CONTRASTING CHRISTIAN APPROACHES TO TEACHING LITERATURE

 

By Merle Meeter, Associate Professor of English, Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa, and Stanley Wiersma, Professor of English, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. These two papers, which developed from the Colloquium on a Christian Approach to Curriculum, have been edited by Donald Oppewal, Professor of Education, Calvin College.

 

 

THE CALVIN COLLEGE MONOGRAPH - 1970

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN

 

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Contents

Editorial Introduction, Donald Oppewal *

Teaching Literature to Edify in Christ, Merle Meter

LESSON ONE: Robert Herrick and the Anatomy of Adultery

LESSON TWO: George Herbert and the Poetics of Fidelity

Teaching Literature to Humanize Christians, Stanley Wiersma

LESSON ONE: Robert Herrick and the Easy Yoke

LESSON TWO: George Herbert and the Poetry of Polemics

 


This document has been reproduced for the world wide web by the Calvin College Education Department in June 2000 thanks to a grant from Calvin College. If you have any questions about this document or others in the Calvin College Monograph Series please contact Dr. Robert Keeley at rkeeley@calvin.edu.

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Editorial introduction

In January 1970, Calvin College hosted a Colloquium on a Christian Approach to Curriculum. A number of curriculum areas were selected for treatment in the form of a major paper in each area and a number of respondent papers, as well as panel discussions of them all. Both at the Colloquiurn and since there have been requests to capture the best of that dialogue in more permanent form so as to make it available to a wider audience.

This monograph has arisen out of that dialogue, both written and oral, both at the Colloquium and since. Two writers of papers, representing divergent views within the Reformed academic community, were given opportunity to revise and adapt their papers in the light not only of the Colloquium but of a further exchange of correspondence between them. They were asked to address themselves to the same educational questions and to arrange their essays so that the reader might easily sense the differences in approach.

The Table of Contents will reveal to the interested reader the parallel structure of the two essays as well as the suggested contrasts implied in the captions to the various sections. The text itself will reveal the pains that were taken by the writers to provide contrasting answers to the same educational questions, even to using the same writers to illustrate their major theses in classroom teaching terms. The editor wishes to express his thanks to the two writers, Professor Stanley Wiersma of Calvin College and Professor Merle Meeter of Dordt College, for their patience and cooperation and for suggesting that I provide the editorial setting for their respective essays.

I am sure that the writers of these two essays join me in assuring the readers that the two alternatives which are here set forth in some detail by no means exhaust the Christian approaches to literature nor the general theoretical frameworks with which one may teach Christianly. They would also be the first to express appreciation for each other's viewpoint, however contrasting they have made them for the benefit of the reader.

Teaching, being the art that it is, proceeds not only out of a relatively conscious theory of the role that literature should play in the life of a Christian but also out of the total personality of the teacher. Thus the writers and editor would insist that the actual classroom teaching act never exhibits unequivocally any stated ideology concerning the best way to teach Christianly. The writers have here exercised discipline in exhibiting in their examples not the richness in method and in explication of which they are capable, as their many students will attest, but have selected those that most clearly and consistently represent their priorities in objectives. They would both readily admit to eclecticism in classroom technique, but would wish to demonstrate here that different emphases tend to flow from different primary objectives in teaching literature.

This monograph is being published as part of the Calvin College Monograph Series so that a wider audience, both of those within Reformed educational circles and those in evangelical Christianity generally, may benefit from this clarification of the creative tensions over education which exist among practicing Christian educators. It is offered in the hope that it may stimulate Christian teachers of literature at all levels to rededicate themselves to teaching with more purposeful Christian goals and teaching practices in mind. I believe that careful analyses and comparisons of the two major approaches will enable many teachers to identify more closely with one of them, while benefiting from the insight of the other. May it provoke many a faculty room discussion, many a department meeting resolution, and many a curriculum committee recommendation concerning teaching more Christianly. May also many a prospective teacher of literature find one or both of these essays guidance for his own future teaching.

Donald Oppewal

Education Department

July, 1970