The Dilemma of Education 2

Some Recent Views on Education

We are going to consider three views under this heading: the Harvard Report, the view of Arnold S. Nash, and the view of Henry P. Van Dusen.

“The Harvard Report called General Education in a Free Society (1945)… deals with ‘common standards and common purposes’ in education.” It calls for learners to participate “as citizens and heirs of a joint culture.” It is done by grasping the intellectual streams that influenced the Western society, which also includes the religious dimension. Religious instruction in this sense is but a part of this common goal. It is an effort to combine both the contributions of Christianity and Greek philosophy to human civilization. In relation to both instrumentalism and idealism, this position seeks to mediate between Dewey and Plato.

The view of Arnold S. Nash is introduced in his book, The University and the Modern World. In this book, he exposed the true color of modern science that its claim to neutrality is impossibility. He calls for a return to metaphysics in science and recognizes that both social science and history possess their own biases.  His interest is to supply a coherent and unified philosophy. He does this by employing the aid of the sociology of knowledge.

Concerning the place of ontology of knowledge, Nash issues a call to a return to “Judaic Christian tradition as a fresh source of wisdom.” He longs for Christianity to have a dominant influence in the formation of philosophy of education that embraces all aspects of academic discipline. He concludes that what is needed is for a “Christian intelligentsia” to create a “Christian speculum mentis.” Such speculum mentis can only be created through “the co-operative efforts of great scholars such as William Temple; Reinhold Niebuhr; Jacques Maritain and Andre Philip; V.A. Demant and J.H. Oldham; T.S. Eliot and Nicholas Berdyaeb; Paul Tillich and W.A. Visser Hooft.” The aim in the formation of this speculum mentis is to bridge “the differences that have separated Protestants and Roman Catholics, orthodox and neo-orthodox.”

Cornelius Van Til claims that nothing is new with Nash’s proposal. His view that “God is wholly beyond us” and on the other hand “wholly within human experience” in his revelation is in fact a renewal of commitment to combine the educational philosophies of both Plato and Dewey.

The view of Henry P. Van Dusen is found in his book God in Education (New York, 1951).  He criticizes the Harvard Report as pragmatically motivated and asserts that it is the work of Yale and Princeton that provides real coherence and unity of knowledge. This question of unity and coherence of knowledge brings the mind of man to the question of God. In this sense, “God must be central in education.” Van Dusen calls for “the restoration of religion to a position of necessary and unchallenged centrality; and the acknowledgement of the reality and regnancy of the Living God as the foundation of both learning and life.”

The same objection as mentioned with the first two current views can also be charged against the view of Van Dusen. His work is another attempt to blend the Christian perspective with the Greek mind. God in his framework is similar to that of Nash who “is completely beyond us and wholly unknown.”

Two Christian (Non-Reformed) Views of Education

Van Til’s analysis of the Christian views of education apart from the Reformed perception falls under two primary schools: the Roman Catholic view, and the Protestant Fundamentalism represented by the Report of the N.A.E. Committee.

The Roman Catholic echoes similar sentiment as the previous theories. It states, “Every system of education is based on a philosophy of life.” However, the emphasis in the Roman Catholic in this philosophy is on “the relation of authority to tradition.” For them “tradition stands on an equality with authority in the church.” The problem is that their tradition is partly influenced by the philosophy of Aristotle. By doing this, the Roman Catholic allows the Aristotelian components “to overshadow…Christianity to such an extent that it cannot make God central in education anywhere. The apparent unity offered in Rome’s philosophy of education is an artificial one. There is no unified outlook that rests upon the centrality of the doctrine of God as revealed in Scripture.”

The position of Protestant Fundamentalism is embodied “in the Report of a Committee at the Convention of the National Association of Evangelicals held in 1946.” The report written by Frank E. Gaebelein deserves careful consideration for many Reformed Christians express sympathy in the educational institutions he represents. It is claimed that the dilemma of education finds its solution in Protestant Fundamentalism due to its view of God that is both “above man” and “known to man.” Van Til identifies “that in one sense this claim is true” but not in its full sense. The distinction between Protestant Fundamentalism and the Reformed faith lies over the question of the place of man’s will. This question is not only confined in matters of soteriology but affects one’s entire worldview.

In relation to education, Gaebelein aims to begin from the Scripture as an absolute authority. He rejects both modernism and neo-orthodoxy. He speaks about the importance of Christianity in providing educational philosophy. He emphasizes the God-centeredness and Christ-centeredness of education. He speaks all of these on the basis of common doctrines hold by Protestant evangelicals. He is conscious to distinguish his position from those schools, which adhere to Reformed tradition.

However, the influence of the crucial role of human will affects the claim of Gaebelein and Protestant Fundamentalism in general. Despite of their statements, the fact remains that because of holding to the doctrine of human autonomy in matters of salvation, they are not able to locate exclusively in God the principle of unity, which is necessary in education. Their view of man falls short from the biblical teaching. Their view of man implies that human will is not included in the plan of God and therefore not under his sovereign control. The Creator-creature difference is not plain in the philosophical system of Protestant Fundamentalism.


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