Like it or not, understand it or not, ignore it or not, worldview has a huge impact on our classrooms. It is more influential than curriculum than the ability of the teacher, than the tools that are used within the school and more influential than the environment of the school. It is more influential than all the above as it is our worldview that determines our approach and adoption of each of the above factors.
In education, we have two big questions which need to be at the forefront of our thinking.
1. What do my students need to learn? Now?
2. What is the best way to get each of them there?
The answers to each of these questions have several influences. The answer to the second question is primarily influenced by the teachers understanding of their individual students. The better the teacher knows each student’s learning preference, attention span, passion, cognitive ability, interests and curriculum strengths the better the teacher will be able to engage each student in the learning process. The teacher knowing what engages their student is key to answering the second question.
Expectations and processes of behaviour management are also involved in answering this question. In establishing the ‘best way to get them there’, the teachers will have an expectation about the climate or classroom environment which will allow all students to learn.
The answer to the question, ‘What do each of my students needs to learn' is influenced by both the teacher’s understanding of curriculum for their students current academic level and secondly through meaningful and timely formative assessment. While curriculum and assessment influence the answer to the first question the first question is ultimately grounded in a worldview.
Our worldview determines the answers we give to life deepest questions. Where did man come from? Why are we here? Where do we go when we die? These are all foundational questions to life and purpose. The better we can articulate our views of these questions the more consistent we will be in our lives and interactions with others. The better we can articulate our worldview, the better we can determine the answer to life other questions.
If we believe that we are all created equal and have a responsibility to serve our ‘neighbour’ we are likely to be open to sponsoring a child in Africa. On the other hand, if we believe we are here on earth to fulfil our own purposes, internalising a, ‘he with the most toys wins’ philosophy to life, we will be much less likely to spend our own money on someone who we have never met. Like it or not our philosophical grounding determines our decision making on a daily basis.
To explore this concept in the classroom it is good to explore some contrasting worldviews and their impact in the classroom. In order to do this it is good to consider the following seven questions;
- How did we get here?
- Who are we?
- Why are we here?
- What (if anything) is truth?
- Who am I?
- Who are you?
- Where do we go?
1. How did we get here?
People have many different views about the origins of mankind. Our own belief of origins will have a vast impact on the way we treat both ourselves and others around us. At complete odds with views which ‘contrast’ whether we arrived here by either chance or design. One belief is that we are designed and created by a loving and living God. Each person individually designed and purposed. Each of us designed and purposed for not only such a place as this but also for such a time as this. A contrasting belief is that there was once a happening in deep space where there was a big bang and as a result of chance earth was placed just the right distance from the sun in order that life would flourish. Furthermore, as chance has it man evolved over time and by chance you and I are here on Earth, right now. One a belief of deliberate purpose and the other a belief in chance. It is understandable that people holding to contrasting views do not understand the core decisions each makes in life.
2. Who are we? (Mankind)
Who we believe we are will greatly determine the value we place on ourselves. Our identity is greatly determined by our answer to the first question, ‘How did we get here?” If our worldview was that we are here as a result of a chance event such as the ‘big bang’, it stands to reason that mankind has no purpose, no reason for existence other than to do the best we can with the time we have. Conversely, if we believe that we are here as a result of design and purpose it stands to reason that mankind has a purpose.
Fulfilment comes through an understanding of mankind’s purpose and design.
The book of Genesis states that we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). To be made in the image of God speaks of design. Dick Staub (see link below) claims that is being made in the image of God there are six defining characteristics that underpin the design of mankind.
As we are designed in the image of God we are:
- Spiritual beings
- Able to communicate
- Morally Responsible
Arguably fulfilment is lost when we neglect any one of the above design features which God included in our creation.
Here is a good article which unpacks what it really means to be made in the image of God.
As humans, the need for morality is understandable if we are designed with moral responsibility. However, if we believe mankind evolved from a chance happening and a series of evolution, with no purpose or design what argument can be held for the need for morals. If we are a product of animals it would make sense that we mate with and murder whoever we like when we like, just as animals do. Understanding our origins enables us to differentiate our lives from the lives of animals.
On the topic of animals and evolution. If we do hold to a belief that we, intelligent beings, evolved from unintelligent beings, that is monkeys, we need to consider this belief in its fulness. Evolution by definition is not a one-off event. What, in this worldview is stopping dogs from evolving into intelligent lifeforms with a desire for leadership and power. What, in this worldview would stop ‘currently’ unintelligent animals from one day wanting to take over the world. Following this evolutionary belief completely would position the human race at risk of being overrun, not by extraterrestrial beings or alien invasion (another worldview), but we risk being overrun by our own pets.
3. Why are we here? (Purpose)
Dawkins, an Oxford evolutionary biologist claims that “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference” (cited Zubrin, 2007)
Think about something that you have recently done voluntarily. Something that you have not done because your job made you do it. Ask yourself, ‘why did I do it?’, then of that answer, ask yourself, why is that important to me? And a third time, why is that important to me? As you dig deeper and deeper into your motivations you begin to reveal your worldview.
Bellman observes that our ‘purpose is related to our incompleteness’ (Bellman, 1996).
Arguably the wisest king of all time, King Solomon considered everything under the sun and determined that it was and is meaningless, futile and in vain. Solomon discusses ten vanities—ten things that are “meaningless” when considered from the limited point of view of “under the sun.” Without God, human wisdom is meaningless (2:14–16); labour (2:18–23); amassing things (2:26); life itself (3:18–22); competition (4:4); selfish overwork (4:7–8); power and authority (4:16); greed (5:10); wealth and accolades (6:1–2); and perfunctory religion (8:10–14).
However, Solomon’s concluding statement in the book of Ecclesiastes brings clarity to this thought. It is not that everything is meaningless. His point is that everything without God is meaningless.
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind”
Our purpose as determined by our living God is detailed in both some of the first actions of God, as found in Genesis and some of the last words of Christ as recorded in Matthew. In Genesis God creates man and gives him the responsibility to, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’ (Gen 1:28). God continues his instruction to man. An instruction to care for and all that God had made. This instruction is known as the Creation Mandate. A second mandate was given to man by Christ at the conclusion of his time on Earth. In conclusion to everything Christ said and did here amongst us, He commands us to, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).
As a closing statement on this concern of, ‘Who is mankind?” I will turn to John Piper, the reformed theologian.
“So if God made us, unlike the animals, in his image, whatever it means in detail, this it means clearly: God is the reality and we are the image. Images are created to set forth the reality” (http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/why-do-i-exist)
4. What (if anything) is truth? (Reality)
Reality is an interesting concept. The earlier statement made by John Piper that, ‘God is the reality and we are the image’ seems simple enough unless of course, you do not believe in a supreme being. Some people believe there is a God, this is their truth and reality while others do not, this is their truth and reality.
Our worldview determines what we believe truth and reality to be. Or maybe what we believe to be truth and reality determines our worldview.
What we believe is truth greatly influences our worldview. If we want to believe that there is no God then despite the evidence for God all of it will be discarded. Where belief in God is discarded, because I do not want to believe that God is, then by a method of elimination people conclude theories based on the principles of chance, coincidence and circumstance. A belief in chance, coincidence and circumstance will influence all of the questions which influence our worldview.
In an age that much of what we experience will be experienced through virtual reality, it is important that our students get a good grounding in real reality. Our young people are driving cars at great speeds through our city centres, slaying anything and anyone they like with reward and as the adult industry enters the virtual world, while in its infancy will be a mammoth in our near future it is increasingly important that our we all have a sound understanding of real reality.
Even within the Church our worldview differs when it comes to the view of reality and truth. Issues such as healing, the spiritual world and interpretation are important to discuss. Important to have a sound understanding of. In the New Testament Paul states that our battle is not against flesh and blood, rather it is against rulers, authorities, powers of the dark world and spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:12). When was the last time we considered the possibility that ‘misfortunes’ of our lives were a result of the powers of the dark world and spiritual forces of evil? This morning did I remind myself where my battles would come from and when was the last time I really made a genuine effort to prepare to defend or even battle with such forces and spirits? Our actions and reactions are reflected in what we really believe.
A contrasting worldview is that there is no reality, no truth and no absolutes. Things just happen and things are just done. We are a product of chance, coincidence and circumstance and chance, coincidence and circumstance continue to rule with an iron fist. There are no rules and no accountability. The Nike mantra to stop thinking about exercise and ‘Just Do It’ has become a mandate for life, ambitions and desires.
However, people who believe there are no absolutes, no truths have a more difficult time explaining ‘Why bad things happen to bad people’ than Christians have of explaining why bad things happen to good people. If there are no absolutes, no rules, how can ‘cause and effect’ exist? A reality of no rules and absolutes is a life of random unrelated, senseless circumstances and events. The consistency of cause and effect has no place in a world that is ruled by chance, coincidence and circumstance.
The reality about reality is that many people chose to deny a reality that demands accountability and God that they do not fully understand. One of the hardest aspects to understand completely is why would the Supreme Being, choose to sacrifice His own Son for a sinner like me. As a father I cannot understand this, I can not even begin to comprehend it. However, it causes me to appreciate that there is no greater love that this, that Christ chose to lay down his life for me.
5. Who am I? (Identity)
With competing worldviews, there are many different views of who I am. Understanding who I am is important as it in understanding who I am that enables me to unpack the value of who I am One worldview would state that I am so valuable that God himself sent his only son to die for me. That I am meticulously planned and all that I am, my existence, my place and my timing here on earth has a purpose and is deliberate.
Yet another would state that I am the centre of the universe. This is often directly in contrast to the overriding view that we, mankind is a result of a chance activity and environmental conditioning. Another view is that I have value if I am the star player on a football team, or if I am the right size if I have the right looks or the right toys.
That we exist for a limited time and then are forgotten. This concept of the meaningless nature of existence is highlighted by Shakespeare’s MacBeth:
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
(Shakespeare, McBeth, Act 5, Scene 5)
A worldview based on biblical principles outlines so much more meaning.
“O Lord, you have searched me [thoroughly] and have known me. You know my downsitting and my uprising; You understand my thought afar off. You sift and search out my path and my lying down, and You are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue [still unuttered], but, behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have beset me and shut me in–behind and before, and You have laid Your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:1-5, AMP)
6. Who are you? (Societal Responsibility)
Just as opposing as the worldviews are in previous questions the concept of who other people are is completely contrasting. One worldview demands that you are my neighbour, someone to be cared for, loved and helped to succeed, while another worldview would position you as competition. Someone in need could be viewed as someone who I need to help or someone who I need to avoid. Others are someone I should aspire to rule over or others are someone I should serve.
Our understanding of who I am, what is mankind and why are we here will determine my views of who you are to me.
7. Where do we go? (What happens after death?)
Finally, we need to consider the question of what happens after we die. My understanding of death will have an impact on the decisions I make in life. A biblical worldview determines that we will either go to heaven or hell when we die. Another worldview determines that based on our good works in life we will be reincarnated to a better or lower position in the next life. A further view determines that if I commit certain atrocious acts, such as suicide bombers I will spend eternity with 100s of virgins in heaven. Lastly, one of many other views of death states that nothing happens. Death is death.
If we truly believe that our actions or decisions here on earth determine our eternity we will do things is a different way to people who believe death is the end.
Worldview is a word that is bandied about in Christian education. Many people talk about its value in how it ‘sets us apart’ from the rest of the education sector. However, it is rarely completely unpacked in Christian Schools.
Our worldview is always being shaped. It is continually being confirmed or challenged, reinforced or reshaped. By adulthood our worldview is well established, our experiences and learnings have settled our worldview and it takes a significant event to shake that worldview. However, our students are still making sense of the world around them. Their worldview is still in the formative stage of development. Their encounters, teachings and observations of the world around them will continue to influence the development of their worldview. Media, teachers, parents and their peers will be the greatest influencers of that worldview. It is critically important that as Christian educators we at Elim Christian College reinforce the Biblical Worldview to each of our students. We need to continually remind them that we are purposefully designed by a loving and living God. That we are all incredibly valuable and have a purpose here on earth and of course that the decisions they make here in life will have consequences beyond the grave.
Christian Schools need to be able to clearly articulate their worldview, teachers need to have confidence in that worldview and we need to be deliberate in reinforcing a biblical worldview to our students. We can have confidence that the likes of media will be relentless in reinforcing a secular worldview to our students, we need to be even more intentional in our approach to this.
Lastly, as educators, we need to be certain of this worldview and the implications that this has in my own life. Is it some unfortunate coincident that I have this really difficult student in my class? Does the difficult child need to know he has a purpose? Do I need to really be deliberate in reinforcing what truth is to my students? Do I need to be intentional in my planning for lessons? How should I discipline my students? Do I teach to get a paycheck and good holidays or is it a calling? The answers to each of these questions will be determined by our worldview.