THE ARTICLE BELOW WAS WRITTEN BY FR. PATRICK TISHEL (MY FATHER), HEADMASTER OF ST. HERMAN OF ALASKA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL (ALLSTON, MA). I THOUGHT IT WAS SO THOUGHT-PROVOKING THAT I DECIDED TO POST IT ON MY OWN BLOG. ENJOY!
It comes from his blog which you can find here!
People send their children to our Orthodox Christian school for different reasons … very different reasons. They appreciate a safe environment, classes that are small, or classes that are able to meet their child’s unique needs. Their children might have had problems or were unhappy with their previous school experience. Maybe they were under-challenged. They like the Christian environment. One parent told us that he thinks it is good for his child to see men in black robes and beards, icons and be exposed to prayers … so many reasons, each one particular to a family. Though we realize that God calls people together in various ways, we want to make clear our goals and reasons for our Orthodox school. That won’t necessarily change the logic of the parents, but at least it will make clear what we are aiming at.
So why? We are doing something very normal as far as we are concerned. We believe in Christ, and we not only believe in Him but our senses and thinking have been changed as a result of knowing Him. Our curriculum is based on the Orthodox faith, on what we know and on how we as Orthodox Christians see the world, life, and ourselves. We proclaim in the Liturgy of St. Gregory, the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy: The Light of Christ Illumines All! Our understanding of history, geography, language arts, mathematics, science and etc. are affected and deepened by this Illuminating Light in a unique way. Someone said: “math is math.” Is that true? Are subjects of study compact things without deeper meaning? Don’t they have lateral and vertical dimension and relate to other realms of knowledge? Whatever happened to the sense of what is behind or within or under the philosophical foundation or axioms that are the basis of what one studies?
There is no value-free, philosophy-free school or curriculum, as there is no house that doesn’t start with a foundation and build from there. That is why every political regime in modern history has fought to control the educational system. As parents, teachers, pastors and evangelists, we have a big stake in education from the ground up, not just higher education or “religious education.” Curriculum planners and teachers express their world view in what and how they teach. This is why Orthodox schools are vital.
Children need to be educated and need to understand the world from an Orthodox view, from teachers and parents that know Christ and see the world, life, and their own soul with the illumination of Christ. This is very important. The children need to be formed in this environment, but they need also to learn how to wrestle against the world view they will encounter after they leave our school or home.
This takes place while they are still within our influence. While you are riding to school, the children are looking around and drinking in what you aren’t seeing, and thinking about what you aren’t hearing. If you asked them who they should invite to their party, and they said please invite the poor, because they heard a sermon at school about the Lord, Who said that we should invite the poor to our party and not just our friends, what would you say? You might think: we can’t because they will rob us. From the earliest age we are forming our children and their relation to the poor, the sick, the aged. Please pay attention. At school we visit the elderly and the children are excited and also challenged. They set up for our weekly the soup kitchen. Maybe they can come and help serve when they are older.
St. Herman said that the Christian has to learn to fight through realms of demons to acquire the kingdom of heaven. School is one of the training grounds … learn the facts, what really happened, learn the faith, also learn to counter and refute wrong doctrine, and, most importantly, to stand in the faith and live it.
Our school is not meant to shelter children from the world but to prepare them to be in the world but not of the world. We prefer that our children understand the world in which they providentially live, not fear it. Let the world be affected by the presence of young adults who know themselves, who know their faith and their God.
Education is serious … not just for our economic future but for our eternal future, and for our present life. How we live in accordance with the Truth while we are still here in this world is our preparation for this blessed future and it also makes the journey to our eternal existence much richer.