His Truth Is Marching On
by B. Jane Kulp
The setting is a public courtroom. The focus is on a defendant standing before the judge with right hand raised and left hand resting on the courtís copy of the Holy Bible. Then these words echo throughout the courtroom, "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?"
The above scene depicts one of the oxymorons of society. Courts--those judicial bodies which insist on hearing only the truth, openly display the Bible, and call on God's help--are the heartbeat of a governmental system that is slowly removing truth and God from the public schools of America. At least that is what the media would like the public to believe. However, the lack of religion in our schools cannot be blamed entirely on the government. The fault lies with individuals who have not learned to properly exercise their freedoms.
Children in school are taught that the legislative branch makes the laws, and they learn that laws are needed to protect people's rights. School children are also taught the importance of an executive branch which makes sure each law is properly carried out. Furthermore, they learn that the purpose of the courts is to interpret the laws and make sure laws are not used to infringe upon Constitutional freedoms. They learn to abide by the law, respect law enforcement, and honor the courts system.
Christians called to serve in the arena of public education must set an example to their students. They must not allow laws or court rulings to bring fear into their hearts. Fear is a tool of Satan. The evil one delights is making Christians afraid to perform in ways that are honoring to God. He is elated when truth is thwarted or distorted. As soldiers in God's army, Christian teachers need to make a determined effort to make sure truth keeps marching on.
Can Christians teach "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" without breaking the law? Yes, most definitely! God calls His followers to serve in public classrooms for that very purpose. However, doing so effectively requires extra time spent in research, prayer, and planning. Three basic rules to follow are: (1) adhere to the standards-based curriculum, (2) ignore or negate any misleading information, and (3) build upon foundational truths.
Find Truth in the Curriculum
If a school requires its teachers to use a particular textbook as the primary lesson source, the Christian teacher must submit to the authorities and use that textbook. School boards and administrators make decisions based on what they perceive as the greatest good for all their students. The teacher has two choices: comply or leave. Actually, when God does the calling, leaving is not an option.
In his book, Out of My Life and Thought, Albert Schweitzer wrote, "I think the most important quality in a person concerned with religion is absolute devotion to truth." The Christian teacher must be devoted to finding truths and instilling them in the hearts and minds of students. Most academic publishers do a good job of assembling basically-sound material which adheres to standards-based curriculum guidelines. They would not be successful in marketing their materials if they tried to establish their own agenda. An effective teacher recognizes the traits of a reliable publisher and operates on the principle that "all truth is Godís truth."
Planning instructional strategies, activities, supplemental materials, and assessment methods to be used in meeting a particular curriculum standard should begin by determining how that standard is covered in the schoolís approved textbook. Highlighter can be used to designate information which the teacher accepts as truth. There is no need to be overly critical. A good measuring stick is found in Paulís advice, "Whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report...think on these things" (Philippians 4:8).
Deal with the Lies
No matter how reliable a publisher may be, the textbook will include some items which a Christian teacher cannot in good conscience present. It would be prudent for the teacher to make a special mark or notation next to these items in the teachers manual. Adjacent to the notation, the teacher should attach a self-stick removable note explaining how this problem will be addressed in the classroom. There are several options which may be considered:
Skip over that section. If the teacher ignores a portion of text, the students probably will too. Education is not about presenting every "jot and tittle" of the textbook. Education is about teaching truths and life skills to children. A standard practice for teachers in public education is to jump around in textbooks, suiting lessons to standards-based skills.
Acknowledge the presence of the information. A Christian teacher need not hesitate to frankly admit to the students, "I know that your book shows more information at this point. However, I am not going over it today, and it will not be on your test." If any student asks for further explanation, the teacher may honestly say, "Iím not comfortable teaching that information because Iím not convinced it is really the truth."
Guide the students in analyzing the information. Often analysis is the most effective strategy in dealing with problem text. The students can circle words such as "think," "believe," "imagine," "might," "hypothesis," and "theory"--all words which indicate the information has not been conclusively proven. Teaching children to recognize fact vs. opinion vs. fiction is an important standards-based life skill. A Christian teacher may continue the discussion with a brief statement sharing, "This is something which will come up often as you go through school and into adult life. You need to talk to your parents about it, think about it, and decide what you believe." The students need to know they will not be quizzed about that particular block of information; however they should be encouraged to discuss it, to find out what their parents believe, and to begin to develop their own beliefs.
Teach the students to recognize false or misleading statements. If a quote was taken out of context, students need to see the remark in context; then discuss and determine what it really means (developing proper comprehension strategies is a primary skill). If a derogatory comment is made about a character or event, the class should review everything they know about the person or situation in order to determine if the comment was truthful or not (learning to compare and contrast information is a standards-based life skill). If one "fact" contradicts another "fact," students need to do research to determine the truth of the matter (learning to use appropriate reference sources is another standards-based life skill).
Build a Foundation
The textbook is only one of many resources available to todayís educator. An effective Christian teacher should travel a variety of avenues while preparing lesson plans: books, magazines, internet, teacher supply houses, etc. However the most important place to begin the search is with prayer. Jesus provided this assurance to believers, "The Spirit of truth...will guide you into all truth...he will show you...he shall glorify me" (John 16:13-14). The Holy Spirit will guide in sifting through the plethora of materials available. He will lay on the teacherís heart a burden for emphasizing particular aspects over others. He will point out the information, methods, and tools which will bring honor and glory to God.
A teacher is a gardener planting seeds of truth in fertile hearts and minds. Care must be given to plant the seeds at the proper time and in the proper manner. Two effective techniques are (1) quoting Scripture and (2) pausing for prayer.
Refer to the Bible Whenever Appropriate. The Bible, as a literary source, may be referred to in the classroom if done in the same way as other sources. The reference must be for an academic purpose, not for devotions or indoctrination. An example might be using quotes to reinforce facts. For instance, "Ben Franklin says in his autobiography...." and "Jesus says in the Bible....." are equally acceptable. Notice, however, that book, chapter and verse should not be cited for Scripture references because chapter and page number are not cited when quoting other sources.
Treating the Bible as another literary source means that a brief thought from Godís Word might be used from time to time to illustrate use of a spelling word. One example might be, "Shepherd...The Bible says the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep." In addition, the book of Proverbs offers many excellent writing prompts, particularly in the New Living Translation. A favorite one of this author is, "King Solomon said the mouths of fools are their ruin; their lips get them into trouble. Tell about a time when your lips got you into trouble." The teacher must be able to show that such uses of Scripture are objectively presented, relevant to the curriculum, and do not interfere with the learning environment of the classroom.
An exciting challenge awaits the Christian God calls to serve in public education--the challenge to ensure that His truth is marching on. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his Journals, "God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose." Repose, or laziness, has no place in the lives of Christian educators. A dedicated teacher must be able to declare along with David, "I have chosen the way of truth...do not let me be put to shame...I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free" (Psalm 119:30-32).
The contents of this article reflect the authorís views acquired through research and experience. The author is not engaged in rendering any legal professional service. The services of a professional person are recommended if legal advice or assistance is needed. The author and ChristianTeacher.org disclaim any loss or liability to any person or entity with respect to loss or damage caused, or alleged to be caused, directly or indirectly by the utilization of any information contained in this article.
All rights reserved. Copyright © 2002 by B. Jane Kulp
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