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New School Year Draws Near

by Stephen Hebert on Sunday - 15 August 2010

in Education

The 2010-2011 academic year begins tomorrow for Houston Christian High School (HCHS), which means that I’ll be fairly busy teaching classes. During the course of the school year, I hope to blog quite a bit about my experience for two reasons: new courses and new methods.

New Courses

The first is a course required of all seniors at HCHS called “Forming a Christian Worldview.” This course is an exploration of three major topics: (a) What is religion? What is philosophy? How do they affect us? (b) What is Christianity? (c) What are the similarities and differences between Christianity and other faiths/philosophies? Here is the official course description:

Taking Tertullian’s challenging question (“What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”) as a cue, students will explore the value of logical, philosophical, and theological thinking and how an understanding of these can significantly affect the production of a personal worldview. Students will begin by asking questions about the nature of religion: What is religion? Where did it come from? Why do humans yearn for a higher power. Then, drawing on nearly two millennia of great Christian thinkers, students will critically examine core Christian categories and doctrines. Students will use these categories to engage key theological, philosophical, and inspirational writings of various schools of thought.

This course will be a change of pace for our students, but I think they’ll enjoy it.

The second class I’m teaching is called “From Achilles to Christ” (a title I stole from Dr. Louis Markos of Houston Baptist University…I hope he doesn’t mind). This course asks students to read classical Greek and  Roman literature and consider (a) what universal truths these westerners had stumbled upon, (b) the nature and importance of myth to the human experience, and (c) why these works and authors were so widely read amongst early Christians.

So, I’ll be blogging about class because I am now teaching something that is really in my field and within the purview of Withering Fig. (You may remember that I taught English last year. I have now switched departments.)

New Methods

Last year, as things drew to a close, I switched one of my classes over to student-centered discussion very similar to Harkness. I did this as sort of a pilot program with one section of junior English in hopes that I’d be able to use it all year with my senior course this year. I feel like things went fairly well, and I learned quite a bit.

The core of Harkness is student-centered discussion of a text — an idea which lends itself very well to seniors discussing world religions and philosophy. Rather than have the teacher lead the discussion or lecture, students are tasked with mining the text for meaning, making connections, etc. No more chalk and talk! The teacher fades into the background as just one participant in the discussion or even as a pure observer.

The hope is that students will develop the study and class skills necessary for success in college. Furthermore, I expect that students will learn how to discuss rather than debate everything — I force them to support their claims with evidence rather than just blurting out assertions.

We’ll see how it goes.

If you’re interested in more of the theory behind what I’m doing with student-centered discussion, check out my previous series: “Colonizing the Student.”

In case you don’t care…

If you really don’t care about what’s going on in my classroom, then feel free to skip these articles. They will all fall under the “Education” category and will be tagged appropriately, so just pay attention to that stuff and you’ll be fine!

However, due to the content of these courses, I really think you might find some of it interesting.

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