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Molding God’s children : the history of curriculum in Christian schools rooted in Dutch Calvinism Van Brummelen, Harro W.


Dutch Calvinists founded and still give key educational leadership to most of the 272 American and 110 Canadian member schools of Christian Schools International. The schools, locally controlled by parent associations, have attempted to implement the claim that Christian beliefs should affect their total program. Since 1910, therefore, the movement has published curriculum materials in various subject areas and implemented these in many of its schools. This study investigates the schools' Dutch background, their beginnings in nineteenth century America, their Americanization between 1890 and 1920, their "bulwark" mentality during the inter-war years, and their quest for purpose since World War II. It discusses curriculum issues at the national, regional and local levels, taking into account the rapid Canadian growth since 1950. Particularly, it focuses on how far the schools have realized their goals through distinctive curricula. Two divergent though overlapping strains of Calvinist thought—a monastic view attempting to protect children from a secular society and an integrationist one intending children to become participants in a Christian cultural transformation of North American society—were rooted in the supporters' religious and social backgrounds. While both views stressed the teaching of Biblical studies, Calvinist moral values and Christian interpretations of literature and historical events, their differing emphases caused unresolved curricular tensions, especially in Canada in the 1960s and 1970s, about both content choice and pedagogy. The immigrants' desire for social and economic assimilation advanced the schools' integration into the mainstream of North American education. In the U.S., particularly after 1910, their striving for educational excellence and their conservative faith in American patriotism, pragmatism and progress abetted the schools' dependence on public school courses and materials. The various public education curriculum orientations also found somewhat modified parallels in Christian schools. The homogenizing influence of the modern state, moreover, affected the schools through curriculum guides, textbook authorizations, and post-secondary entrance requirements. By 1977, when many of the schools were losing some of their religious and cultural cohesiveness, they had not yet demonstrated the possibility of fully implementing their leaders' vision of Biblical, Christian principles permeating the schools' total program.

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