum, we choose to draw out these characteristics by affirmative and negative examples from Homer, the Old and New Testaments, to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza and the characters of The Canterbury Tales. With guidance of teachers and parents, ethics in leadership and wisdom in thinking develops over a long period of years.

Focus

Focus

Ends Policy Number Three

ENDS policy number three states “The Academy is to develop Christian learning communities where teachers, and learners of all ages collaborate in the development of a Christian mind.” The education of children for God as the most important business on earth fits well within this end and so does the lifelong learning of teachers, parents, administrators, board members and anyone else associated with or influenced by The Academy. The board amplified its ENDS Policies to include this idea as an expected outcome or purpose of TA to emphasize the transformational quality of a motivated learning environment for all ages. On our employment application, we ask of all applicants for teaching, coaching and administrative positions, “Of all of the books you have read in the last six months, which one has influenced you the most and why?” I know when I conducted admission interviews I would ask a similar question of parents and older students. Truly all Academy constituencies must read.

To this end one year we established Gateway to the Great Books as our annual Classical Educators Training theme. Three Great Books university professors and experienced TA faculty presented plenary sessions and workshops to teach all teachers and some parents how to conduct Great Books discussions using the proven Shared Inquiry approach. We inaugurated a parent – faculty Great Books discussion group just after founding the academy to provide a forum for continuous learning. All constituencies participate in the Coram Deo Christian learning community and as a result three generations continue their classical education including students, parents, faculty, administrators and board members.

Further I emphasized The Academy as a Christian Learning Community with Right Relationships. “Behold how good and how pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity” Psalm 133:1 Each year we strove together to spread peace through relationships and joy exhibited over the good things at TA. We celebrated Coram Deo Academy as a Christian learning community, where teachers and learners of all ages collaborate to develop Christian minds. To be successful in our educational endeavors all constituencies, students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators, board members, advisors and donors, must build relationships and work together.

Anecdotal evidence of pervasively edifying environments at TA campuses abounded, but we knew there would be disagreements between constituencies from time to time. We needed to concentrate on edification and use a biblical approach to improvement and resolving difficulties. Truly, the glass is much more than half-full.

Jesus and Paul assumed that believers would have disagreements and provided a sensible pattern to restore or improve relationships and institutions rather than tear them down (Matt. 5:23, 24; Matt. 18-15-20; Luke 17:3, 4; 2 Co. 12:20 etc). None of us is perfect. Each of us needs adjustment from time to time to grow in Christ and grow professionally to the glory of God. However, we should never engage in unedifying speech that degrades an imperfect, but good work, for God. Rather, we should follow the biblical pattern for handling difficulties. For this to succeed each of us must refuse to listen to, or make a complaint against a fellow believer without that person present, and we must never backbite with social media that soils the reputation of a brother or sister in Christ. This fellow believer could be another parent, or a student, he/she could be a school secretary, a child’s teacher a coach, administrator, board member or donor. Anyone with a legitimate concern must follow a biblical approach to resolution for the edification of the Christian community.

The biblical process works something like this. The complainant should prayerfully and politely approach the fellow believer in a one-on-one setting to inquire as to his/her perspective on a matter of concern. Often polite communication will resolve a misunderstanding which when cleared up relieves the complaint. Do not allow email outbox courage to masquerade as a virtue. For example, when a child has a complaint against another Christian, a parent should listen intently to his/her child, but should not act against that teacher/parent/student etc. based solely on the child’s testimony. Before assuming truthfulness, verify the story by hearing the accused’s side without treating the child or anyone else as a false witness. A child, or for that matter an adult, can have a stake in knowingly or unconsciously biasing his/her perception of a situation to work for his/her own advantage. When I was a classroom teacher, I remember repeating this adage to parent after parent, “I won’t believe everything your child tells me about you if you won’t believe everything your child tells you about me.” We do this in our families all the time. What father would immediately act against his dear wife on a child’s accusation against his/her mother without first politely verifying the story. Likewise, we should not rush to judgment against our friends, associates or a Christian teacher.

I fear when we judge another quickly we adopt the unbiblical conflict-based approach to complaint resolution prevalent in the American world of commerce. For some reason we feel justified in belligerence against the person behind the customer service counter or on the phone. This ought not to be so at a retail outlet or at a Christian school. Legitimate complaints may require corrective action. I hope that a Christian appropriately approached will not behave defensively, but responsively. If not, or if the parties differ on a matter of policy or opinion, the complainant should peacefully appeal to the next level of administration. The administrator should then moderate a meeting between the parties with the hope of peaceful resolution.

This dispassionate and biblical approach of believers one to another will build community and improve the quality of education at Coram Deo Academy. The school and the families with children attending the school must view one another as on the same team. Members of a successful team work together. May the Lord help us all dwell together patiently and in unity.

Conclusion

As Headmaster it was incumbent on me as the head teacher to explain the expansion of ENDS policies so they would become animating aspects of Academy life not just sit in the minute book. We articulated END 1) The mission of The Academy is to educate youth in a historic Christian worldview through a vigorous classical curriculum, 2) The goal of TA is to train ethical leaders and wise thinkers who will shape culture for the glory of God and END 3) An END of The Academy is to develop Christian learning communities where teachers, and learners of all ages collaborate in the development of a Christian mind. Since repetition is a key to good learning through various meetings and media, all TA constituencies were to remind one another of these ENDS and seek to employ their energies toward their fulfillment.

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