‘A Renovated Home’
The original parent handbook, compiled in the summer of the year 2000, began with this section.
Several years ago the Ministry of Education commissioned an intensive survey of British Columbia’s schools and educational needs. The late Barry Sullivan submitted an extensive report with numerous recommendations to make the school system more responsive to the educational needs of British Columbians. In response to the Sullivan Report, the Ministry of Education produced the Year 2000 – A Framework for Learning, which touched every level of education from Kindergarten to Grade Twelve. Not everyone was happy with the new emphasis and direction set by the Ministry, and consequently professional educators and many parents became involved in a very crucial discussion: what do we want our schools to be for our children?
Did these discussions leave our independent Christian schools unaffected? Certainly not! We too are forced to re-think, re-evaluate, and in many ways, re-affirm our position and philosophy. As such, we can say that the Ministry documents have been important catalysts in generating self-evaluation in our Canadian Reformed Schools.
Not only do we want to profile ourselves to the Ministry, but more importantly, our own society members, the parents of our students, must be fully aware of what our school stands for. An important characteristic of parental schools, after all, is our direct accountability to the parents; what we teach at school must reflect the reformed world and life view of the parents.
We are living eleven years after the fall of the wall of Berlin, in a post-modern era.
Anno Domini 2000 a fresh look at our forty-five year old ‘school building’ is recommended. The school’s foundations are solid and sound, but the building needs to be readied for new inhabitants. The post-modern grandchildren and great grandchildren, of the founding fathers of our school, need to rearticulate the basics in such a way that the educational needs of the first decade of the 21st century are met.
The Beginnings: A Brief History of our School
“We may, however, ask if we are not almost five years too late in remembering this silver anniversary. For – to use an argument that nowadays is very much with us in standing up for the rights of our God in whom we move, and live, and have our being – life begins at conception and not at birth. In fact, the most important date in the history of William of Orange Christian School is not September 6, 1955, when Bas deHaas raised the flag for the first time, but November 29, 1950. On that day the Canadian Reformed School Society was formed by a number of courageous brethren, who, knowing themselves to be not many mighty, not many noble, yet also knew themselves called to be working towards a Christian school for their children and their children’s children. They began, not knowing where this act of faith would lead them. In everything and for everything they were dependent on their covenant God, to whom they had promised to instruct those children and cause them to be instructed in the way of life.”
From “William of Orange Christian School, 1955-1980″ William of Orange – A Silver Jubilee
In 1977 the Canadian Reformed School Society in Surrey decided to cooperate with the Canadian Reformed School Society in Abbotsford in the operation of a Junior and Senior High School, which was eventually established in Langley.
In 1987 the Canadian Reformed School Society in Surrey opened a second elementary school. The dedication of this school took place on January 4, 1987, with an enrolment of 104 students.
Later the Langley contingent of the Canadian Reformed School Society in Surrey split off and established its own society in order to run Credo Christian Elementary School.
On that September day in 1955, William of Orange Christian School first opened its doors to 57 students. The founding fathers of this school were poor people; most of them had recently immigrated from the Netherlands. Why did those immigrants start an expensive Christian school? The answer to that question can be found in their background, in their history, and in their worldview.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, Christian citizens in Holland were involved in a parliamentary war about the question: To whom belongs the responsibility for the education of children – to the state or to the parents?
Eighty years later, in 1920, Christian parents were given the right to have their own government-funded schools. Those parents believed in, and operated from, a specific biblical worldview. In that particular worldview, the Bible was seen as relevant for all areas of life. The cornerstone of their worldview was: the almighty power of God rules over every single area of life.
That same worldview shaped the lives of the people who decided to go to Canada after World War II. In the Netherlands they had actively participated in the education of their children by sending their offspring to a school of their choice. Many had been members of a Christian labour movement. They had voted into parliament a political party with a Christian program. They were subscribers to Christian newspapers and paid their contributions to a Christian broadcasting association.
In North America, anno 1955, such a Calvinistic worldview was practically unknown. In North American society, politics and education belonged to one domain and religion and spirituality to another. And the two never met in this dualistic worldview, in which religion was restricted to a private, area of life. What was the dominating worldview in North America in 1955 when Reformed immigrants opened their small school in New Westminster – the William of Orange Christian School?
The fifties and following decades were the final years of what we now call the era of modernity. Modernity spanned the period between 1789 and 1989. The ideas of the Enlightenment came to fruition in the French Revolution of 1789, and those ideas fundamentally shaped the period between the storming of the Bastille and the crumbling of the Berlin Wall. In 1789, 200 years of almost absolute rule of reason or rationality started.
To the ‘enlightened’ mind, the dark ages of mythical (= Christian) thinking were finally over. ‘Homo autonomous’ was better off without it. Scientific understanding of nature was applied to control nature. In a next step, man was able to split an atom! Scientific understanding brought insight but technology enabled man to be a master over his environment. But it didn’t stop there. The acquired might and power of ‘homo autonomous’ had to be used to stimulate economic growth towards an ever-rising standard of living. This was the culmination point of the whole enterprise. The spirit of modernity was the spirit of progress.
“Imagine a building, a city, a society, an entire civilization in which ignorance was overcome, disease was cured, poverty was eradicated, war was rendered obsolete, there were no material or social needs and which continually improved itself! A civilization in which people would be genuinely happy and truly free — for the first time in history.”
Were wars indeed rendered obsolete, was poverty eradicated, did the standard of living keep on rising? Did modernity herald in the reality of forever-climbing progress for all?
The Enlightenment is quite frequently compared with the failed construction of the Tower of Babel. Modern man again attempted to build a Tower of Babel. The new tower’s foundation was, of course, autonomous man. That design was repeated in the subsequent floors. However, the similarities with the old tower of Babel are striking: the top floor was never built. The plan for the last floor was to bring ever-rising progress to all of mankind.
However, during the 21st century, modern man started to realize that he could not live by reason alone. The many wars, the threat of global warming, environmental problems, the failure of the Marxist experiment in the U.S.S.R., clearly exposed the hollowness of modernity’s progress myth.
Slowly but surely, rationality lost its monopoly. The pendulum swung back.
Toward the end of the 20th century, philosophers questioned modernity, its myths, and in particular, the autonomy of reason. While it tenaciously hung on to its 200 years of supremacy, modernity slowly lost its exclusive position. Modernity was replaced by post-modernity.
Stanley Grenz stated in A Primer on Postmodernism: “Postmodernism was born in St. Louis, Missouri on July 15, 1972 at 3:32 p.m.” We paraphrase his description of post-modernity as follows:
When it was originally built, the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis was hailed as a landmark of modern architecture. More importantly, it stood there as an example of modernity itself. For this building the best technology was used in order to create a new utopia for all its inhabitants. But its unimpressed inhabitants vandalized the buildings. Government planners put a lot of effort into attempts to renovate the project. But finally, having sacrificed millions of dollars to the project, the government planners gave up. On that fateful afternoon in mid-July 1972, the building was razed with dynamite. According to Charles Jencks, this event symbolizes the death of modernity and birth of post-modernity.
“As we all witness, our society is in the throes of a cultural shift of immense proportions. Just like the Pruitt-Igoe housing project, the edifice that housed thought and culture in the modern era, is crumbling. As modernity dies around us, we appear to be entering a new era – post-modernity.”
Although many scholars disagreed among themselves, they did agree on one specific point: post-modernity marks the end of one single, universal worldview.
The Biblical Grand Story
Modernity produced several grand (that is meta) stories. Those stories, or systems, controlled life in even its smallest aspects. Such systems often exercised a tyrannical control.
The image of the Soviet Union, 1917 – 1989, surfaces almost immediately. Lenin’s Marxist system ruled in its despotic fashion over all of Soviet life. Western colonialism is another example – when it was exported worldwide, the recipients of this western blessing were forced to fit a capitalistic mold.
After communism had imploded, grand stories became unpopular. The general opinion became that meta-narratives always lead to violence and are therefore dangerous and undesirable. Universal stories were replaced by local stories. “That may be true for you, but it isn’t true for me.” Systems like Marxism, capitalism, and Christianity are, in the postmodern view, oppressive by nature and therefore belong on a dumpsite.
A Christian knows that there is only one, remaining, universal, non-oppressive grand narrative. It is God’s rainbow that arches over all of history, and all of mankind receives an invitation to drink from the water of life flowing underneath. God created this world. Man fell into sin. God offered redemption. His Son will appear on the clouds of heaven, and he will re-create this world. We will live on a new heaven and earth, and God will be living with men. Everything will be made new. God will be with them and be their God. What a narrative! Our lives are connected with God’s beginning and with God’s re-creation. Our lives are interwoven with his creation and with his re-creation.
Our school life takes place within this biblical meta-narrative.