FOCUS on Book Reviews: Back to the Blackboard

Jay Adams, writing in the early 1980’s takes a look at the Christian school movement at that time and concludes:  “the Christian school has not demonstrably proved itself to be superior to the public school”  (Page 9).

Jay Adams, 1982.  Back to the Blackboard.  Timeless Texts: Woodruff, South Carolina.

Jay Adams, 1982. Back to the Blackboard. Timeless Texts: Woodruff, South Carolina.

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The reason:  the Christian school movement has never been able to capture a vision for the ministry, a vision that conforms to what scripture has to say about the schooling of children.

The Problem

It is somewhat akin to a Christian ministry that flourished for a period of time, lost its vision for what the ministry once was, and finally closed its doors, posting the following message:  “closed for business because we know longer know what our business is.”

Over the past thirty years of experience in the movement of Christian schooling, I must say that the movement still suffers from a lack of vision and a lack of leadership.  The movement is shaped by what we see in the secular system that generally ignores what the scripture says about parents and the responsibility for schooling.  Adams uses this expression to describe much of what we do – peddling the enemies product.  A recent well-designed study that explored “why Christians schools close” concluded this:  Christian schools close because of a lack of leadership and a loss of vision.

The Solution

Adams suggests that building a vision begins with a purpose and that purpose is one of glorifying God, citing I Cor. 10:31.  A biblical vision must be discovered.  Christian schooling must be based upon what the Bible says about schooling and children.  What the Bible says about basic doctrines must become the heart of the curriculum, shaping even the academics.  He does not ignore the need for a strong academic program but juxtaposes that concept with the need to emphasize discipleship.  Knowledge is vital to freedom, politically or spiritually.

Adams boldly states that “the scripture provides no God-given authority to the school; it does not institutionalize the school as such.  There is no command to begin a school, to attend a school, or to obey the authority of school teachers (Page 77).  There are many commands to teach and to provide schooling.  Those commands were given to fathers, parents and the families of Israel.  Therefore, the home must be brought back into the school and the school into the homes of students.

The message of Jay Adams in this book is still very timely given the state of the Christian school movement.  It should be read and re-read by Christian educators.  A number of questions are raised for the careful observer to ponder.

  • Does the command for the schooling of children demand a formal system of Christian schooling?
  • Is a home school more suitable for meeting the command of schooling for children?
  • How can church leaders be encouraged to once again develop a passion for the schooling of children?
  • Who should be involved in developing a vision for the schooling of children?

What are your thoughts on the four questions raised by Adams?  In the comments, answer each question with one sentence or less.

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Dr. Suiter taught in the School of Education at Marshall University. After leaving public education in 1980, Suiter has served in a variety of leadership roles within the Christian school movement both at state and national levels.

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  • Jeff Davis

    Great article. This reminds me of Vince Lombardi telling his players, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” The glory of God should be the foundation of all of our ministry. Christian education should be seen as discipleship. I believe it is imperative that we strive for a formal system of training our children. Spiritual leaders should have as one of their top priorities the focus of discipling the next generation. I believe the Christian school movement as a whole has missed the mark by simply adopting the secular system of education which is founded on humanistic principles. We as Christian educators are to come alongside parents to help them fulfill their God-given responsibility to train up their children. I believe Adams is exactly right about the mutual cooperation between the home and the school. It is my desire to see a movement in organizations such as the AACS where the home is brought into greater focus in our schools. This means that we who are in spiritual leadership also must not neglect the discipleship of the parents.

    • Matt Ticzkus

      Jeff, thank you for your thoughts, and congrats on being the first person to comment here at FOCUS! I agree with you completely, and of course, it’s hard to go wrong with a reference to Lombardi! I’m looking forward to interacting with you and growing because of your input on the FOCUS Blog! Blessings!