Grace Christian School

A Few Additional Comments

June 28, 2018
By John Morrison

Many folks have been so very gracious in wishing me a great retirement as I hand over the head of school duties to our new leader, Dr. Don Larson. I have deeply appreciated such comments from so many.

I perhaps should clarify that I won't actually be "retiring" in the true sense of the word.  I will continue to be engaged with our re-accreditation effort over the next year, as well as assisting Dr. Larson in various ways.  I also will be far more engaged on the pastoral team at Community Fellowship Church. So, "retirement" is really not so much on my radar, at least at this point!

I do want to say very clearly that I am quite impressed with Dr. Larson, who has now been on the job here at GCS over the past two weeks  He has a great leadership background based on his career as a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force special forces, as well as significant experience in the educational world.  He obviously loves the Lord and has a passion for the unique and special form of Christian education as practiced at GCS. Such leaders do not grow on trees, so to speak.  In this context, I believe he and his wife, Marielle, are God's special and timely gift to our faith community, and that he will lead GCS in a Christ-honoring manner that will continue to make an eternal impact on our young people and their families.  Let's be praying for God's wisdom and anointing to be much upon Dr. Larson as he takes our school into the future.

I also want to commend our governing board, chaired by Ms. Jan Ingram, for stepping up and providing the strategic leadership needed to keep GCS true to its fundamental mission.  Our board members are investing much time and effort in serving our school community, and we owe them all a deep debt of gratitude. Thank you, Jan Ingram, Andy Wells, Macon Rich, Sherry Foster, Alan Brown, Ken Cullinan, Janelle Greenmun, Bryan Bailey, and Rhonda Wilmore, for serving us so well!

I would be quite remiss to not express heartfelt gratitude to the congregation known as Community Fellowship Church. There would be no GCS apart from the selfless, quiet, and substantial support provided by this church over the past thirty-eight years.  They remain quietly in the background, but their vision, commitment, and generosity have benefitted many, many young people and their families. Thank you,  CFC!

And, then, there is our dedicated staff.  I can't even begin to express my depth of gratitude for their sacrifice and commitment and passion for our students.  What a privilege it has been (and is) to serve with them! May God lavish His blessing upon them both now and in eternity as they continue to invest their lives in our families!

So, we are just getting started!  Let's roll up our sleeves and continue to work hard in advancing what I believe is one of the most strategic ministries in our community -- GCS!  Our culture is darkening spiritually. Never has this ministry been any more important, and we want to ensure that GCS continues to partner with our Christian families as well as being a light in a dark place pointing to the reality of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email me at grace@gcswarriors.org.

PS. While this will be my last GCS blog, I am pleased that Dr. Larson will continue this GCS blogging tradition.  Look for his first edition in the near future! In the meantime,I will be starting up a new blog later this summer related to our Community Fellowship website.  My primary themes will center around living out our faith in the context of contemporary issues. Anyone who would like to receive my continued ramblings is welcome.  Just respond to this blog (email address above) by requesting your name to be added to my distribution list. I would love to have you continue this journey with me!

Some Parting Words

June 26, 2018
By John Morrison

As I close out my series of blogs for the summer as well as my tenure as head of GCS, I want to return to the theme that I have trumpeted now for close to forty years.  

The great reformer Martin Luther is cited as saying, “I am very much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth.  I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount."

These words are grounded in two simple assumptions.  First, the Bible is God's inspired word to mankind. Second, our children's education should be permeated in biblical truth as concerns all of life and reality.  Otherwise, any system of education not so rooted will result in potentially tragic consequences.

Reformed theologian A. A. Hodge echoed Luther in 1887 when he stated: "I am as sure as I am of Christ’s reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, which this sin-rent world has ever seen."

Yet, since the advent of American public education, the larger Christian population has largely ignored these admonitions spoken by Luther, Hodge, and numerous others.  

And what has been the outcome?

In 1981, moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre wrote his insightful After Virtue, in which his basic thesis is that America and western societies have passed the point of no return as a result of losing the values consensus necessary to sustain our traditional way of life.  MacIntyre stated: "we are already in a state so disastrous that there are no large remedies for it." He suggested, when he wrote his book, that the remnants of traditional culture were simply running on fumes and momentum from the past.  He emphasized that over a fairly short period of time, those traditional forms would collapse and give way to cultural chaos. For anyone who is paying attention, we are now seeing MacIntyre's sobering predictions being chillingly fulfilled in our larger culture.

More specifically, we have seen great devastation among the children of the Church as large numbers have walked away when they come of age.  It should not take a great deal of discernment to recognize that a fundamental reason for this is grounded in the words of Luther and Hodge. Yet, even today, nine out of ten Christian parents will place their children in schools where the basic assumptions of hard-core secularism undergird the educational philosophy being espoused.  While we are thankful for a sprinkling of Christians in the public system as salt and light, it is naive to think that they can negate the deeper educational philosophy of secularism undergirding these schools. Yes, we need to see that it is as "black and white" of an issue as stated by Luther!

No doubt, we can over-simplify this issue.  Indeed, our kids are also being clobbered by popular culture.  They often are negatively impacted by absentee dads, or by parents who are merely "Christian tourists" rather than those who are radically discipling their children in the things of the Lord.  There are so many factors that go into this larger issue.

But we must be careful to not "rationalize" away the simple words of Luther and Hodge.  We can and must proactively engage our children in various ways in raising them in the nurture of the Lord.  But at least one of these fundamentals must be grounded in providing them with a distinctly Christian education.  

My prayer for the darkening days ahead is that the larger Christian community will awaken to the principle of Christian education as what should be, according to the Scripture, one of the highest priorities of the Church.  

May God help us to this end!

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email me at grace@gcswarriors.org.


Postscript:  After graduating in 1973 with an education related degree, I read a book entitled The Messianic Character of American Education, by Rousas Rushdooney, which carefully documented the philosophic underpinnings of American public education.    While I do not embrace the larger theological orientation of the author, he did a masterful job of articulating, often in their own words, the mindset of those driving the public education movement in America since it inception.  A major theme of these thinkers, perhaps best characterized by the most prominent of public educators, John Dewey, was one of moving education more into the realm of conditioning students rather than the traditional, Christian model of teaching critical thinking skills.  While the early American public education model was far more "subtle" in its teaching of secularist assumptions and presuppositions, today's schools are blatantly conditioning American students to adopt "socially correct" values.  Some states, including California and Illinois, now have legislation either passed or pending mandating "socially correct" curricula at even the earliest childhood levels. The following link, as featured in a recent Renewation publication, is sadly typical of what is taking place all around America, even in our more conservative, rural school districts.  Christian parents and leaders must not be naive about what is happening, either in its content or scope, in our nation's schools.

Click here to read this informative piece.

God's Blessing our GCS Students' Academic Achievement

June 20, 2018
By John Morrison

Over my thirty-eight year tenure with Grace Christian School, I have been repeatedly amazed as I have seen God’s faithfulness in blessing our students with consistently strong achievement test scores.  This past year was no exception, as evidenced by the above chart, which reports the core composite score for each grade (eleventh and twelfth grades take the PSAT and SAT college entrance tests. In a recent blog, I reported on our GCS SAT’s being higher than the seven local public high school results.).  

The above composite percentiles are simply the average of each core academic discipline tested (language arts and mathematics).  Using the ninth grade as an example, the composite percentile of 90 means that this class scored better than 90% of all other ninth grade classes from schools across America who took this same test.  

What makes these scores for all our GCS grades significant is that they have scored well above the “average,” and without exception.  While our students are certainly special, they are also “typical’ in their abilities compared to students across America. Yet, they have achieved these strong outcomes!

Over the years, when considering our scores, I have been reminded of Daniel and his three friends,  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. As they purposed to serve God, “God gave them wisdom in every branch of literature and wisdom …” (Daniel 1:17).  I believe this verse reflects how, as we honor Christ in our children’s education, He will add His blessing to their learning, even helping them to achieve beyond their natural abilities.  I think this is the case for GCS and reflects another reason why our children should receive a Christ-centered education.

These scores also reflect strong parental support and involvement with their children.

And, most certainly, these test results underscore the wonderful job our teachers are doing in instructing our students,  as well as our well-rounded curricula.

James Montoya, a vice-president with the Psychological Corporation, which administers the SAT (college boards),  emphasizes that the best preparation for higher education and the work world, is not a great diversity of courses,  but a focus on mastery of core academics, including language arts, math, science and social studies. Bigger and more is not necessarily better in this context; rather, mastery of fundamentals is vital. Or, as C. S. Lewis observed, “We ought to teach far fewer courses far better!”  This, indeed, is the philosophy of GCS.

We praise God and are thankful for these Iowa Assessment results.  Well-done, students, staff and parents!

(The more detailed and individual student scores will be released to parents at the  beginning of the coming school year.)

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email me at grace@gcswarriors.org.

Parents the Crucial Factor in a Child’s Education

June 07, 2018
By John Morrison

Last week’s blog reflected on the priority of our children’s education being grounded in our Christian understanding of truth.  In this context, the apostle Paul wrote: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form …” (Col 2:8-9).  This priority focused on biblical truth must apply to the fundamental assumptions underlying our children’s education.

But as important as this emphasis on truth in education may be, there is another vital element that Christian parents must understand.  That is, they must always be the primary mentors for their children. This following piece from the Huffington Post is a must read for all who work with our children, especially parents.

Just 1 percent of teens ages 15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid-to-late 20s.

In contrast, 82 percent of children raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations [and] were themselves religiously active as young adults, according to data from the latest wave of the National Study of Youth and Religion.

The connection is “nearly deterministic,” said University of Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith, lead researcher for the study.

Other factors such as youth ministry or clergy or service projects or religious schools pale in comparison.

“No other conceivable causal influence … comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth,” Smith said in a recent talk sharing the findings at Yale Divinity School. “Parents just dominate.”

This is both sobering and encouraging. These findings simply reinforce what the Bible already tells us … that Christian parents must be the primary mentors for their children. When parents are proactive in this context, then the church and Christian school will have their maximum impact in coming alongside and reinforcing what is already being taught in the home!

To read the entire Huffington Post article, click here.

To respond to this blog, please email me at grace@gcswarriors.org.

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Headmaster's Blog

GCS Core Values

November 21, 2017
By John Morrison
Happy Thanksgiving!
“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting!
Psalm 106:1

I trust all my readers will enjoy this very special Thanksgiving holiday!  Indeed,  we have much for which we can be thankful, no matter our circumstances,  because of the redeeming grace of God poured upon us through Christ!  May this be a special season for thankfully remembering His gracious blessings lavished upon us!

                                           ***********************

As part of our accreditation self-study, we carefully review our school documents, especially those dealing with our fundamental mission and vision.  No document spells out our sense of “core values” better than, well,  our “GCS Core Values” statement.  As recently updated by our Board of Trustees, these four basic values define what we trust are those ideals that make GCS distinct as a Christian school.  In this and the next three blogs, I would like to share with you each of these core values.  With God’s help, we seek to be the best school we can possibly be, and our being reminded of these fundamental values helps us avoid “mission drift” by staying  focused upon these essential goals.  

None of these four values is any more important than the very first, stated as  follows:

Spiritual

All elements of the ministry [of GCS] must continually be evaluated in the context of the simple question, “Does this aspect of the program and/or curriculum directly or indirectly encourage and instruct our students in their need for a personal relationship with Christ and to walk in obedience to His will?”  Administrative leadership must continually use this simple question in evaluating all aspects of the program.  As the Board, we emphasize this priority as the essential value for which Grace Christian School stands.

Furthermore, this value must be deliberately applied not only to Bible classes and chapels, but to all aspects of the School’s programs.  It is vital that administration continually train teachers and staff in how to integrate the Christian worldview into all educational curricula, as well as into all extra-curricular activities.  This must be done purposefully and thoughtfully as one of leadership’s continual, highest priorities.

My last two blogs featuring a kindergarten and a high school finance class are examples of how seriously we take this challenge of purposefully integrating the Christian worldview in all aspects and levels of our instructional program.  Can any educational priority be of greater importance than this first core value?  We think not, and we expend a great deal of time and energy to this end as demonstrated by our engagement with the outstanding Worldview Matters Biblical integration program.  Our students must understand not only the content of our faith as truth, but also the why and how that makes it relevant to all walks of life

In my next several blogs, I will focus on three additional core values that we believe make GCS a very special and unique Christian school.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you would like to respond to my blog, please email me at grace@gcswarriors.org.

 

An Outstanding Class!

November 15, 2017
By John Morrison
GCS Personal Finance Class (from left to right): Josh Lockwood, Cheyenne Hareford, Tyler Johnson, Karson Wright, Byron Forsyth, Clayton Duke and instructor, Chad Brown.


God has enabled us to provide our high school students with a well-rounded education via a healthy offering of high school courses.  One of my favorites (and best kept secrets!) is Mr. Chad Brown’s personal finance course.  In a day when many  students know little about practical finance,  Mr. Brown’s class teaches essential management and stewardship skills vital for maintaining a stable financial ship.  Enjoy this following excerpt from one of Mr. Brown’s emails to his students’ parents outlining a sample of the kinds of excellent lessons he is passing along to his students.

The last couple of weeks we've been looking at purchasing reliable and affordable transportation, and some important things to consider in that process. I had the students work in the computer lab where each picked three cars to present to their classmates.  Their job was to "sell" their choice to the class. The general restrictions included the following characteristics: economical, reliable, within 200 mile radius (to allow a test drive), no more than 12 years old, 156,000 max mileage (based on average of 13,000 miles per year), affordability payment wise, within their income.

There were some interesting picks, to say the least, including a 2003 Cadillac CTS roadster, a 2004 Infinity G35, a 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 truck, a 2005 VW Jetta, etc.

After their presentations, I had them work in two groups, where each would pick his or her top three vehicles, scrutinizing whether or not they fit the general guidelines.  Then, we narrowed it further to the top three picks for the class, relating each potential vehicle back to the general restrictions above. Their final choice was a 2003 Honda Accord (14 years old) with 133,000 miles (9,500 miles per year, which is less than average annual mileage) for $2,950, which was a great deal.  Although it was slightly outside the general age guidelines, it was, in my view, a very wise choice.

Also during  the process, I had Chris Jones, a great Christian friend who has been in the automotive industry for thirty years, and who is the current Commercial Sales Manager for Charlie Obaugh, come and give his perspective on how to purchase a used vehicle.  He has been helping me with this aspect of the course for six years.  Chris brings an excellent checklist for a prospective buyer to use when test driving a car.  I always pick up new  insights from his presentation, and in fact used this checklist when considering the last car I bought.  Graciously, he gives them his business card and cell phone number and invites them at any point to call him if they ever have a question.

After their final choice, we went back to the lab to check the NADA and Kelley Blue Book values for a couple of the cars, including their 2003 Honda.  Although they got a good deal on the Honda, we looked at a couple of other vehicles that were priced well above retail value for their car.  This let the students know how not to just arbitrarily pay someone their asking price without doing their homework.

All-in-all, I think this has been a very good process for them.  In the near future, we will be looking at maintenance on this car, purchasing insurance, and making monthly payments (with the goal of paying it off early).

Yes, Mr. Brown, most certainly this has been a very excellent experience for our students!  Thank you for all of your time and effort in equipping our young people with these most practical and important life skills!

If you would like to respond to my blog, please email me at grace@gcswarriors.org.

The Joy of Learning: Going Beyond Mere Rote

November 08, 2017
By John Morrison
Kindergarten teacher, Kristi Pananas and student, Max Banta


We are certainly all about teaching the fundamental content of our Christian faith and academic subjects to our students.  But a Christian education is simply deficient if it does not go beyond focusing on mere content in influencing the formation of the child’s basic assumptions about truth.  Thus, we talk a great deal at GCS about teaching biblical worldview integration and critical thinking skills that help each child examine his or her basic assumptions about reality.

Following, in the words of Kristi Pananas, one of our kindergarten teachers, is an example of how this can work in the classroom.  

Recently, during a kindergarten math lesson, I introduced patterns: red, yellow, red, yellow; smiley face, star, smiley face, star; ABAB, etc.  We practiced a few different examples. And then, the neat stuff happened.

A little girl raised her hand and asked “What does God think of patterns and does he like them?”. Wow!

I put my worksheet aside, sat down and knew that this discussion was more important               than the “math” lesson.  I asked the question back to the class…..

           And the following were some of the answers:

The first little boy said , “We know God likes order so he must like patterns because patterns are in order.”  We had previously talked about how God is a God of order, not chaos.   I thought, “They are getting it, they remember, this is important to them!!!”

Hands were flying and everyone wanted to be part of the discussion.

Another student added, “God ordered the days, he made all things….”  We had talked about creation, and how our calendar was in order and what God thought of that.

And another remembered, “God made animals with patterns.” Patterns were related to camouflage and a way of protecting animals and God did that.

We discussed how God made people with patterns: 2 eyes, 2 arms, boys/girls. How God doesn’t make mistakes when he creates anything. How we are all created perfectly and in a special way and are made in His image (patterned after God).

       Mrs. Pananas and student, Ella Parker

To answer the question about “does God like patterns?“ everyone agreed that he does!  He made rainbows, and they are patterns.  He likes pretty things.  He wants to enjoy patterns; they thought that God wanted us to like patterns, too. We talked about how God is creative and thinks of everything.

A 20-minute math lesson turned into a 45 minute worldview lesson initiated by a child with a heart wondering about God. We were late for lunch...and no one cared, and kindergarteners always care about snack and lunch (and recess)!

I was amazed and proud.  We had been in school less than a month and the kiddos were using the questioning that they hear at school…”what does God think/feel about...?” These kiddos are 5 and 6 years old!  I can only imagine what the rest of the year will be like. God is at work in the hearts and minds of these kindergarten students.

The above is an example of taking  learning from the level of rote (which is important) to the level of critical thinking with an emphasis on biblical worldview integration and experiencing learning as one of life’s greatest joys.  Indeed, this is our goal for our students at GCS: to stimulate their curiosity in investigating and discovering the beauty and wonder of God’s creation and how it all ties together in one unified whole.  And the stimulation of critical thinking is something, as demonstrated by these little ones, that can be cultivated from the earliest years all the way through high school!  This is (or should be) one of the core dynamics of a truly Christian education!

Thanks for sharing, Mrs. Pananas!  

And what she has shared is but one example of what is taking place daily throughout GCS!

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email me at grace@gcswarriors.org.

 

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