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Book Review - "Character Reborn: A philosophy of Christian Education" by Dr James Pietsch

Why become a teacher? Have you ever considered how powerful the role of the teacher can be in shaping the heads, hearts and hands of students in schools?

The powerful role a teacher plays in the life of school communities and in the lives of students is a central premise of Dr James Pietsch’s book Character Reborn: A philosophy of Christian Education. Helpfully he offers the reader, particularly Christian educators, answers to the broader purpose of education and the formation of students. This is illustrated in the following quote:

“There is something about teaching that attracts people of the kingdom.… for people whose lives have been transformed by the historical reality of Jesus’ death and resurrection, teaching includes, but is not limited to, specific conversations about who God is and how he has stepped into history to establish his kingdom. It also involves engaging with different spheres of knowledge in the light of the resurrection, understanding and appreciating how the first glimpses of the new creation shape our engagement in cultural practices today … It is more than simply speaking about the kingdom; it is preparing students to participate in the kingdom.” (Pietsch, 2018 p. xii-xiii)

Character Reborn

 

What Dr Pietsch seeks to do in Character Reborn is to show how Christian educators can ground their work in the narrative of the gospel. He unpacks how education can prepare students to participate in the Kingdom of God and how education can invest intentionally in the development of a students’ character, which is a work in partnership with God himself through the Holy Spirit.

The strength of Dr Pietsch’s book is that it is born from experience as a practitioner in the classroom, and as an educational leader in the school context. More than that Dr Pietsch calls schools in the Christian tradition to a vision drawn from the heart of the gospel. He says:

“As schools located within the biblical narrative, our concern is to invite students to participate in these cultural practices as people of the kingdom, foreshadowing their participation in the new creation that is to come.” (Pietsch, 2018 p.278)

Dr John Collier (Head, St Andrew’s Cathedral School, Sydney) who helped launch Character Reborn at the recent Anglican EdComm Conference has said:

“James Pietsch’s new book is a welcome addition to the corpus of Christian education literature which is contextually Australian. Australia has lacked a rigorous analysis of a Christian philosophy of education. This book confidently asserts that education is primarily about formation of people, rather than a reductionist formulaic approach which can be easily quantified. Pietsch’s work takes a Christian approach to character education at a time when most offerings proceed from secular humanist assumptions. Indeed, it examines not only what it means to be human but what does it mean in Christian terms, what it means educationally and the implications for Christian epistemology. This work successfully provides a bridge between theology, philosophy and pedagogy. It proceeds from a Christian apologetic to an examination of wholeness and virtue, which is then helpfully applied to areas of aesthetics and the physical realm.
 
This is a splendid book, which not only deserves, but needs, to be read by all Christian educators. It has the capacity in fact to shape how we approach the task of Christian education.”

You can purchase the book from The Wandering Bookseller.

Reference: Pietsch, J. (2018). Character Reborn: A Philosophy of Christian Education. (Sydney, NSW: Acorn Press)

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