On Harvard and TCA
Everyone knows Harvard, right? What most people do not know, however, is that it was founded for the purpose of training Christian ministers. In fact, soon after its founding, Harvard University adopted a document titled “Rules and Precepts” which contained the following:
“Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3). Every one shall so exercise himselfe in reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in Theoreticall observations of Language and Logick, and in practical and spiritual truths, as his Tutor shall require, according to his ability; seeing the entrance of the word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130).”
I’m sure Harvard’s founders were proud of this statement...and they should be! Over time, though, things have certainly changed at our nation’s oldest university, and much has been said regarding their drift from that original mission. But I see something else worthy of a conversation here. Notice where the responsibility for mission success rests. While teachers were to “instruct plainly” and make clear the purpose of learning, mission success fell to the student. It was the learner’s job to take his studies seriously, always being ready to demonstrate his proficiency in the required curriculum. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?
Now, let’s take a look at our school’s goals. TCA’s vision (the direction we look to and move toward) is to help each student fulfill God’s purpose for his/her life and reach maximum potential. This is done in an active partnership between the school, the home, the church, and the student.
On the school and church side, this makes sense. Like good old Harvard, our teachers work to “help each student fulfill God’s purpose” by instructing plainly and directing them toward a right understanding of God and the world around us (including math, science, languages, creative arts, etc.). Our curriculum and learning environment does this well, and so does a church with a good education program.
But what about the parents? We know our kids still need us, but we also understand that they’re capable of a great deal. How do we avoid Helicopter and Lawnmower parenting styles that can cripple them emotionally, spiritually, and academically without throwing in the towel completely, embracing Free Range parenting that can, at its worst, leave kids without the boundaries needed to safely grow.
It’s not easy to keep it all in balance. But take heart parents, you’re not alone. You’re part of a team! God has given us direction in His Word, and His church is a crucial source of wisdom and support. Countless resources exist online for Christian parents seeking help. Other parents can give sound advice, especially seasoned parents who’ve walked the tough road of raising kids and lived to tell the tale. Finally, don’t forget that the men and women on the TCA staff. They love your child and want what’s best (not easiest) for him or her.
The ultimate responsibility for learning, however, falls to the learner. I mentioned this to a group of teachers a couple of weeks ago, and TCA Bible teacher Jeff Anderson shared the following from a talk he’d given a few years back about the role of the student in the learning process. He identified the student as being responsible to (1) prepare for instruction, (2) be present, (3) receive instruction, (4) work to understand instruction, (5) be assessed, and (6) apply instruction. I would argue that these reflect the same truths that Harvard identified almost 400 years ago. It’s our job (school/parent/church) to press our kids toward these responsibilities and then step back. Succeed or fail, it’s on them, and lessons are there regardless. It’s the end result of godly men and women that we’re aiming for! (Interestingly enough, these same responsibilities apply to personal spiritual growth, but that’s a discussion for another time.)
One of Trinity Christian Academy’s most important core values is that our students will “value personal responsibility for their actions and decisions.” As this happens rightly, kids at all age levels assume increasing levels of responsibility. The results are transformation for them and all around them as success in this area brings real value not only to their lives, but also to their present and future families, to our school, to our churches, to our community, and eventually to society as a whole. Let’s work together to do this well for their sake and ours.
I think John Harvard would be proud :)