In 2010, Dr. Harro Van Brummelen and I conducted a research study to discover the ways in which Christian high schools involve their students in (or shield them from) cultural awareness and engagement. Does cultural engagement take place within the curriculum, or does it happen primarily in extracurricular fashion outside of the classroom? Is such engagement deliberately planned by the school as part of its educational program, or does it only happen at the discretion of individual teachers who believe cultural engagement is directly linked to the school’s mission?
For our study we interviewed the principal, two teachers, and groups of four to six grade 12 students in each of eighteen Christian secondary schools in Washington State, Alberta, and British Columbia. Eight Christian high schools were affiliated with Christian Schools International, three were part of Catholic dioceses, and seven were affiliated with the Association of Christian Schools International. Five schools had small grade 12 enrolments (ten to twenty-five students); five were medium-sized (twenty-six to seventy-five students); and eight were relatively large (more than seventy-five students).
In his book Culture Making, Andy Crouch identifies four postures that describe how Christians engage with culture: condemning and withdrawing from culture, critiquing culture, copying culture, and consuming contemporary culture (68–69). Which of these postures are evident in Christian high schools? Would elements of all four be present or would some be stronger than others? Crouch argues that the recent trend in evangelical circles is away from withdrawal and toward uncritical consumption. Do Christian high schools reflect the same tendency?