BEING GRATEFUL

BEING GRATEFUL

There’s an old joke that identifies the favorite holiday movie of agnostics as a heart-warming story called “Coincidence on 34th Street.” I don’t know if radical skeptics wrestle with the problem of goodness and joy as much as orthodox Christians have agonized with the problem of evil and suffering, but the weeks between Thanksgiving and Epiphany must be a trying time for them. In a season with so many inducements to be grateful—in which the testimony of conscience and Creation is amplified by songs heard on the radio or at the Mall and giving thanks therefore seems meet and right so to do—how can those who admit no Giver avoid doubt about their doubt?

But perhaps the burden of “gratitude-without-a-proper-Benefactor” is a smug fantasy of well-meaning Christian apologists. After all, we live in a society in which people increasingly perceive of themselves most essentially as bearers of rights—claims or as consumers of commodities. Each of these identities tempts us to regard everything we receive as an entitlement or as a self-earned possession. In neither mode are we encouraged to realize that gratitude is the most fitting, the most natural posture for beings such as ourselves. Maybe our culture’s biases make it easy to ignore the fact that life is a gift.

Christian people regularly give thanks for the free gift of our salvation and for the blessings that accompany the redemption Christ has accomplished. But we also can find it all too easy to forget that all of Creation is a gift. The free gift of life in Christ is an echo of the free gift of life in Creation—a life that was forfeited when God’s beloved creatures chose (in Oliver O’Donovan’s phrase) to uncreate themselves and thereby to uncreate the rest of Creation.

Many devout Christians—under the influence of Gnosticism ancient and modern—fail to recognize the quality of Creation as gift and epiphany. Alexander Schmemannin his book For the Life of the World—argues that sin always involves a failure to perceive and receive aspects of Creation as the things God has made them to be. Eve convinces herself that the fruit is what she wants it to be, not what God has said it is (and what it really is). That fateful disobedience establishes a trajectory of confusion, so that the identity and purpose of all things come to be denied.

The story of the Gospel begins with an account of the meaning of all things. “All that exists is God’s gift to man:’ Schmemann writes, “and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God. It is divine love made food, made life for man. God blesses everything He creates, and, in biblical language, this means that He makes all creation the sign and means of His presence and wisdom, love and revelation: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good.”’

Schmemann argues that a secularized view of Creation has deadly consequences: “When we see the world as an end in itself, everything becomes itself a value and consequently loses all value, because only in God is found the meaning (value) of everything, and the world is meaningful only when it is the ‘sacrament’ of God’s presence. Things treated merely as things in themselves destroy themselves because only in God have they any life. The world of nature, cut off from the source of life, is a dying world.”

The deadly practices of what John Paul II called the “culture of death” have their origins in a conceptual failure, in the assumption that nature has no meaning and elicits no necessary gratitude. So for the Church to be a culture of life, it needs more than good beliefs. It needs practices that sustain the posture of gratitude. Rather than sensing ourselves as sovereign consumers of religious products—whether ideas or experiences—we need to be recalled to the posture of humble recipients. “What do you have that you did not receive?” is the perpetual reminder we need. “Let it be unto me according to your word” is the grateful and receptive response we should strive to make habitual.

In a season of gift-giving, it may be helpful to remember that it’s easier to be generous than it is to be grateful. Robert C. Roberts—author of Spiritual Emotions observes: “Our generosity is often directed less at the benefit of the one on whom we bestow it than on the expression of our own importance. We enjoy the role of giver because of the way it ranks us vis-a-vis our recipient. And we sometimes feel a certain discomfort with being put in the role of recipient because of the way that ranks us vis-a-vis our benefactor.” Like Eve, we still want to take things on our own terms rather than to receive them (or, in the case of forbidden things, avoid them) on God’s terms. Being grateful for what we have also requires a contentment with not having what we haven’t been given. A cartoon in the New Yorker a year or so ago depicted a man confessing to his therapist: “I do count my blessings but then I end up counting those of others who have more and better blessings, and that pisses me off.” Gratitude, it seems, is not well understood by an accounting mentality; it involves a qualitative assessment, not a quantitative reckoning. “All that exists is God’s gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God.”

Ken Myers is the host and producer of The Mars Hill Audio Journal.

Robert C. Roberts, mentioned in the last paragraph, was a guest on volume 93 of the journal.

COMMON CORE MISSES THE MARK

COMMON CORE MISSES THE MARK

Mr. Martin Cothran was interviewed by David Kern of the Circe Institute regarding the Common Core State Standards Initiative in American Education, known as “Common Core.”

Cothran begins:

The Common Core standards are important because of the number of children that will be affected by national standards which are eliminating content knowledge and trying to replace it with amorphous “critical thinking skills.” I’m obviously not against critical thinking skills, since that’s what the liberal arts are. The trouble is that public school policy-makers have no clue what constitute critical thinking skills. It’s a nice-sounding phrase that has no definitive meaning.

What Mr. Cothran describes is a consistent problem with progressive education.  The content knowledge approach in the most recent iteration of “the answer” to our society’s problematic educational system aimed at stuffing knowledge into students so that they could pass the all-important tests that somehow are to gage our students’ progress and abilities as a whole.  

Unfortunately, as is always the case with this answer, it didn’t answer. As a friend of mine involved for decades in the public school system of California noted, 

Students were given a year’s worth of a random assortment of subject area facts, that lacked any connection or cohesiveness.  Students were forced to memorize these random sound bites without a chance to achieve mastery or understanding, just so they could pass the test.  The concepts of mastery and understanding were left out because there were too many random facts to memorize so there was not time enough for students to achieve mastery and understanding!

Because the rote memorization of facts didn’t do the trick, we must now emphasize “critical thinking” skills.  After all, students weren’t doing any real critical thinking with regards to all these facts, so that must be the answer.

Now, the aim will be to instruct grammar school students to solve complex problems, but without the basic skills or the “content knowledge” they will need to be successful. It seems as if it is always an either/or situation with progressive education.  My friend says that without a clear understanding of the critical thinking skills attempting to be taught, and without a sound pedagogy to teach them, “the Common Core experiment will be like a rudderless ship that will crash upon the rocky shore of reality!”

Cothran notes that “the lack of content knowledge will further corrupt the process of passing our culture down to the next generation, which is the most important educational goal.”

In mentioning education as passing down of culture, Cothran is echoing a section of Russell Kirk’s essay, “The Conservative Purpose of a Liberal Education”: 

Schooling was not originated by the modern nation-state. Formal schooling actually commenced as an endeavor to acquaint the rising generation with religious knowledge: with the awareness of the transcendent and with moral truths. Its purpose was not to indoctrinate a young person in civics, but rather to teach what it is to be a true human being, living within a moral order.

Being a good citizen is a byproduct of a good education, not the goal of a good education.  The long history of education, the one rarely ever discussed these days, tells us that children learn to understand what it means to be a “true human being” both by learning facts and figures and by learning how to build with their minds (using those very same building blocks of facts and figures).

This is simply grammar and dialectic.  Yes, children need to learn by rote.  But they also need to learn to think about those facts and figures.  They need to exercise that muscle between their ears, to actually connect the dots and make arguments. The progressive educators are not completely out in left field—content knowledge is important; critical thinking skills are important—they just think, like good citizens of the enlightenment kingdom, that the old tried and tested way of educating can’t possibly really work.  I would surmise, actually, that most educators these days have rarely heard of the old ways of educating.

Critical thinking used to be learned, partly, in a class called Logic.  I’ve noted for years how essays in my literature classes improve after the students have studied formal logic.  I’ve told my students for years that what I’m really after is teaching them to think.  I don’t care whether they can regurgitate my lecture notes, or a discussion on the Aeneid (well, that’s not quite true, I do care somewhat!)—what I’m really after is that they learn something, that they connect the dots gathered in the lecture and discussion, that they connect things in their own minds in ways even different from the ways I have. That’s learning the content and thinking critically about it.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  Grammar students are not going to be reading the original tale of Aeneas’ voyage from a doomed Troy to build a new Rome…yet.  They will probably hear of and read numerous bits and pieces and characters, and will arrive in my class with a good grounding in mythology (gods, goddesses, heroes, and stories), a good skill in writing (basic English grammar and sentence and paragraph construction and basic argumentation), a survey understanding of early Western Civilization (including the basic flow of the history, timeline and dates, and maps), and will have all that in their heads, ready to read the great epic of Virgil.

A real education takes time and patience, consistency and direction. It’s more like a story than a collection of facts. Passing our culture down to the next generation, teaching students to be truly human, takes an education that gives content and also teaches students to think. Yes, grammar students tend to learn grammar, but they are already doing small “l” logic even in grammar school. Yes, middle school students tend to learn logic, but they are still drilling in grammar.  The older students, and adults, for that matter, will always be needing to learn the grammar of things, and then to put them together into a coherent whole—without these skills, there really is very little learning and understanding of who we are.

The problem with progressive education is that it is always looking for the magic bullet—the new “answer.”  That answer, however, has been staring at us for millennium.  Humans haven’t changed that much, and they tend to learn in the same basic ways.  Perhaps it’s time to try educating students in the “old-fashioned” way; the way that worked for well over 2000 years before we found all these fixes for something that wasn’t really broken.

THE SCRIPTURE GOSPEL

THE SCRIPTURE GOSPEL

Scripture puts the “outward, objective, historical view of the Gospel…before every other.”

M. F. Sadler, Church Doctrine—Bible Truth

Imagine a group of believers coming together to write up the ideal presentation of the Gospel. What might it sound like? Maybe there would be discussion on where to begin—with Scripture? with God the Father? with the sinner himself? How strongly should we state man’s fallen condition? Should we state it at all? Was Christ’s death a vicarious one? Should we mention social issues? Any number of churches might add any number of other specifications, denials, and statements. Not many of us, perhaps, would think to step back one or two paces and consider that the very phenomenon of presenting the Gospel as a list of affirmatives, negations, and commands is, well, odd. And not just odd; it is downright unscriptural.

Not that the Bible anywhere says, “Thou shalt not agglomerate statements one upon the other.” We aren’t even given any explicit template for how to present the Gospel. Every statement and every demand in this gospel presentation could be defensible by Scripture. But it still would be unscriptural, because it would not be in the form in which God Himself presented the Gospel in the Scriptures.

This is M. F. Sadler’s assertion in one chapter of his book Church Doctrine—Bible Truth. Sadler uses as one example the doctrine of election. Never in Scripture, he says, is the doctrine of election discussed apart from a narrative of some historical event, whether that be the calling and casting off of Israel as a chosen nation, and the choosing of the Gentiles, or the calling of the disciples as the new twelve tribes. Another example is the doctrine of the atonement. The doctrine itself gets relatively little treatment (for example, “He was wounded for our transgressions,” and following) when compared to the amount of narrative devoted to the actual sufferings of Christ—His agony and bloody sweat, His cross and passion, His death and burial.

Consider a few of the passages of Scripture that are more full of the abstractions of dogma: the early part of Hebrews, or I John 1, or the better part of Romans. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “There is therefore now no condemnation…” “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.” “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” “Therefore he has mercy on whom he wills, and whom he wills he hardens.”

After discussing all this doctrine in Romans, what does Paul do? He bursts into a hymn of praise: “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” Dogma is a good thing; just not in isolation. The real problem with which Sadler contends is not the articulation of doctrine, but the exclusive focus upon doctrine apart from “historical facts.”

And why is this so important? “For anything that we know,” Sadler notes, “the exclusive contemplation of the doctrines apart from the facts of Redemption may nourish a Christian character very different from that which God desires to see in his children.” He doesn’t have positive things to say about the pleasantness of those characters which have been formed “by the exclusive contemplation” of evangelical doctrines: “not humble, not forbearing, not forgiving, not peaceable, not childlike, not unobtrusive.” Moreover, if God knows best how to bring men’s souls to faith, and as He has seen fit to present far more narrative of historical fact than teaching of abstract theology in His Word, ought we not to imitate Him?

Our own Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion are a list of doctrinal assertions. But they do have a few important distinctions from statements such as the Westminster Confession and more recent attempts at similar statements (e.g. T4G http://t4g.org/). First, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion do not attempt to be “the Gospel” or even a summary of it. Secondly, they are connected physically and literally to the Book of Common Prayer, and in the same way connected to the life of the Church as guided by the Book of Common Prayer. They are part of the same volume which contains the daily readings for morning and evening prayer, the exhortations, the confession, absolution, and comfortable words, the propers for each Sunday and feast day, and the offices for everything from baptism to burial.  They don’t stand alone.

In this life of the Church we see God’s good provision for how His Church should continue to honor the union of story and application, of the historical and the doctrinal. Every Sunday, during the Office and the Order for Holy Communion, we are to hear, at the least, a reading from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a reading from an Epistle, and a reading from one of the Gospels. We are furthermore instructed to make confession of sins, then are pardoned, and then assured from Scripture of our forgiveness, and through Whom we are forgiven. Then we are exhorted to come eat from Christ’s table. Each year we walk in Christ’s footsteps from conception to ascension, wondering at the mystery of Christmas, tasting of his sufferings during Lent, and rejoicing inexpressibly at Easter. “You never know someone until you walk around in His shoes” does sound trite, but is so very true.

Many of us have a great zeal for proclaiming the Gospel, and spill much ink and use much breath in our efforts. But the very form of the Gospel presentation we often use is mitigating the good that those efforts could do.

A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS

A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS

In contemporary Christian culture, we hear much talk about having a “personal relationship” with Jesus.  Though not the only way to speak of it, this is a reasonable way to describe the covenant our triune God makes with us. Yet,  it is important to understand how that relationship is manifested. I have a relationship with my wife that is emotional, intellectual, familial, physical and spiritual.  I also have a close relationship with my firstborn, my son, and also with my daughters.  All these relationships are close, but different in quality and kind.

None of these relationships, however, happens in a vacuum.  All of them depend upon time spent and discussions had and meals eaten and letters written and experiences shared.  Our relationship with God is no different.  The Gospel in our lives has brought us into relation with God, and that relation is built by the same types of experiences—time spent with God, discussions had in prayer and in silent stillness, waiting upon God, meals eaten together at the Table of our Lord, letters written by God and for God at his inspiration.  We share experiences with God as we suffer as Christ suffered; we rejoice with Christ as He rejoiced and rejoices still in the truth, beauty and goodness of His creation.

Notice that the most obvious, concrete expression of our relationship with God is actually in formal worship and in our prayer life.  Prayer, praise, thanksgiving, communing—these are relational activities.  So what and how does the Gospel actually change our lives by changing our relationship with God?

The Gospel in our lives takes us from outside the Church to inside the Church.  The Gospel action in our lives is the action of the Holy Ghost bequeathed to us in our baptism and incorporating us into the Body of Christ, His Church.  To be in the Church is to have the privilege of participation.  We are allowed to participate in the fullness of the life of the Church in Word and Sacrament.  Thus, we ascend the Holy Hill to worship God, and we find that we are not climbing Mt. Sinai, nor any other hill on earth, but Mount Zion.  We come “to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the…church of the firstborn…” (Heb. 12:18-24).

This is amazing. Never in the history of the world before Christ was man allowed to come into the very heart of the city of God.  Never before was man able to enter into the Holy of Holies, except as represented by the High Priest once a year.  In fact, the Holy of Holies in the movable tabernacle days had a curtain around it that contained images of Cherubim, a reminder that the angel still stood at the gates of paradise with a sword. “None shall pass”  wasn’t a joke to the Israelites.

Now, however, Christ has made a way for all of us.  The Gospel in our lives means that we have access to the Holy of Holies, and it’s not a man-made Holy of Holies.  It’s the heavenly Holy of Holies.  Jesus is the anchor of our soul, and we are held secure to Him even as He enters the holy place.  He makes a way through the veil because His flesh is the veil, and it was torn for us (Heb. 6:19, 10:20).

When we get to the Holy of Holies in the heavenlies, we find that our high priest is a man.  Not just any man, of course, but the God-man Jesus Christ who at once sits at the right hand of the father ruling His kingdom, and at the same time is the Great High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, performing a greater liturgy than the liturgy of the Old Covenant (Heb. 8:6).   “We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man” (Heb. 8:1-2).  This is what the Gospel means for us.  This is what it means to have a relationship with Jesus.

The writer to the Hebrews says that Christ’s liturgy is fundamentally greater than the Old Covenant liturgy in two obvious ways.  Firstly, our High Priest is offering the best sacrifice ever offered (Heb. 7:27, 9:11-14, 26b-28,).  It is a once for all sacrifice continually offered in the Holy of Holies on our behalf (Heb. 7:27, 9:12, 10:10, 7:25, cf. Rom. 8:34); it is, of course, Christ’s self-oblation—offering himself in worship to God for us.  It is a sin offering, a whole burnt offering and a peace offering—again, all for us and on our behalf.  This is by far a greater act of worship than anything the Old Covenant liturgy had to offer (Heb. 8:6).

The second way Christ’s heavenly liturgy is better than the Old Covenant liturgy is the practical benefit for the people of God.  The relationship we have with Jesus ends up being a closer relationship than was available in the Old Covenant.  We get to participate in this worship not at a distance, but up close and personal (Heb. 12:18-24).  We don’t have to stand at the bottom of Mt. Sinai, like the Old Covenant worshipers, but we participate in this worship on the top of Mt. Zion, in heaven itself.  In the liturgy we plead Christ’s sacrifice as our sin offering and we receive forgiveness.  Our oblation of ourselves is received because it is offered in and through Christ’s sacrifice as our whole burnt offering.  Christ is our peace offering, as well; we find ourselves no longer at enmity with God, and we have peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

None of this is possible without the Gospel—the actual historical incarnation, ministry, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  The effects of that Gospel in our lives, the realities behind our words of “relationship with God” point us to heavenly worship—not ethereal or ghostly in the sense that our bodies are not participating, but real worship acted out in our bodies on earth and taking place simultaneously in heaven, where the liturgy of the Church is founded.

This is the greatness of the Gospel of Christ in our lives and in the relationship with Jesus that the Gospel brings about in our lives.  We are called to tell others of the great effects of this relationship with Jesus, i.e. we are to call many to the worship of God, to bow the knee in the greater liturgy in which the Messiah, our High Priest, is leading us—not a liturgy just happening on earth, but more importantly, in the Holy of Holies in the Heavenlies. 

TAMING THE TONGUE

TAMING THE TONGUE

When teaching through a particular subject, I find that everything suddenly relates to it. One co-worker alleges that I mentioned Dante in every conversation, while I was teaching through the Renaissance recently. I suppose there could be worse things to mention.

My current subject, rhetoric, though a respected member of the Trivium, is not always well-reputed among Christians nor scholars. The time after his conversion in which Augustine had to continue teaching rhetoric was merely a torment to him, since he felt that rhetoric only taught the students to lie beautifully. The Greek Gorgias suspected rhetoric as not quite above-board, in his dialogue with Socrates written down by Plato. Scripture warns against those whose words are smooth as butter, but whose heart and mind are poison. God save us from such, and keep us from being so.

However, smooth words are not the problem. Scripture praises the tongue of the wise, a word in due season, and gracious and well-seasoned speech. James condemns those who do not control the tongue. Consider how professional counselors make a good living just by speaking good words in due season. (Consider how many ministers do this without making a good living.) Gracious speech has amazing healing potential.

What about the influence of our own disciplined tongue upon our own life? My rhetoric teacher during college told the class to consider what James says about the tongue, as we prepared to begin the course. I was familiar with the idea that the heart influences the tongue; that is, if you say angry words, it’s because your heart is angry, and so forth—important beliefs. But, this instructor pointed out, James compares the tongue to the rudder of a ship, the steering portion; the “cause” portion, not the result portion. He calls it also the little flame that sets on fire all of nature. What effects do we see personally from controlling our words?

First off, our speech is a good indicator of the subtle issues of the heart. Usually, I’m aware when I’m in a blazing rage, or an ungrateful mope, or any other major heart-maladjustment, even before I actually blow up or burst into tears. But the more subtle issues can evade us. They become the very wallpaper of the mind, until the words we speak come back to us and make the heart clear. If my words sounded just a bit out of tune, jangling harshly, it’s because of some place where I need to grow in discernment or in kindness. If “gimme that” is just “the way I’ve always done it,” my heart has just made itself known. Is a sarcastic answer the first thing that comes to my lips? Or maybe all my sentences trail off and interrupt one another. It’s because I haven’t taken the time to organize my thoughts. Maybe my lips saying “Duh!” at that exact moment wasn’t wise (maybe it never is). Heart, take notice. Maybe you shouldn’t say it either. Our own words ring loudly in our ears at times. (The words I’m writing now ring loudly.)

But this is still in the realm of “words indicate the heart.” It’s also true that “words influence the heart.” Does not praising God when the heart is heavy actually lift the spirits? Learning to say “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir” is a great way actually to learn respect. They say that even a feigned smile makes a person feel happier. Apparently we are beings integrated enough that it’s unnatural for our bodies not to affect our souls.

Furthermore, we can’t really think something clearly until we have words to express it. Thus, if we discipline the tongue, we are reigning in the intellect as well, preventing it from being flabby and careless. Conversely, we can push our minds to go further when we have to set down a certain amount of words on a subject. Rhetoric was once the capstone of education, because clear expression means clear thought.

All these principles converge in the discipline of prayer. Just because I don’t feel like praising, doesn’t excuse me from it. And, thanks be to God, soon I do feel like it. Am I having a hard time saying the confession? The Litany? This indicates something about my heart (alas!). Furthermore, and here is the most mysterious and fascinating part, by praying the words of Scripture and of the saints before, my conception of the Heavenly Father is able to grow more than it could without these words. I didn’t have those thoughts before I had those words. Perhaps I really couldn’t.

And where do our words matter more than before the King of Heaven? Though silence seems to be the safest course, it is not an option for believers. We have to praise God, and by consistently praying the words of Scripture and of holy ones before us, we bring the best that we have before the Heavenly Father. In addition, these words shape our minds and hearts in the very saying of them. If we are willing, our heart will soon echo our mouth.

SETTING A CHILD UP FOR SUCCESS

SETTING A CHILD UP FOR SUCCESS

When a baby’s physical growth is stunted, it is considered a tragedy. The aim of parenting is not to prolong childhood, but to encourage maturity. Yet parents often make choices that stunt the growth of their children. We live with the accepted pattern of a twenty-seven year old “man-child” still living at home. The aim of parenting should be to promote the maturity and growing independence of a child. We need to celebrate adulthood, not immaturity and dependence. In this light, boarding schools are a significant educational option that parents need to consider.

Parents need to be champions of the kind of discipline and maturity evidenced among many of the young athletes at this year’s Olympic Games. They are not the products of coddling, but of wise choices and hard work. Gold-medal winning gymnast Gabby Douglas left her single mother to live with a family in another state to train. It was difficult at times, but the result is evident for all to see.

Ideally, boarding school pushes the child out of the family nest into a protected environment before the stakes are too high. It prepares the child for the often-squandered independence of the college years. A third of college freshmen drop out of college after a year, in part because they have not developed the self-discipline to live successfully on their own. They have been over-coddled. I am the fruit of boarding school beginning in the seventh grade, as are all my three children.

The real measure of a child’s character is witnessed outside the confines of the home. A child’s use of time, the friends he chooses, and the habits he forms are best seen outside the four walls of the family home. With the advent of omnipresent communication technology, parents are remaining in high hover mode long after the psychological umbilical cords should have been cut. When a child calls home from college to ask what she should have for lunch, one gets a sense of the extent of the problem. Such stories are legion.

Having a child leave home at an early age is not easy. It is fraught with anxiety for the parent and the child. But it is an important step in the process of maturity. In the past, a child at thirteen was expected to assume adult responsibilities. Children were regularly sent to Oxford and Cambridge at the age of fourteen and fifteen. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was approximately the same age at the time of Jesus’ conception. We have prolonged childhood and have culturally stunted maturity.  I sent my twelve-year-old son to work on a sheep farm in Tain, Scotland for a summer. He had to negotiate managing the international flight, customs at Heathrow, living with a new family, digging potatoes, and learning his way around sheep. He succeeded in all, though he learned to hate sheep.

Not all boarding schools are equally helpful. Parents need to choose a school with teachers, dorm parents, and friends who share their values. One needs to place one’s child in a context where boundaries are maintained and maturity expected. It is in such places where children can come fully into their own and develop the independence and maturity that will serve them well in their college years.

In this regard, St. Andrew’s Academy’s boarding program is ideal. Boarding children live with families or in a small boarding house, and attend a school with a close-knit community that makes spiritual formation and educational excellence a daily routine. Childhood is filled with potential difficulties, and even more so in today’s media saturated youth culture.

Sometimes parents feel that a boarding education is an abdication of their parenting responsibilities, when in fact it is a fulfillment of them.

Originally published in August, 2012 issue of The Standard, the newsletter of St. Andrew’s Academy.