A survey was conducted a few years ago. It was a survey designed to show what parents of private Christian school students valued most about their Christian school. What they found was shockingly un-shocking.
Parents of these students did not talk merely about test scores mainly. They did not talk about athletics. Two things emerged. First, they loved the Christian environment. Second, and not surprisingly, they were concerned with education.
What is education? For us, education is the Christian discipleship of the mind. We want our students to think “Christianly” about all of life, from their ABC’s to the glory of heaven.
Hence, we desire to train students who have learned how to learn. We aim to equip students who excel in the art and science of thinking.
I am convinced that people who can think will change the world. Think about it. The pace of change is unbelievably fast. New technologies are replacing new technologies every week. What is new today becomes obsolete tomorrow.
Consequently, people who can think will be able to move us from problems to solutions. So, we train students to think through anything they encounter in order to build a life instead of endless drilling of imposed standards designed to pass a test.
We teach students to think critically. We teach them to sift through a torrent of information that comes their way to evaluate through style to substance. We teach them to take each piece of information and search for truth, meaning, and coherence.
Furthermore, we teach students to think expansively. Some would call this thinking “outside the box.” We call it thinking creatively. Thus we guard against intellectual ruts that stifle growth and creativity.
This is, after all, a natural outgrowth a robust Christian worldview. God is bigger than everything, and at the same times God relates to everything. And if God relates to everything, and we are rightly related to Him through Christ; then, we should be eager to examine everything. This gives students a broad yet connected perspective to operate in the world.
In addition, we want our students to think independently. That is, we want them to mature, to grow up. We want them to do the hard work of coming to right biblically-shaped conclusions. We want them to take positions confidently, because they have done the hard work of thinking, analyzing, evaluating, and assessing.
Several years ago, when I was in graduate school, I had a life-changing moment. It came while listening to a taped lecture on American theologian and philosopher Jonathan Edwards.
Up to that point, I had one goal for grad school—to get a diploma. I had the idea that it was necessary to open doors to serve.
Therefore, I loaded up on classes. I did not think about teacher or subjects or anything else. I needed credits, so credits became the goal.
Then it happened. A light went off, and my perspective changed. And it all happened during my normal morning run. As was my custom, I listened to taped lectures. Somehow this made the jarring rhythm of running pass more quickly.
As I stated before, this lecture was on Johnathan Edwards. The speaker labored to explain how Edwards jealously guarded his time for study. While in the study, he was committed to clear, connective thinking. He studied with a pen in hand, noting any insights that came to mind, and thus charting in some way his growth.
As the speaker came to the end of his lecture, he made a powerful application. He said (this is a loose paraphrase), “The inability to think critically and thoroughly explain why many people no longer respect their pastors. When we refuse to think through and address tough intellectual problems, we leave the people in the pew less equipped for life. When they can think of three problems with what you just said, and you fail to address any of them, they lose respect and begin to feel that what you are saying is not connected to life.”
When I heard that, a fire welled up in my bones. I was not in school to get a degree. I was not in school to get a job. I was in school to experience a rigorous discipleship of the mind that would equip me for life and help me impact the lives of others.
We want to see something similar happen at CLA. We want to see students grow in habits of mind which sets them up for a lifetime of usefulness for God in the world.
Finally, we want our graduates to think continually. This means we want them to be lifelong learners. Education is a lifetime project. We will never know all we need to know. We will never have all the wisdom we need. There will always be new problems to solve and new mountains to climb.
Thus, we want students to love learning. We do not want sterile, boring classrooms. Rather we want to inspire students who have the skills to learn and are committed to use those skills for the rest of their lives.
So, when a student graduates from CLA, they will think critically, expansively, independently, and continually.