Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Calvin's theology shaped his involvement in education

At the AA-CC conference last night Peter Adam, Principal of Ridley College, gave the opening address (after a very nice dinner at Emmanuel College),
Loving and Learning: Calvin's theology and the practice of education.

Peter's talk had three main points, quoting extensively from John Calvin (1509-1564):

1. We are created to love to learn

2. We must learn to love the truth

3. We must love our neighbours as we help them to learn

Calvin was actively involved in promoting education (at every level) and establishing relevant institutions. A major goal was making the Bible accessible to all.

Here are a smattering of notes:

The goal of education is to teach students to learn for themselves (Dorothy L. Sayers).

Calvin considered that a knowledge of the arts and sciences could (in principle) lead to a greater knowledge of God, but because of our sinful nature, it does not.

Today, education and exposition is being overwhelmed by entertainment (Neil Postman).

Teach students to "concentrate, think, evaulate" (John Fowles novel?)

I need to learn to teach others to be learners.

Calvin had respect for whole texts. This is a reason why he reintroduced expository preaching. i.e., preaching systematically through whole books of the Bible.

Our current education system teaches students to answer questions, rather than teaching them how to ask important and relevant questions.

Christians (especially educators) need to recapture the Reformed tradition of using their vocations to "love their neighbour". How?
-love and care for colleagues and students
-respect and accomodate teaching to the needs of students

Respecting human beings requires a respect for their texts.

Calvin was not a man of "just one book" but promoted a broad liberal arts education. A the academy he founded (now the Univeristy of Geneva, the second largest university in Switzerland) theological students attended 37 lectures each week. Several were in the sciences and only 3 were in theology.

Calvin taught the "timeless truths" of the Bible in his local and historical context.
His teaching was contextualised, adapted, applied, and goal-centred.

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