Extracurricular Curriculars

In conjunction with the subject of this issue of Beacon Lights, I was asked to write an article dealing with the topic called “educational frills” or, more broadly put, whether or not we should include in our high school curriculum such things as band, choir, athletics, speech, forensics; in general, those things classified by modern schools as extracurricular activities.

A second question, somewhat related to the first, was also asked, viz., whether we should also include vocation courses in that curriculum.  Should we teach such things as shop, typing, and other manual arts?

In answer to these questions, it must be pointed out at the outset that the Beacon Lights staff has made a judgment which is not necessarily mine.  The staff has suggested a subject, viz., “educational frills” thereby indicating that the answer to the above question should be negative; for certainly in our situation, both financial and religious, we have no need of frills.  But the question does not center here, on whether or not we should have frills but rather centers about what we are to call these frills.  The staff has called them educational, but such is a contradiction in terms of how can something be educational and a frill at the same time.  Surely the terms are far from complementary but rather are directly opposed to each other.

We must not begin, then, by presupposing a negative answer; we must rather list the evidence pro and con to see what our answer must be.  We must decide whether the above-mentioned things are educational and therefore curricular or whether they are merely frills and therefore extracurricular.  We must determine, i.e., the proper meaning of the word curricular; to which subjects, to which areas can we rightly give this title?

Basic to this question is, of course, our conception of the school, the church, and the child, especially in this case the child.  It is evident enough, I believe, that the school is an extension of the home which produces the child, that the school has its basis in the doctrines of the church.  But evident or not, all three must be taken into consideration in the formulation of a curriculum.  The school need not duplicate the church and the home.

But what of the child? What must be the aim of our educational institutions, the aim of our instruction with respect to him? This, after all, will be the determining factor for the content and perspective of our curriculum.  We must have a definite purpose in mind with respect to that child.  We must gear our curriculum to the needs of that child in such a way that the end product will be a fit soldier in the midst of this world.  And, furthermore, if our aim is to educate or instruct the whole child, his body, mind, and soul, our curriculum must reflect this aim as well.  It cannot be merely incidental but must be a true directive.

In setting up a curriculum, then, in determining, i.e., what is curricular, we must bear the following general principles in mind:

  1. That the curriculum must meet the needs of a moral rational creature, the child, totally depraved, yet redeemed and as such must supply him with a spiritual perspective which will enable him to confront the world.
  2. That the curriculum must contain only those areas in which the home is legitimately incompetent and in which the church is not responsible.
  3. That the curriculum must simultaneously contribute to the spiritual upbuilding of tehe soul, the physical strengthening of the body, and the intellectual maturity of the mind.
  4. That the curriculum must be practical both in the sense that we can afford it and in the sense that it is useful to the educated individual.
  5. That the curriculum must not be foreign to the Scriptures but rather must be firmly founded upon the principles of this very Word.

Upon closer scrutiny, then, we soon realize that that which is classified by modern schools as extracurricular, i.e., in addition to or aside from the regular course of study, must in reality be part and parcel of our curriculum.  We have need of only that which is truly curricular, that which enables the child as a citizen of the kingdom of God to take his place as a citizen of one of the kingdoms of this earth.  We must concentrate upon that which is edifying, that which equips the child to cope with and defend himself against the evils of the day.  We must rid ourselves of the notion that education is a pleasant pastime; we must supplant that notion with the conviction that our schools must deal only with the curricular.

If this is the case, we cannot discard music, even with its choirs and bands.  Music must be given its rightful place in our curriculum.  It must be hauled out of its pre-school and eighth-hour positions and allowed to play its proper role.  Neither must we make our music program selective.  Music must be considered as more than an inherited skill which may be cultivated at will for music, too, is revelation.  Music is more than revelation, it is response.

Neither should athletics be slighted.  We need athletics.  We need exercise for our bodies; we need to keep our “temples” strong.

And what of the manual arts? Some are basic; others should be taught at special vocational schools.  The question depends largely upon the expressed intent of the school.  Typing certainly is practical; shorthand useful to many; shop may not be financially expedient.  In any case all must be curricular; all must be aimed to the same end and purpose, viz., to glorify the Creator.

The content of the curriculum, then, is determined by the needs of the child in conjunction with the duties of the home and church.  Certainly we do well to give this subject serious thought.  This article is far from exhaustive, separate articles could be written about each area; it can hardly be, for that would be a single-handed attempt to establish a high school curriculum.  This I do not claim.  One thing, however, must be clearly understood.  We must be careful with terms and with the application of those terms.  We must not adopt that which is commonly accepted because it is fashionable to do so.  We must construct a curriculum that is uniquely our own; a curriculum which includes those areas of study which in the final analysis give honor where honor is alone due—the Creator.  And, in this construction we must keep our eye upon that which is educational, instructive.  Such indeed are music, athletics and manual arts.  They are far from frills for frills are not required.  Rather, they are curricular and must be treated as such.