Celebrate and Imagine #1: Introduction and Beginnings

Dan BeerensCelebrate and Imagine, The CACE RoundtableLeave a Comment

Celebrate and Imagine Christian School History with Dan Beerens

In fall of 2021, CACE invited a group of 70+ educators to Washington, D.C. We met at the Museum of the Bible for a two-day conference on the history and ongoing impact of Reformed Calvinist K-12 day school education. It was a time of remembering, appreciating, and evaluating the history of this movement and considering how it may continue to impact Christian education in North America. Hence the title for this ten-part blog series comes from the conference title: “Celebrating the Past, Imagining the Future.”

As preparation for this conference, CACE shared a series of four emails with registrants that described the history of this Reformed Calvinist day school movement, from its early beginnings to the present day. We will now share these emails here on the CACE site so that more readers may benefit from this survey. We plan to share not only this historical overview but also video segments of our conference speakers. 

As the primary author of these posts, let me be upfront: trying to tell a long story with accuracy and fairness is a risky business. Often I will point you to authors who have written in depth about parts of the whole story. Any omission of important parts, characters, and events is not intentional, so I ask in advance for your grace and understanding. Nevertheless, we at CACE hope that this story may leave us not only more grateful for our heritage, but also inspired to carry on the best of what we have learned into the future.

This blog series will scan four periods of this movement’s history:

  1. The Beginnings and Growth of Calvinist Christian (Reformed Dutch) Day Schools in North America
  2. Thought Leadership in the Boom Years (1950-1990)
  3. Seeking a New Paradigm of Educating (1990-2010)
  4. Schools Embodying a Transforming Vision: Missional, Dynamic, Deeper, and Global (2010-Present)

The Beginnings and Growth of Calvinist Christian (Reformed Dutch) Day Schools in North America

How did Calvinist Christian schools get started in North America? What prompted a desire to start them? Why were they located where they were? Our first reading will help us understand the context out of which Reformed Calvinist day school education grew and how vision, theology, geography, and ethnicity merged into a movement, first in the U.S. and then in Canada.

Two works are very helpful to understand the topic of beginnings and the subsequent growth of Calvinist Christian day schools. In June 2019 the Association for the  Advancement of American Dutch Studies (AADAS) focused its 22nd biennial conference on Reformed Christian day school education. One of the products of that conference was the publication of a collection of lectures entitled Dutch Reformed Education Immigrant Legacies in North America (here are the chapter titles). This book is available for purchase through the Van Raalte Institute located in Holland, Michigan. The first featured essay, by Calvin University professor emeritus Henk Aay, gives a great contextual/geographical starting point. 

Professor/author Steve Vryhof has written a very helpful summary of the history of Calvinist Christian schools (it is his term I have adopted to describe this branch of Christian education). His chapter is available as part of a larger work on faith-based education: The Praeger Handbook of Faith-Based Schools in the United States, K-12, Vol. 1 by Hunt and Carper. 

The next post in this blog series will include a link to the D.C. conference keynote by a leading proponent of Calvinist Christian education, Dr. Cornelius Plantinga, president emeritus of Calvin Seminary. His keynote title comes from his book by the same name: Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living (2002). We look forward to sharing that video with you next time and hope that you will regularly join us on this journey of discovery about Calvinist Christian day school education!


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