Grace Christian School

Education and Truth

April 16, 2019
By John Morrison, Former GCS Head of School

Now that I have fully transitioned out of my former role as head of GCS, I have been able to step back a bit in gaining perspective in “looking back” and evaluating Christ-centered education as it is practiced at Grace.

One of the interesting dynamics on which I have reflected pertains to the issue of why parents choose GCS and similar schools for their children.  According to Independent School Management, a private school think tank, parents engage with private education for one or more of the following five reasons: safety of their child, loving and affirming faculty, character education, faculty expertise, and academic rigor.  As a parent whose four children have graduated from GCS, I am certainly in agreement that these are important reasons to be involved with GCS.

However, I believe there is an even more compelling reason, which is to soak our young people in the radical truth that is grounded in Christ and the biblical worldview. Paul was quite clear about this priority in stating to the Colossian believers: “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” (Col 2:8).  How seriously do we take this and similar biblical admonitions? Isn’t this a fundamental principle which should undergird the nature of our children’s education?

This and related biblical exhortations are one reason the folks at GCS have worked so hard to take Christ-centered education far beyond merely tacking on Bible verses and Bible class to the “regular” curriculum.  Staff have invested many hours in learning what it means to integrate biblical presuppositions about truth, as grounded in scripture, into all subject areas.  Indeed, in our opinion, such integration is an essential dynamic in genuine Christ-centered education and is consistent with Paul’s admonition from Colossians 2:8 as stated above.

The five reasons stated above for enrolling in a school like GCS are important.  As a parent, I wanted my four daughters to benefit from each of those reasons. And we worked hard to ensure that our children were not deprived of a well-rounded education and extra-curricular opportunities as a result of attending a small school with limited resources.  I believe the GCS track record over thirty-nine years speaks for itself when it comes to these important issues.

But more importantly, we must ask ourselves as parents and educators: “Have we radically grounded our children in the biblical worldview?”  Frankly, if we are Christians who subscribe to biblical principle, an education permeated with biblical worldview assumptions and truth must be the primary criteria for our children’s education.  If we as parents, or if we as GCS staff, are not given to this first priority, I fear that we have drifted away from a truly Christ-centered understanding of the kind of education we are commanded by Christ to give our children.

May God help our roots grow deeper in thinking clearly about this priority as we are rapidly entering times where orthodox Christianity is being caricaturized by the popular culture as bigoted, prejudiced, intolerant, and out of step with “the world.”  Christians had better be prepared for what is upon us in terms of our being marginalized by mainstream culture. And nowhere is this more apparent than in how we educate our children in a society increasingly antagonistic to Christianity.

The notion that education can be religiously neutral is a myth.  At no time has the need to be fully given to ensuring that our children are receiving an education where Christ is at the very center been any more important, lest, as Paul states, their “minds are led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).

PS.  A friend recently sent me this clip from the Dr. James Kennedy Ministries of an interview with Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, concerning the priority of Christian education.  Dr. Piper minces no words and steps on more than a few toes. Listen to his interview from about the 14:15 to 19:00 minute marks.

https://www.djameskennedy.org/video-detail/1913ttt-discerning-good-and-evil

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

The Fight for Life

April 11, 2019
By Abigail Erdman, GCS 7th Grader

In our past few Blogs, we have written about a Christ-centered education at GCS. We would like to feature a paper written by a 7th grade student, to show how important a Biblical Worldview is to the educational process. Abigail Erdman wrote this paper using the Bible as a framework for her thinking. Please enjoy.

The Fight for Life
by Abigail Erdman

How would you feel if your life, just in the beginning stages, was grabbed from you? I believe that most people would choose life over death. That is just the same of the embryos (eight-cell babies) that are killed in labs all over the world everyday. These innocent lives have no voice in which to express their regret at the sin of genetic engineering and stem cell research. We must be their voice, we must stand against genetic engineering and stem cell research, and we must use our biblical worldview to to shape the future of these children.

Genetic engineering is when someone alters an organism's DNA. DNA is the coding that tells what a child will be like. I believe that genetic engineering is wrong, because God created the embryos just the way they are, they are not ours to change, they are the Lord’s. Genetic engineering also has more uses, like changing foods, which could be as bad. We try to alter God’s creation by our own power. We may succeed in the purpose, but in all reality, we are failing every time a genetic engineering takes place; we are becoming more reliant on our own works rather than on God alone.

I believe that stem cell research is horrible even if somatic cells are used and no one is harmed. Stem cell research is taking a stem cell (a cell that divides almost indefinitely before it is “differentiated” or grown up) and changing it into another healthy cell. The scientists or doctors inject the healthy cells into the unhealthy cell-filled body, and hope for a cure. Sometimes they use embryonic stem cells instead of regular stem cells (somatic stem cells) for the cures and research. I know that sometimes they may reach a cure, yet there is still temptation to go farther and use embryos.

If the scientists do reach a cure using embryonic cells, they may be healing someone, yet they are killing another's life. If they use somatic stem cells, I believe that is morally okay. Those are the reasons why I believe stem cell research is not an ethical practice. A good verse to support my thinking is Psalm 139:16-17, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Indeed, these little blessings are fearfully and wonderfully made!

When we look at the mass slaughter that is being performed right under our noses, we can use our worldview to know that life is precious. As Doctor Suess once said, “A person is a person no matter how small,” even those eight-cell babies who are God’s precious creation. That is why we need to continue to use our biblical worldview to fight against the practices of genetic engineering and stem cell research that do not honor God.

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email Grace@gcswarriors.org.

Christian Education Blog

April 02, 2019
By Robert Brent, GCS Parent

Two simple comments from my college freshman son said a lot about Christian education. He graduated from Grace in 2017 after attending Christian school for 13 years. As he headed off to a public university, questions abounded. Did we do the right thing? Had he been too sheltered? Would he compete academically? How would he handle the transition? Would his faith stay strong? Was it worth it? These questions and others had undoubtedly come up over the past 13 years, but now they intensified as the rubber was about to meet the road. We dropped him off in a dorm room with a roommate he had never met, in a strange city he had never known. We gave him a hug, turned our backs, walked away, and prayed that it had been worth it.

Within a few months, we had the answer to our question – was it worth it? The answer didn’t come in a lengthy heartfelt expression of sincere gratitude for our years of spiritual leadership and financial sacrifice. Rather, it came, as it usually does from a teenage boy, in two short comments said in passing.

The first of those comments was, “Boy, college students believe some crazy stuff.” Now, I know what you’re thinking. That’s not very profound at all. And you are right – hardly Socrates or Aristotle. But it was revealing. It revealed that our son filtered his college experience through the prism of a Biblical worldview. He added, “Most college students don’t know what they believe, much less why they believe it.” In processing this comment more with him, it was evident that his faith was grounded in truth, and he was able to measure every new thought or new idea against that standard of Biblical truth. Rather than being “swayed and tossed about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14), he was spiritually mature and practicing the application of a Biblical worldview. That is the value of a Christian education, and it is where Grace Christian School excels. Christian education is not adding a Bible class onto an already packed day of academic studies. It is developing critical thinking skills and integrating the application of a Biblical worldview into every area of life and academics. It pays off, and I am thankful for it.

The second comment that I found revealing was, “College is pretty easy.” Again, I know – not Plato, but this speaks to the academic rigor with which he was accustomed having graduated from Grace. He went on to say, “I’m not going to lie, some of those papers that I got an A on in college would have been torn up by Miss White” (his HS English teacher). The academic rigor of Grace gave him the discipline, the study skills, and the foundational math, science, writing, and critical thinking skills to be successful at college.  Yes, in high school, he never had the chance to take an AP Computer Engineering course, or Business Management, or Advanced Photography. But, academic success in college is not determined by the breadth of high school offerings. It is determined by personal discipline and study skills as well as foundational grounding in math, science, writing, and critical thinking. Again, these are areas where Grace Christian School excels.

So while I continue waiting for the heartfelt thank you and “wind beneath my wings” speech, I’ll take the passing comments that say it was worth it.

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

What Do We Mean by Christian? Part 3: Christian Education

March 25, 2019
By Brian Fitzgerald, High School Principal

If it’s true that “Christian is the greatest of all possible nouns and the lamest of all possible adjectives,” as Gregory Thornbury has said, then what exactly do we mean by Christian education at Grace Christian School? It would a lame education indeed that simply slapped Bible sentences alongside lessons that loosely associate with something mentioned in the Bible, or simply added a Bible class and a chapel period to an education otherwise identical to that of the world, or simply taught students what to think about the Bible without teaching them how to think about all of life and reality. If that’s Christian education, it’s perhaps the lamest of all possible education.

Chuck Colson wrote in How Now Shall We Live?, “Genuine Christianity is a way of seeing and comprehending all reality.” In a similar statement, the English writer Dorothy Sayers said, “It is vitally necessary to insist that [Christianity] is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe.” At Grace Christian School, when we talk about “Christian education,” we are talking about an education that intentionally and systematically teaches all subject areas at all grade levels in such a way that assumes the universal, absolute truth and relevance of God to every area of life and reality. Bible verses and Christian symbols are not merely slapped to the side of a lesson here or there. The entire system is saturated with the assumption that God is relevant to, interested in, and has something to say about every area of reality.

In other words, teaching students truth is as much a matter of teaching them how to think as it is teaching them what to think. Teaching students how to think well about life and reality will inevitably lead them to correctly and creatively think about the what, which in turn equips them to live well and free in reality as God created it. Every educational system imparts its fundamental assumptions and values to its students. By distinguishing our system as Christian, we are stating our assumptions and values up front, and we are then intentional to ensure that those things are embedded in our curriculum at the deepest and most practical levels. C.S. Lewis once observed, “What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects - with their Christianity latent.” That’s our goal at GCS. We seek to teach all subjects at all grade levels with academic excellence, and, more importantly, with our Christianity latent throughout.

Maybe we should look for another descriptive than Christian education?

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

Recent Posts

4/16/19 - By John Morrison, Former GCS Head of School
4/11/19 - By Abigail Erdman, GCS 7th Grader
4/2/19 - By Robert Brent, GCS Parent
3/25/19 - By Brian Fitzgerald, High School Principal
3/12/19 - By Brian Fitzgerald, High School Principal
3/6/19 - By Brian Fitzgerald, High School Principal
2/27/19 - By Kristen Lihos, Interim Advancement Director
2/19/19 - By Donald M. Larson, PhD
11/5/18 - By Donald M. Larson, PhD
10/9/18 - By Donald M. Larson, PhD

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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