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From Dictate to Discussion: New Tactics in the Culture Wars

July 18th, 2007 | 1 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Next week, I’ll be spending time at Wheatstone Academy engaging students in discussion. We pitch the program as a “Christian worldview development” program, but that is even overstepping it–mostly, we just talk.

The emergence of Wheatstone Academy, and other programs like it, signals a new approach in Christian education. As I pointed out recently, it’s a new approach that is long overdue. Rather than relying on dictates and promotion of moral precepts as the only means of keeping students within the fold, Christian educators are moving to draw students into discussions.

Why discussion?

As Socrates says in the Crito, “Let us consider the matter together, and do you either refute me if you can, and I will be convinced; or else cease, my dear friend, from repeating to me that I ought to escape against the wishes of the Athenians: for I am extremely desirous to be persuaded by you, but not against my own better judgment.”

In other words, what Christian educators should desire for their students–and what we should desire for ourselves–is that they are truly persuaded, rather than resting on the seeming persuasion that stems from sheer repetition.

Not surprisingly, the pursuit of true persuasion is far more effective than the alternatives. As Michael O’Brien put it today in a piece about the culture wars:

Many young people refuse to be simply told what to do. But they are actively interested in being convinced of what to do. Rote pronouncements never change the world overnight, nor are they a winning strategy. That some cultural warriors have shifted their tactics to reflect this new reality does not reflect a “truce.” It’s simply a new, more powerful salvo.

Thankfully, with programs like Wheatstone Academy, Christians are not very far behind their secular counterparts in playing within the new rules of engagement.