Real Thinking Curriculum
Summit uses only Biblically integrated textbooks primarily from ACSI and Bob Jones University Press. We understand however that curriculum is more than textbooks, it is all that is taught in a school, it is the school’s philosophy of education. Summit strives to teach critical thinking to students throughout their tenure at the school. For more on this, view our page on teaching to think.
Below is a detailed overview of how we teach each of our subjects: Bible, English/Language Arts, Heritage Studies (History), and Math.
Bible—Comprehending spiritual truth requires a regenerated mind. As Paul explains, “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). Spiritual discernment is the goal of Christian education and a direct product of biblically critical thinking within the “renewed mind” of the redeemed Christian student. Teaching the Bible must be deliberately systematic and factual. However, it must also assist students in thinking through biblical truths and applying them to their lives. Facts alone do not change conduct; students must synthesize the facts into principles and apply those principles to their own situations. A truly Christian education will require more than parroting Bible truths; students must appropriate those truths and commit to them. Thus, biblical thinking forms the foundation for all thinking through the various fields of study.
The sixth grade Bible Truths textbook asks students to explain why Solomon’s temple was important to the people of Israel. This and other questions throughout the course encourage students to go beyond a surface understanding of events, assess the factors and consequences involved, anddraw conclusions.
2 For a detailed analysis of each subject area, see Christian Education: Its Mandate and Mission (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1992).
English—By definition, English studies focus on the process and product of communication in the English language. Verbal communication, as an attribute of God and His primary means of nurturing His children, provides the basis of biblical thinking. Learning to understand, appreciate, and create written communication requires the development of critical-thinking skills. It includes the methods, conventions, and ethics of discovering, analyzing, and reporting information. English education from the earliest elementary years involves reading, composition, speaking, listening, grammar, persuasion, literature, and the full complement of library skills—all of which essentially define the nature of critical and creative thinking. A phonics approach to reading in the formative years—in combination with an emphasis on comprehension, listening, speaking, and writing—forms a solid foundation for developing critical thinking skills.
The Teacher’s Edition for third grade reading labels the different kinds of comprehension questions, including literal, interpretative, and critical. A literal question for one story asks “What is written on the scrap of yellowed paper?” This question requires a very simple answer that can be found in the text of the story. The critical question for the same section asks, “What does Isobel’s praying instead of worrying show about her?” This question requires the student to think about the story on a deeper level. It prompts him to compare Isobel’s choices (praying or worrying) and to draw a conclusion about her character based on her decision.
The Teacher’s Edition for fifth grade reading uses the same labels for each comprehension question. A critical question for one story reads, “Do you think Timothy did the right thing by starting a fight with Mike?” This question encourages the student to think for himself about the characters’ decisions and their consequences and then make a judgment regarding the morality of Timothy’s actions.
Heritage Studies (History)
The study of man, from creation to the present day, also involves the related disciplines of politics, economics, and geography. From kindergarten onward, the study of history should focus on the study of human heritage and its influence on culture. It also includes studies in citizenship, law, political functions, economic principles, and social relationships. All of these studies inherently require the critical-thinking skills of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation steeped in the standard of Scripture.
BJU Press’s World History textbook asks questions such as “Of the individuals discussed in this section, which do you think was the most influential in bringing about the greatest freedom of self-government for the English people? Why?” This question prompts the student to compare and contrast historical figures and make a judgment regarding the implications of their actions.
Another question in the same textbook asks students to explain how imperialism aided the spread of the gospel. In this case, students have to understand imperialism and the traits that facilitated gospel expansion under this form of government.
Math—Mathematics is a deductive science, focusing on both computational skills and understanding the way the computed quantities relate to each other. Inherently rational, the study of math promotes the essence of critical thinking—it requires not only memorization of math facts and processes but also the creativity of applying the logical development of those processes to practical situations. God, as Creator, has given man the rational capacity to explore and formulate quantitative relationships and consequences that both explain and predict solutions. Math education, from the earliest years, should promote Christian thinking skills.
BJU Press math textbooks often include historical facts, intended to broaden the student’s view of math’s applications. The Fundamentals of the Math Teacher’s Edition explains that the Babylonians were the first to use the concept of a degree in measuring angles. Later in the student text, the student is asked to find the combined volume of the columns in the Lincoln Memorial. A photo and an interesting fact about the building keep the student engaged while demonstrating one of the many ways math skills can be used.
Science—The systematic study of nature, based on observation, epitomizes critical thinking. The scientific method of drawing conclusions from factual observation requires the progression from knowledge to evaluation through the skills of application, analysis, and synthesis. Laboratory experience is essential to developing these inductive reasoning skills. From the first grade, students should enter the path of scientific inquiry through first-hand experience. They should learn to measure, record observations, draw conclusions, and evaluate. Furthermore, the Christian studying science must also be able to comprehend nature within the framework of a biblical understanding of human origins and defend his beliefs to an unregenerate world with a consistent commitment to the scientific method of observation (as opposed to the human speculation on which evolutionary and humanistic beliefs are based).
BJU Press’s Life Science textbook asks, “Explain how a hazardous substance dumped on the ground could contaminate fish for sale at your local grocery store.” This question prompts students to apply the ecological principles they have read about to their lives in a very personal way. Another question, “What would happen to an insect if it lost its ability to molt?” puts the student’s mind to work as he imagines the results of such a condition.