Like a State Superintendent of Public Instruction said, “There are many pathways for students to obtain their high school diploma.” How true this is! Especially after the emergence of “cloud computing” over 10 years ago. Now, instead of having to wait in long lines or go to a building to take a class, for example, all one has to do is access the internet, and thousands of computers connect to one’s device, providing many educational opportunities. Are we connecting to the ever expanding educational network to create the best learning experience possible?
Most schools still try to make students fit into a mold. Why is that? Here is a short history of our American educational system, and how it grew from one approach to many options.
- Public School in school buildings – Historians of public education have described how, during the period between 1837 and the early twentieth century (when new scientific theories were applied to psychology, learning, and organizational management), a particularly narrow model of schooling became solidly established as the “one best system” of public education. According to this model, the purpose of schooling was to overcome cultural diversity and personal uniqueness in order to mold a loyal citizenry.
- Parochial School in school buildings – Martha Byington in 1853 opened the first known church school for Sabbatarian Adventists in Buck’s Bridge, NY.
- Home School – When we talk about home schooling today we are really talking about a movement away from the public schools born in the mid 1960s. One leader, John Holt, was unhappy with the public school system and sought to reform it. Realizing however that this was an impossible task, he advocated adopting a home schooling approach and wrote extensively on the subject over a period of more than twenty years.
- Alternative Learning Education (ALE) – It was during the 1960’s that alternative education grew into a widespread social movement. The period between 1967 and 1972, especially, was a time of crisis for public education–when student demonstrations, teacher strikes, and a deep questioning of traditional assumptions shook the system to its core. Open classrooms and magnet schools (public schools of choice) were introduced.
- High school with college credit – The 1990 Washington State Legislature, for example, created Running Start as a part of the “Learning by Choice” law, which was designed to expand educational options for students. It, and many other programs like it, give high school juniors and seniors a running start on college-level classes. Those classes count twice: once towards fulfillment of high school graduation requirements and again for college credit. Some Running Start students have been able to graduate from high school and at the same time receive their Associate of Arts degree.
- Job Corps – Job Corps, formed in 1964, is a program administered by the United States Department of Labor that offers free-of-charge education and vocational training to youth ages 16 to 24. It is modeled after the Depression-era program, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
- VLE/Online – A virtual learning environment (VLE) is an educational system that creates an environment where students can access educational content without having to be where the instructor physically is. VLE is also called distance learning.
- Other blends – A combination of options exist, making the education landscape fertile with opportunities to offer families the best God-honoring approach.
The truth is, one size no longer fits all. Maybe it never did! There are many pathways to graduation. Multiple enrollment is really how life is lived. We shop at more than one store, because one store doesn’t usually have everything we need. We eat more than one type of food, because we like variety and need to maintain a balanced diet. Why not allow families to pick-and-choose what works best for them? Why not ask God what the best route would be that most clearly matches His plan for Christian Education? We aren’t necessarily looking for the cheapest, easiest, most popular or traditional route; we are looking for a Biblical route that trains our children to live out the Gospel Commission daily and passionately. While there are many roads to a high school diploma, there is but one end goal–one summit to reach. That goal is not an academic accomplishment; it’s a personal relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord.