This Advent season, our family attended Hillsong San Francisco’s @hillsong_sf “Christmas Spectacular.” During that celebratory production, the performers dramatized the story of the Magi as the “three wise kings who studied the stars.” Their consistent pursuit of that North Star led them to the light of the world, found in a newborn babe. I sat with that image: those three kings, already known as wise, pursued studying the stars with such wonder and amazement—not for the sake of science as an end in itself, but to reach the King of all Kings. In their discovery of the stars, they found the One for whom they searched; the One who, from the beginning, created the heavens and the earth and divided the light from the dark. The God who formed them also designed the world to be known by them. Christmas is spectacular when Christ is at its center. The same holds true for education.
Soon thereafter, I engaged my colleague, Dr. Grant Horner (@mastersuniversity), a leader in the Classical Christian education movement, in a discussion about setting the foundation for Donum Dei in a city where the advancement of technology is pursued so doggedly. Often, this technology is touted as improving life for people all over the world; in many ways, it does. Yet, in this Advent season, as we wait with expectation for His second coming, let us reflect on those three wise kings and consider with me Dr. Horner’s wise words:
“As humans, we have developed this science and technology by which we don’t have the right morality to control. In fact, human beings are being wrecked by the very ‘tech’ that they’ve designed. We love technology because it’s enjoyable, but we have this built-in fear; we realize our addiction to the phones/tablets. If all we do is STEM/STEAM, we will have hollow souls that don’t know how to think about the very technology that we created. God made the world. The world has order. It makes sense. We can grow in our knowledge of Him and His creation.”
Have you ever wondered about how choosing a school might affect your children's sense of wonder and ability to gain wisdom? Parents in San Francisco may consider various educational options when navigating where to enroll their children for 40 hours per week or 15,000 plus hours over their academic careers. There is a myriad of options, including the public school lottery, Catholic parochial schools, language immersion schools, STEM/STEAM-focused schools, charters, private elites, and even homeschool. Various factors might contribute to decision-making, many of which lead to certain outcomes. Some parents care primarily about enrolling their children in schools that will ensure admissions to elite universities; however, those universities today may look very different by the time those same children graduate from high school. Others may place their children in certain schools that are focused on (STEM/STEAM) to prepare them for future, high-tech careers that likely may not exist. Choosing a school is important, for example, because society tells us that we need a certain school for our children to gain access to our desired, top university. As Christian parents, we're called to something different; we are in this world, but we are not of this world.
When investigating educational options, we’re making conscious decisions to number our children’s days, invest our children’s time, and put our young ones under the influence of leadership and peer groups who will have a significant impact on their hearts, souls, and minds. If we choose to focus our school choices on STEM/STEAM, elite privates, or other modern educational options, apart from soul formation, then are we not guilty of creating what C.S. Lewis would describe as “men without chests”? Could it be possible that Donum Dei might serve San Francisco by offering Classical tradition of education steeped in a deeply rich, Christian faith while embracing the Quadrivium's mathematical arts, musical arts, and sciences?
I envision Donum Dei setting a foundation in San Francisco where like-minded parents care wholeheartedly about forming human souls in ways that inspire those souls to go out and pour into others’ souls. I imagine training children not for jobs that don’t yet exist, but rather, preparing young leaders for a church that does not yet exist. I dream of educating students who will discern, wrestle with, and defend truth across disciplines. I can see the beauty of providing an academically robust Classical education that highlights mathematical arts and sciences in ways that inspire students to become not only competent in the STEAM/STEM fields, but also to gain the skills necessary to articulate their research and rightly defend their faith and work. I imagine educated young ladies and gentlemen with souls formed in order to transform the world around them.
When was the last time you wondered about the heavenlies so much so that you studied the stars, expecting to gain something new and fresh about the God who spoke them into existence?
Donum Dei wants to inspire wonder in children as they grow in wisdom and stature with our God and their fellow man. As we pursue those ends, I have no doubt that we will prepare our students for endless, high-quality future options to be what their God called them to be: faithful leaders in San Francisco and beyond.
—Dr. Christine McLean, Founding Partner and Head of School