by Sylvia Robinson, PhD.
Some schools attempt to ensure the religious content of their curriculum through the use of textbooks written and published especially for Christian schools. Many schools use such textbooks exclusively, for all subjects. This is commendable if the quality of instructional material is at least on a par with that which is available from secular sources. Unfortunately, however, much of what I have seen in this area is sadly deficient.1
Such textbooks may be “Christian,” but if they fail to capture the interest of students and fail to convey the subject matter clearly, their use becomes counterproductive. My own experience is that a teacher can more successfully supplement a good secular textbook with her own Christian input in class discussion than try to correct the educational deficiencies of an amateurish Christian textbook. Administrators making purchasing decisions can help improve the overall quality of the Christian textbook market by buying only those specific products that measure up to high academic standards, rather than bring in a publisher’s complete line which may include a mixed bag of books, some excellent and some inferior. Such selective buying should eventually raise the quality of our own textbooks by forcing them to compete directly with secular books. On the other hand, buying inferior books just because they are “Christian” has the same weakening effect as when a businessman hires incompetent friends rather than qualified workers who can get the job done right.2
Should resources known to be authored by non-Christians be banned from the Christian school? Should we reject Webster’s English Dictionary on the basis that non-Christians have been contributing editors? The answer is, no. God, in His wisdom, has given insights to all people. This is known theologically as “common grace.” Many of the great discoveries, advances, and even educational resources have occurred as a result of the work of non-Christian people. One reason for using a book authored by a non-Christian is that we should be vigilantly looking for the evidence of a non-Christian worldview. However, in a work written by a Christian, we may be lulled into a false sense of security.3
The bottom line is, the whole issue needs redefining. Choosing the best curricula should not be about whether the author was a Christian or a non-Christian. The question we ask when choosing our resources should be, “Which curricula conforms to our mission statement and will assist us most effectively to work out our educational purpose and goals in the Christian school?”4