Why Are Schools Organised the Way They Are
Do you know of schools that have adopted an alternative approach to organising the school day? For example, some schools use another way of announcing the end of a lesson or particular block of teaching/learning. Do you know of any schools that do not use bells (or another form of announcement in sound) to mark divisions in the school day?
In this chapter we continue our focus on the way in which education, teaching and learning are practised and shaped in schools and classrooms. As we explore the question “Why are schools organised they way they are?” we will start by looking at how educational policy has shaped the way we prepare students for the world of work. Although the focus of this chapter is on secondary schooling, all teachers (primary and secondary) should have an understanding of some of the important current policies in both primary and secondary education.
Allen, J (Ed.) (2004), Sociology of education: Possibilities and practices (3rd ed.), Chapter 16, Schooling that works, pp 345-364
2.1.1 What are the attributes of a vocational curriculum?
2.1.2 How might the differing purposes for schooling
Education is inevitably value-laden. In this case, the use of the word ‘value’ should not be restricted to ‘values education’ such as that of the Federal Government with its emphasis on such things as ‘mateship’. ‘Value-laden’ here refers to the beliefs and hopes of people that lead them to value some approaches over others in areas such as governance, pedagogy and curriculum. This valuing leads to a politicization of education as groups, motivated by different beliefs and goals, seek to bring pressure on the decision-makers, who themselves have beliefs and goals for education. The policies and practices thus developed are themselves value-laden. In the next reading, education as a “product of politics” is discussed.
Allen, J (Ed.) (2004), Sociology of education: Possibilities and practices (3rd ed.), Chapter 17, Wicked problems, pp 365-376
2.2.1 Evaluate the Public Instruction Act of 1880 for its
impact on NSW society.
PART B: Worldviews and Education
In this part we are to clarify the meaning of “worldviews” and “religious orientations” and then see how they are relevant to the study of education and schooling, not just Christian or “religious” education, but education and schooling in general.
The intention of this part of the chapter is to understand how, and describe how and why worldviews and religious orientations need to be considered as contexts for education.
What is a Worldview?
The term ‘worldview’ has been defined in many different ways by different authors or theorists, many of whom work in quite disparate academic disciplines. The definition provided by Dr. Stuart Fowler (1990) is particularly helpful:
“A worldview is a set of action-motivating beliefs that constitute the common-sense wisdom of those who live by it. The pattern of the worldview by which people live is known from the pattern of their actions, rather than from the faith they confess. Most of the time people cannot say what theirworldview is. It is implicit in the way they act which they simply take for granted as a normal way to act. In short, a worldview functions by establishing what a people regard as normal. In acting in accordance with a worldview I am simply acting in the appropriate way.”
(Fowler, S. (Ed.) 1990, Christian Schooling: Education for freedom)
The relationship between a people and their worldview is like that between fish and the water in which they live. As the proverb goes, “Fish are the last to discover water”, so too a particular people are often the last to discover (identify or articulate or completely understand) their own worldview. Worldviews are not merely analytical or logical or intellectual frameworks or constructs, nor are they purely or only conceptual in character. He goes on to explain:
“A worldview is not like a philosophy that someone writes out in a systematic way for us to read. Its beliefs are not written out in confessional form like a creed or confession of faith. Seldom, if ever, do people spell out in any way the worldview by which they live.”
(Fowler, S. (Ed.) 1990, Christian Schooling: Education for freedom)
Sire (2004) supplies us with a definition with a slightly different emphasis. He agrees that worldview is a spiritual orientation and cannot be reduced to a set of doctrinal beliefs or propositions. Few people would feel they could describe their worldview in such terms in any case. His carefully crafted definition is as follows:
‘A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.’
(Sire, J.W., 2004. Naming the Elephant)
Worldviews and Stories
When worldviews are expressed or articulated, this is sometimes done in narrative form, as a story (or stories). New Testament scholar, Tom Wright (1992, p 123), argues that “worldviews provide the stories through which human beings view reality. Narrative is the most characteristic expression of worldview…”
The Christian educator, Harry Fernhout, has offered a different account of the relationship between worldviews and stories. He argues that “A worldview does not, as Wright suggests, provide stories; rather, the other way around. An embracing, plausibility-giving story provides a worldview. A worldview is story- formed; we could say that a worldview is a kind of condensation or shorthand (a first ordering) of a life-shaping story” (Fernhout, 1997, pp. 85-86). In the case of the Christian faith, the life-shaping story of the gospel of Jesus Christ would or should provide the worldview for the believer.
Access the following website for some fascinating clips in relation to worldview. There is both a clear explanation of the concept and a consideration of its religious nature as an introduction to the next section of this unit. Watch some of the clips listed alongside this one, and you will see the extent of the debate around religious worldviews that is taking place on the net.
The Truth Project: What is Worldview? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Txez9sJUtaE
Worldviews and Religious Commitments
As you no doubt discovered in the YouTube clips, worldviews are animated and directed by foundational and determinative religious commitments. These religious commitments or orientations provide shape and direction to both our worldviews and stories, and, in turn, our individual and communal lives. Human religious commitments direct, energise and shape the lives of a particular people in all their culture-making activities.
All facets and areas of our lives are ‘bound together’ by integrating our lives through a fundamental religious commitment to an ultimate source of order and meaning. (The word ‘religion’ originates from the Latin word religio which means ‘to bind’). A biblical perspective leads us to recognise the importance of basic human and foundational religious commitments or orientations in unifying, shaping and directing human life. According to the Scriptures, religion is not something one person has in greater ‘measure’ than another; everyone is equally religious, but people worship different gods. As religious creatures we seek an ultimate source of order and meaning for our lives. Being ‘religious’ does not necessarily mean holding beliefs about God or other supernatural beings. Being human is to be ‘religious’ in the sense that everyone is involved in a “quest for order and meaning” in and for life (Wentz, 1987).
The Scriptures speak of the centrality of religion to our lives throughout the use of the word ‘heart’ in human life (see Proverbs 4:23, Deut. 15:10, Judges 19:9, Isa. 65:14; John 16:6, 22, Acts 2:26, Romans 1:24, 10:1). It is interesting to note that the word for ‘heart’ appears over one thousand times in the Bible, far more frequently than the word for ‘soul’.
“The heart is the fountain from which all human existence flows. Feelings, desires and emotions are connected with the heart. (Human) understanding is also related to the heart; from the heart comes intelligible thoughts and words…With the heart humans also plan and make decisions. This does not mean that the heart is seen as the one single organ from which all human thinking, feeling, and willing comes. Rather the heart is seen as the indispensable centre of all human life. Nothing functions except as it is moved by the heart…. (The heart) is the religious core in which all human lifeisintegrated. Theheart,thisintegratingcoreofhumanexistence,is neither rational, nor emotional, nor volitional but religious. It is the centre of our humanness where God encounters us and we encounter God, either to embrace him in love or to turn from him in, often disguised, hate.”
(Fowler, 1991, pp 7-8).
All worldviews and ways of life of a people or culture are rooted in, and given coherence by, and give expression to, a fundamental religious commitment (or orientation) to something or someone that is (taken to be) divine, to something or someone that is believed to be the ultimate source of order and meaning in and for life. Alternatively, religion may be defined as a belief in something (within or beyond creation) as divine, that is to say, a commitment to something that does not depend on anything else for its existence (see Clouser, 1991, 1996).
From the beginning, God intended that humans acknowledge him as the one true source of order and meaning in and for our lives. However, with the entrance of sin into the world people are more inclined to trust the ‘gods’ – idols – of our own making that we have established as ultimate sources of order and meaning. We are no longer inclined to take God at his word, but we are only too willing to trust those things that we have autonomously decided deserve our ultimate trust and service. A number of Christian schools in Australia have Educational Creed statements that are similar to the following:
“We confess that human life in its entirety is religion, unfolding itself as service of the one true God or of a God substitute’.
Christian economist and former member of the Dutch parliament, Bob Goudzwaard (1975), identified three basic biblical rules that describe and explain how a people’s basic religious commitment to their ‘god’ affects their daily lives and thoughts:
“The first basic rule is that every man is serving god(s) in his life…. The God we have as our resting point in life can be the living God. But we can also seek the resting point of our lives (our happiness and goals) within the creation. We can seek it in our material wealth, in our intellectual capacity, or in progress by means of technique….
“The second basic rule is that every man is transformed into an image of his god. The choice of a god, or a real resting point in our lives, is not without consequences…. People are transformed into an image of the god of their choice. The apostle Paul describes this law in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans. Paul speaks of about those who exchanged the splendour of the living God for other gods: birds, beasts and creeping things. And Paul continues:
(Rom 1:24- 25). They have become the image of their god. Likewise, when we choose
progress by means of technique to be our god (as the foundation of our final hope and trust in life), we should not be surprised to find ourselves transformed and deformed into an extension of a machine. When human intellect and our own ratio (reason) become our deepest source of trust and knowledge, we will ultimately rationalize ourselves as well. Then the love for our husbands, our wives, and our families might well disappear because it cannot stand the test of rationality. Marriage and family are, after all, not qualified by reason but by troth and fidelity.
“The third basic rule is that mankind creates and forms a structure of society in his own image. In the development of human civilization, man forms, creates, and changes the structure of his society and in doing so he portrays in his work the intention of his own heart. He gives to the structure of that society something of his own image and likeness. In it he betrays something… of his own god”
Given the impact of worldviews on daily life, it is of extreme importance for educators to understand major worldviews. The unit text by Smart will introduce you to these, with an accompanying critique. Ten worldviews are considered, including a Christian worldview. If the definitions discussed above are valid, then it is important to note that there is no such thing as THE Christian worldview.
Smart, S. (Ed.) 2007, A spectator’s guide to worldviews, Bluebottle, Sydney. (Introduction, Chapters 1, 2 and 3.)
2.3.1 According to Smart, what are the four key worldview
2.3.2 After reading Chapter 1 briefly summarise a Christian
Worldview (no more than a page).
The Worldview Narrative of Australian Education
Neil Postman has written a devastating critique of American education in its increasingly secular form. He is especially critical of attempting to educate children without a powerful narrative providing direction and coherence. You might consider the nature of the narrative driving education in Australia as you read the following excerpt.
Provided Reading 2.1
Postman, N. 1996, The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School, Vintage Books, ‘The necessity of Gods’, pp 1-18
In the light of Postman’s critique, what are the similarities of
the American situation with that of Australia?
Modernism and Postmodernism
Now we will consider two worldviews that have a significant impact on educational practice in the 20th and 21st centuries. In turn, both of these worldviews have dictated the parameters within which the syllabuses of the various Australian states have been developed. In particular, they have shaped the lens in respect to how knowledge is held to be ‘true’ and are strongly weighted with belief issues.
Modernism’s sway depends on a commitment to the scientific method as the exclusive justification for truth and leads to a strong sense of realism.
Post-modernism’s sway depends on a commitment to the role of the cultural group in justification of truth and leads to a strong sense of perspectivalism.
The following chapters from Smart, 2007, give an overview of the beliefs and values of Modernism and Postmodernism.
Smart, S. (Ed.) 2007, A spectator’s guide to worldviews, Chapter 2, ‘Modernism’; Chapter 3, ‘Blown Away: Post Modernism’, pp 59-80
2.5.1 Briefly outline the Modernist worldview by answering
the four key worldview questions (p 8 of Smart, 2007).
2.5.2 Briefly discuss some of the influences of the beliefs
and values of Postmodernism on education. Have these
influences improved education in your opinion? (No more than
Chapter 3: Culture, Schooling and Christian Education
• Evaluate and analyse educational theories, philosophies and movements from the perspective of a biblical worldview.
Allen, J. (Ed.) 2004, Sociology of education: Possibilities and practices (3rd ed.), Social Science Press, Melbourne. Chapter 14.
Smart, S. (Ed.) 2007, A spectator’s guide to worldviews, Bluebottle, Sydney. Chapter 10. Provided Readings
Reading 3.1 Edlin, R. 1999, “Why Christian schools?” in The cause of Christian education, (3rd ed.), National Institute for Christian Education, Sydney.
Niebuhr, H.R. 1951 Christ and Culture Great Article book of the Hutterites (n.d.)
Wordsworth, J.S. 1874 Rauschenbusch, WA. Theology for the Social Order
Van Brummelen, H. 1989 Hoekema, A. 1979. The Bible and The Future, p 53-54
Carson, D.A. 2008. Christ and Culture Revisited. p12 Wolters, A. 1984
PART A: Culture and Schooling
In Chapter One, Part B this unit introduced the history of 21st century schooling. It should be noted that schooling is just one option for the education of children yet it is the one that our society has endorsed since the earliest days of the colony. This commitment to schooling arose in the context of a society with particular cultural norms which held that education outside the home was a specialist activity that undergirded personal advancement. The institution of the school has therefore been a powerful influence on Australian culture as well as vice versa.
Culture is sometimes defined as ‘the collective gathering of norms, values, beliefs, activities and possessions that characterise a certain group’ (Allen, 2004, p 304). How one defines Australian culture is contestable, and has been seen to be so since post-World War II migration broadened the ethnic mix of Australian society. Australia is now a multicultural country, not only because of the various countries people have come from, but also because there are distinctive, often tribal sub-cultures, e.g. Gen Z, male, middle-class, teacher, student, and family cultures. Thus we are all members of a variety of cultural groupings.
These groupings all come with distinctive tastes and interests that impact on their attitude to education, which in 21st century terms is constructed as a lifelong activity. Some of the cultural groups coming to Australia as refugees have little experience of formal schooling, especially of its liberal construction in Australian schools. The formal tradition of schooling comes with a set of customs and rules that Australian-born students are inducted into from their first years in school.
On the other hand, it is of increasing importance that we understand that students from all cultural sub-groups have a common interest in popular culture. Teachers who are conscious of the need to contextualize education will realize the huge impact that technology-driven popular culture is having on the very construction of schooling in our society. More will be said about this in the units which introduce teaching and learning. The following reading emphasizes the role of popular culture in the lives of students.
Allen, J (Ed.) (2004), Sociology of education: Possibilities and practices (3rd ed.), Chapter 14, “Culture and Schooling’, pp 304 – 305; ‘Reality TV’?: School Students and Popular Culture’, pp 306-321
In relation to the South Park example in the reading,
briefly outline why “loser television” ( eg. The Simpsons)
appeals to teenage and young adult audiences.
Consumerism is one aspect of the popular culture referred to in the above Allen reading. Our students are growing up in a materialistic culture dominated by possessions. This is particularly so in relation to media and technology. For an indication of how insidious this consumerist culture can be in its influence on our students, access Melinda Tankard-Reist’s website. She refers to the sexualization of young girls who are considered as commodities along with abusive uses of technology. Of course, the impact of such distorted and unhealthy thinking flows on to the boys in our schools as well as the girls.
The next reading considers the culture of Consumerism and explores it as a significant worldview.
Follow these links to reflect on the issues raised in this section of the unit. *xplict Media – Melinda Tankard-Reist video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5-NM_qvq6E
Melinda Tankard-Reist written article: http://melindatankardreist.com/2010/06/how-we-are- screwing-up-boys-with-violence-porn-drugs-and-alcohol/
NB: Your computer filters may block access to these sites given the subject matter. For your safety, we assure you this URL does contain relevant course material and does not link onwards to unsuitable content.
The next reading considers the culture of Consumerism and explores it as a significant worldview.
Smart, S. (Ed.) 2007, A spectator’s guide to worldviews, Chapter 10, ‘I buy therefore I am’, pp 217-236
“My view of the world is that everybody is medicated on
something: plastic surgery, drugs, sex, religion, shopping..We’re a culture that anaesthetises ourselves with things.
And we’re also a culture that really tries hard to find
meaning where sometimes there isn’t any meaning”
– Ryan Murphy, Creator of TV Drama Nip/Tuck.
To what extent do you think our students anaesthetise
themselves with consumption of fashion and technology? In
your answer, consider the issue of ‘meaning’ in life. How
might this impact in the school setting?
PART B: Christians and Culture: Different Approaches
Throughout history Christians have adopted a range of stances to the dominant culture in which they live. They have also held a wide range of views on other cultures and how to relate to them. This has been a consistently problematic area, hugely influenced by the home culture of the particular Christian group. Much of the spread of Christianity into developing nations, for example, was in concert with the colonial push for dominance of peoples and resources. The result was the gospel of Jesus Christ was often confused with Western ‘civilization’ and not appropriately contextualized in that ‘other’ culture.
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