Article VII: The Headmaster Unpacks the School’s Mission, Vision and Ends statements
When the Board of Directors of Coram Deo Academy, which I founded in 1999, 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 CDA Board Policy Governance Manual follows with the instructional essay.
Board Policy 1.0 Ends Policies
- The mission of Coram Deo Academy is to educate youth in a historic Christian worldview through a vigorous classical curriculum.
- The goal of CDA is to train ethical leaders and wise thinkers who will shape culture for the glory of God.
- An end of Coram Deo 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 Coram Deo Academy is to develop multiple locations in the Dallas/Fort Worth 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 Coram Deo Academy 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 Coram Deo Academy is to explore development of such communities regionally and nationally as the Lord leads. Determined later, this ENDS policy was 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.
Ends Policy number one in the Coram Deo Academy Policy Governance Manual states that “Coram Deo 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.
Coram Deo Academy accepts Al Wolters’, Creation Regained 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 Coram Deo 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 that 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 total treatment of the subject.
Ends Policy number one in the Coram Deo Academy Policy Governance Manual states that “Coram Deo Academy educates youth in a historic Christian worldview through a vigorous classical curriculum.” Repeatedly the Coram Deo 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 CDA provides a vigorous learning environment, classical pedagogy and a liberal arts curriculum in the classroom and at home.
Learning at CDA 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 that 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, known to the Greeks as harmonics. Added to the seven liberal arts is theology as what some called the queen of the sciences.
Finally, we 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 CDA 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.
ENDS policy number two states, “It is the goal of CDA 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 the guidance of teachers and parents, ethics in leadership and wisdom in thinking develop over a long period of years.
ENDS policy number three states “Coram Deo 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 Coram Deo Academy. The board amplified its ENDS Policies to include this idea as an expected outcome or purpose of CDA to emphasize the transformational quality of a motivated learning environment for all ages. On our employment application, we ask 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 Coram Deo 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 CDA 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 Coram Deo 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 Coram Deo Academy. 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 CDA 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 for improvement and resolving difficulties. Truly, the glass is much more than half-full.
The Headmaster’s duty to knead mission, vision or ends policies into the dough of the entire Christian learning community cannot be overemphasized as mission drift over time is one of the primary causes of entropy at any institution. I encourage Headmasters everywhere to continually repeat, publish and exercise these vital statements in everyway possible.
Strategic Thinking and Planning
And many more