Last week, I began a new series on one of the strategic initiatives we are undertaking at my employer, Westminster Christian Academy, namely that of "raising the academic profile." I started things by mentioning that "truth matters", that a school--in seeking to be truly great in the intellectual arena--must believe that knowledge has a fixed reference point, a standard that can be believed and trusted.
And that brings us to item number 2, which simply stated is...
(2) Subject mastery matters
The faculty of a school that is seeking to be better than they once were--especially in academics--must have a deserved reputation for being deeply trained and masterful scholars in the subject matter which they teach. Teachers are not viewed as a stop-gap, they are not utility infielders for a team trying to get by, and they are not on staff to grab a mere paycheck. True quality education means you have drunk deeply at the well in the area you teach. You have been called to this for a purpose.
This does not necessarily mean that a teacher automatically has to have an undergraduate major in the exact discipline of their classes. I, for example, teach Biblical ethics at Westminster but I was a history major at Covenant College. Still, I went on to a Master of Divinity degree at Covenant Theological Seminary, which I think qualifies me in certain matters theological. My history professor in college, the legendary Dr. Louis Voskuil, was actually an English major during his days as a student at Calvin College, but his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Loyola University-Chicago underscored his expert status.
This is one reason why I think we're well-equipped at Westminster to rise to this occasion. Full-time teachers here are well-versed in their subject matter and know their stuff inside and out in a way that brings depth to what we do. In the Bible department where I teach, our full-time faculty all have master's degrees at the seminary level. All of them! That's some serious academic professionalism. Full-time fine arts, math, history...you name it. They've studied what they're expected to impart in the classroom.
One of the key truisms of life is that what is in the result must be in the cause. We cannot expect increasing excellence in the classroom without teachers who enter it with high ability, knowledge, and hunger to improve their craft. I'm thankful to be at a place where we have this reality...in droves.