Christian Worldview or Christian Content in EIL
Worldview in Excellence in Literature
I was recently asked whether Excellence in Literature had Christian content or a Christian worldview, and since I know it’s a question that others may have, I thought I’d share my answer here. I am assuming that by “Christian content,” the questioner means specific religious teaching or verses from scripture.
Q: Does Excellence in Literature contain Christian content?
A: EIL is written from a Christian worldview because I am a Christian and my writing inevitably reflects my basic worldview, but EIL does not have explicitly “Christian content.” There are many reasons for this, but I’ll outline just a few:
I want students to learn to think analytically, so I present the focus texts and context materials so students begin to understand worldview as it is revealed in each piece of literature, music, and art. I believe students learn more and retain it longer when they are actively engaged in looking at resources from different voices and in different formats. These resources are primarily academic in nature; many are written by college professors or other experts.
Ideas have consequences: Every piece of literature studied is written from a specific worldview, and I believe that students who work through the curriculum will gradually gain a deep understanding of what various ideas and philosophies look like as they are lived out. Fiction allows us to see how people live when they are operating from various worldviews. I believe that learning is more powerful when students observe and discover this for themselves, rather than being spoon fed my interpretation or what I gleaned from the text.
Focus on literature and writing. The curriculum is designed to teach literature and writing, and I believe the focus needs to remain on the literary material presented and practiced. Student essays will inevitably reflect the student’s worldview and can open many conversational avenues within the family, classroom, or reading group.
Usable in charter schools: While I was writing the curriculum, I heard from charter schools which wanted to be able to use the curriculum, but could do so only if it did not contain contain overt religious teaching. The curriculum is now available in many alternative school systems.
Historic perspective: Classics from various countries and times will obviously have a variety of worldviews. The Odyssey reflects the worldview of ancient Greece, while Canterbury Tales reflects the worldview of medieval Britain and Great Gatsby the worldview and values of modern America. This reflects the reality of the world, and it helps students to glean a fuller picture of history in that time and place. Studying these great works within the family provides many opportunities for deep learning and fruitful discussion.
Respecting family autonomy: I want parents to be able to use the curriculum without worrying about whether specific doctrinal issues are addressed differently from the way the family has been taught. There are many non-creedal issues upon which Christians differ, and it is parents who bear the responsibility for determining what the family will learn.
When I taught this material in online classes (which I no longer do), I was astonished and often blessed by the profound insights my students would have about a piece of literature I’d read many times. I don’t want to rob them of this thrill of discovery, nor do I want to replace it with a condensed version of what I’ve come to understand about a particular work. It would be like snatching a fresh, sweet orange from a child and substituting a reconstituted orange drink made from powder and water. I wrote this curriculum to provide an alternative to textbooks like that!
If you want to know more about how I chose the books for Excellence in Literature, you can read this earlier post. You’ll find links to a lot of other posts about Excellence in Literature on the main literature page at Everyday Education.
You can read Cathy Duffy’s review of EIL at Cathy Duffy Reviews.
Finally, the Complete Curriculum (all five levels of Excellence in Literature) is available as an ebook. The binder version is so nice that I almost didn’t think you’d want it as an ebook, but I’ve heard from military families, a reader in New Zealand, and at least one person who is moving and wants an easy way to keep track of it, and other families who enjoy the ease of clicking on links rather than typing them in, so here’s the ebook.
We are also offering it as a discounted bundle of the print and ebook together, as that is the ideal way to use it — the print book for planning, models, and reference, and the ebook for easy link-clicking. I hope those of you who have been waiting will enjoy it!
And of course, the books are available from the website at Everyday-Education.com.