This is the first post in a series on educational leadership, particularly as it pertains to the difference between true, godly authority and its alternative, autocracy. The primary tenets I am writing about can be found in the work of Charlotte Mason, a mid-19th to early 20th-century British educator. Her philosophy of education is what undergirds the pedagogy (the method and practice of teaching) of The Habersham School, where I am privileged to serve as Academic Dean.
Just this week I gave a talk to our wonderful staff on this principle of Authority versus Autocracy. This series is an adaptation of that talk.
Charlotte Mason codified several divine laws of education, the first being:
- A child is a Person with the spiritual requirements and capabilities of a person.
In other words, every single child we encounter–whether on the street, at the mall, or in a classroom–every single child bears the image of your heavenly Father and mine and is thus deserving of the dignity inherent to them.
It is educational and spiritual malpractice, then, for us to treat a child as anything less than an image bearer of God, as anything less than a fully capable and rational person who is being shaped and discipled (for better or worse) by what we do and how we do it.
To be as clear as possible – it is a sin to cause a little one to stumble, whether that little one is 5 or 15. The Lord knows that we as educators and parent have all sinned in this manner, whether with our own kids or standing in loco parentis (in the place of the parents) with others’ kids.
Ultimately, what I hope to accomplish in this series is to help Christian educators feel the weight of what we are called to do (and be). For those tempted to navigate elsewhere at this point, let me add that this has as much bearing on what you do as a parent, coach, office staff, Sunday school teacher, etc., as it does a teacher. If you are in an authoritative position around children with any regularity, in the presence of these heavenly wrought human beings, you will be held accountable for your interactions with them.
We must feel the weight of that, not in some sense of guilt-based obedience, but recognizing that only by God’s grace and only as we abide in Christ and are attuned to the Holy Spirit will we be able to carry out the high calling of being educators (regardless of location or title).
The series will carry on from here…
BUT, for more reading on this matter and others, I highly recommend you visit Ambleside Schools International. Bill and Maryellen St. Cyr are lovely people who care deeply about God’s kingdom and the role that Christian education plays in bringing that kingdom to earth.