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A Christian Philosophy of Education--The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark, Vol. 10 Review by Melissa Theberge

By Gordon H. Clark
The Trinity Foundation
PO Box 68
Unicoi, Tennessee 37692

Timeless educational philosophy, still applicable more than a half-century later, is nestled in this poignant book. It delivers chapter after chapter of telling realities and research about government school's purpose and philosophy while mincing no words on the topic. What struck me even in the first pages was how applicable the research and thinking of Clark are even today.

This current publication is dated 2000, though it was originally published in 1946. Revisions have been made from the original, but they are few, according to the preface notes. The book itself is a slightly unusual size, measuring just over ten inches long and just over seven inches wide, making it slightly awkward in the hand compared to typical books. The title itself is only visible on the spine, with the author's signature placed centrally on the paperback cover. The typeface is readable and modern, with large sidebars for notes. The sidebars are also sprinkled with various critical quotes from the text, making it convenient to review the book later and capture the essence of what the pages contain. The majority of the 196 pages are devoted to the main chapters, but at least 60 of the pages are dedicated to the appendices and indices, as listed below.

Clark illuminates the need for a core set of beliefs--a world-view, a morality from which to create an educational system. He further states that Christianity is essential to education. For many homeschoolers, this makes sense to us inherently, but to read it in a text originating in 1946 was honestly surprising and validating. The scope of this book is substantial, offering intellectual insight and practical observations on the following topics, which become chapter titles:

  • The need for a world-view
  • The Christian world-view
  • The alternative to Christian theism
  • Neutrality
  • Ethics
  • The Christian philosophy of education
  • Academic matters
  • From kindergarten to university

These chapters are followed by several useful and meaty appendices, which in some cases are like chapters themselves:

  • The relationship of public education and Christianity
  • A Protestant world-view
  • Art and the gospel
  • How do we learn?
  • Can moral education be grounded in naturalism?

Additionally, there is a Scripture index, standard index, a list of Clark's complete works, and a short article, "The Crisis of Our Time."

With regard to neutrality, in particular, Clark states clearly and repeatedly that Christians have no opportunity to be neutral. In the chapter by the same name, he specifically considers specific textbooks and their analysis of Bible passages, criticizing the textbook boldly and highlighting the intent to minimize Biblical teachings. I found this and many other portions to be pertinent and, at times, even empowering to my role as a homeschool parent who must sift through materials with a critical and decidedly Christian eye. 

Another portion worth highlighting is the chapter regarding education from kindergarten to university. Clark lays the groundwork for distrust of institutions, given their inherently secular point of view, and he discusses at length the merits and issues of church schools. It's an interesting chapter, bringing up dozens of excellent questions for consideration, and while the author's viewpoint is always plainly evident, I see great potential for discussion and perhaps other conclusions that Christians could draw. Topics range from financing educational institutions to the morality of school leaders to their theological competence--Clark covers a lot of ground. 

This book provides a true challenge by offering intensely philosophical questions and answers, trains of thought, streams of reasoning that slowed this homeschool mom down a few times, requiring some re-reading, quiet time, thoughtfulness--a little stretch of the brain muscle! It is this exact difficulty that I think poses a concern, because it will take some effort for a busy homeschooling parent to dig into this book, but it's for this same reason that I recommend it. I like having to really sink my teeth into some educational philosophy, reading things that challenge the way I view learning in my home. In addition, Clark points out larger societal concerns beyond education. While the book isn't written to endorse homeschooling specifically at all, it certainly reads as a book in support of it, and it is worthy of our time and consideration. Grab a notebook, take notes on the timeless lessons, and enjoy! 

Product review by Melissa Theberge, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2010