Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vision Forum Curriculum

There is a book from Vision Forum entitled "Building a Winning Curriculum: How To Use Vision Forum Products To Build a Winning Homeschool Curriculum."  It appears to be a guide to designing unit studies using mainly Vision Forum products, studying such academic topics as:
Manly Leadership
The Nobility of Womanhood
The Blessing of Children
A Culture of Virtuous Boyhood and Girlhood
The Development of Christianity and Western Civilization
Science and Creationism

We'll take the second to last one, development of Christianity and Western Civilization, just because it is one of the more comparable topics to other academic curriculums.  Author Dorys Horn writes, "We need to teach our children to defend their faith by understanding God's providential hand in history. I know of no better way to do this than to expose them to men who have a passionate love and appreciation for God and for the subject they teach."

Utilizing the Western Civilization Collection as the basis of this study(with lectures by such people as Dough Phillips, Dr. Joseph Morecraft III, William Potter and Colin Gunn), Mrs. Horn divides each unit per DVD, of which there are ten.  The first one is entitled Five Hundred Years of Liberty Birthed by the Reformation.  It is a lecture by--you guessed it--Doug Phillips himself, "(providing) a panoramic overview of the Reformation while introducing the audience to the worldview issues articulated by John Calvin, and demonstrates how Calvin helped to lay the foundations of freedom for modern Western Civilization."  It may just be the political philosophy bachelor's degree holder in me, but I don't remember John Calvin discussed in this context.  I do, however, remember John Locke, Jean Jacque Rousseau, Thomas Jefferson, Plato, Socrates, St. Augustine, and several others studied.  None of these people, save Thomas Jefferson and Augustine, are mentioned at all throughout this entire history study.

Once you watch this video, the topics for composition and discussion are:
Calvin's Impact On The Family
The Origination of Representative Government
What is the greatest battle of our day?
How did the reformation lay the foundation of freedom for modern Western Civilization?

Further study topics include the Council of Nicea, Geneva Psalter, Gregorian Chant, Five Solas of the Faith, and the Doctrine of Providence. 
For further reading, they suggest some more DVDs by Dr. Morecraft on topics of the Five Solas, St. Augustine, and "What Every Christian Needs To Know About the Revolution."

DVD #2 is even lighter academically.  It discusses how "John Calvin is arguably the most important man of the past 1,000 years and how his influence has reached into the 21st century."  For composition and discussion, they suggest "two marks of a true church," "Calvin and Evanglism", "Calvinism and the 21st Century."  Further study topics includes Libertines, Anabaptists, ANtinomianism, and Alexander Duff. One book by Philip Vollmer on John Calvin is listed for reading, as well as 3 more DVD videos by Dr. Morecraft.

Not once are any books suggested from outside Vision Forum, nor are any original writings by Calvin, differing viewpoints especially from Calvin's time period, and, frankly, I'm not sure how they can make the statement that John Calvin is not just the most important man in a millenium, but that the philosophic underpinnings of American democracy lie on his shoulders.

Sonlight Curriculum(which I am using simply for comparison purposes) covers the Reformation through the present in approximately the same age group the above Vision Forum curriculum is suggested for--7th-9th grade.  Copied from their website, here are the goals:
You and your children will...
  • Discover what it was like to live in the exciting world of the 1700s as you meet Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon, Fredrick the Great, Catherine of Russia and many more.
  • Open a window into the world of our first president—George Washington.
  • Experience the rich tapestry of world events and political happenings of the 1800s in places like: Britain, Germany, Japan and Russia.
  • Travel along with Abraham Lincoln as he works his way from a young frontier boy, to President of the United States. Get a deeper look into his life as you discover the heart of the man who is now known as one our greatest presidents.
  • Dodge many bullets as you walk through the political, economic, cultural and social stresses that produced several revolutions, a civil war and two world wars.
  • Discover how new technology changed communication, travel and war forever and forced a few "isolated" countries to "westernize"—later to emerge as formidable world powers.
  • And much more.
Their resources include Susan Wise Bauer's "Story of The World," making timelines, reading and analyzing literature and original sources and writings, writing argumentative essays, studying the opposing viewpoints, and creative writing.  There are too many books to list here, and more than one narrow, Calvinist viewpoint is reviewed, discussed and analyzed.

My goal in educating my children is not indoctrination.  It is not presenting false viewpoints(such as Calvin is responsible for American Revolution), but studying the world events holistically.  What was going on historically, economically, creatively, that precipitated this world event?  Why were there so many voices of human rights and political reform during a particular time? What were the thoughts, events, writings, movements that spawned the Renaissance, the American Civil War, the Women's Rights movement?  I want my children to read literature.  Literature that may present viewpoints or ideas that I don't agree with.  I want them to immerse themselves in good, high quality literature; to know a good book when they see it.  I want my children to be critical readers.
I want my children exposed to differening viewpoints, different ideas.  I want them to understand that even though I may disagree with some things, that there may be good and strong points made by those who hold opposite views. 
I want my children to think for themselves.

And this is why I won't be using Vision Forum products in our homeschool. Teaching your child one viewpoint will lead to an adult that either dismisses other ideas out of hand or becomes confused the first time they encounter an articulate, intelligent person who believes differently.  Skimming through history, only studying subjects, people and writings that fit neatly into your worldview will lead to a child who not only is getting a terrible education, but who cannot process today's events. 

Vision Forum is not interested in critical thinking. They are interested in selling a product and a lifestyle.  They aren't that interested in educating your children, because they know that true education will lead to critical thinking skills, which, in turn, will lead to them going out of business.  I can't stop places like Vision Forum, but I can teach my children critical thinking skills.  Perhaps, though, that is the one thing that scares them the most.