Monday, June 26, 2006

What a great book!

I cannot begin to say how wonderful I think this book is. And to think, I stumbled across it by "accident" while surfing the internet. Google is a boon to mankind (sometimes).

The Stapleford Center in England sponsored a research project on Biblical principles of education. The authors consulted scores of resources on the topic, and distilled their findings into five "strands of a rope" that, combined, make a Biblical model of education. I have rather greedily devoured this book, since it only arrived on Friday, and I'm about 3/4 of the way finished already. Every point the authors have made rings true and resonates with all the other reading I've done on education.

This books begins by establishing the Bible as our authority, but readily admits that "authority" may be wielded in different ways. For example, much of the Bible is narrative. What if, instead of a commanding officer barking orders at his subordinates, he began the morning instructions with "once upon a time...?" There is no specific practice of education mandated by the Bible--yet the Bible can be applied to educational principles and practices at many levels.

The authors, David I. Smith and John Shortt, have obviously spent a great deal of time thinking about this. They are also teachers and have had experience in the classroom that sharpens their observations. The link above summarizes the information in the book, so I won't try to do that myself. Rather, I would suggest that it is a shame this book which was published in England is not more widely known and available to educators--both homeschoolers and Christian school teachers--in the United States. I was unable to find any mainstream outlet for purchasing the book, and I assume that means it must be ordered from the publisher.

In spite of the time and trouble that entails, and the inconvenience of international shipping, I hate to have this book neglected. Some homeschool book distributor in the US would be doing everyone a huge favor if they could arrange to sell this book. I would love to see it featured prominently at homeschool conventions, and discussed on homeschool message boards and forums everyone. One of the authors works in the US now, and might even be invited to speak to homeschoolers on the topics in the book.

I have nothing negative to say about this book except that it does sometimes fall into a bit of jargon, using terms like "meta narrative" and "narratival." (Is that a word?) It's not that bad overall, and the wonderful principles, each one related back to the Bible, are worth a few foggy paragraphs here and there. It's a small price to pay for a consideration of education that will both deepen and broaden the reader's understanding of how to apply the Bible to education.

What else can I say? Those of us who are fond of comparing education to a "feast for the mind" (ala Charlotte Mason) will delight in the chapters on metaphor. The finely-drawn contrast between Rousseau and Comenius is fascinating. Everyone who cares both about education and the relationship between the Bible and education will be short-changed if they miss this book. It was published in 2002, and I'm only sorry I didn't read it four years ago.

Edited to add: Here's another review to check out:


At 6:50 PM , Blogger Mama Squirrel said...

It sounds excellent--I've asked our local bookstore if they can get me a copy reasonably. In the meantime, there's a PDF file here that summarizes some of the book's points.

At 6:51 PM , Blogger Mama Squirrel said...

Oops--that's the exact same link you gave! Sorry about that.

At 7:05 PM , Blogger Krakovianka said...

That's okay. I'm so bad with links, I need all the help I can get. I've been told that the book is available in the bookstore of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. Maybe that would be a reasonable source? I think I paid something like US$17, which included book and shipping (to Europe).

At 1:27 AM , Blogger Mama Squirrel said...

The bookstore quoted me 14 pounds (incl. shipping) if I order it from England myself, or 19 pounds if I order it through them (that's their markup). In Canadian dollars that's $28 vs. $38 (and don't forget the sales tax). Hmmm...


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