World Views of the Western World is a four-volume, worldview, unit-study curriculum that draws heavily upon the works and ideas of Dr. Francis Schaeffer. Starting Points, the first volume, is followed by Years I through III of World Views of the Western World.
Each volume is published in an easy-to-handle, lay-flat-binding book. Each of these books serves as a course resource-teaching syllabus for students. It is designed so that students can work independently, although this would not preclude group discussion and interaction. In fact, the courses best lend themselves to a combination of independent and group work.
Following through the weekly lesson plans, students read from the research-teaching syllabus and answer questions and write essays directly in their books. They are also directed to view DVDs, listen to audio CDs, and read extensively from other sources. For each volume, you will need to purchase or borrow a number of other resources, most of which you will probably consider to be valuable additions to your library rather than resources to be used only for school. The list of resources seems daunting for a student to get through for all but Starting Points, but students will only use excerpts from a number of them.
Incorporating principles from classical education, this curriculum particularly suits the dialectic (logic) and rhetoric stages. Although it uses a mixture of Great Books and Good Books, it draws out of these books the important life questions. While Socratic dialogue is missing, Quine poses questions to students that direct them through the type of thinking that occurs in a Socratic discussion. In addition, students are challenged to logically defend their positions and conclusions in writing. Parents can also create a Socratic discussion themselves using the syllabus, although they would have to be familiar with the material to do. Even though students cover a huge amount of information, focus throughout is upon ideas and critical thinking rather than on memorization of information.
Starting Points: World View Primer can be used by junior high or high school students. This is an introductory course that most students should complete before tackling the other three volumes. However, it was developed after the original volumes, and it is possible for high school students to skip it and begin with Year I.
Starting Points lays a foundation for developing a biblical Christian worldview consistent with Schaeffer's Reformed Protestant perspective. Alongside this central theme is a subordinate theme advancing the concept of limited government.
The first part of the syllabus directs students through chapters of James Sire's How to Read Slowly, Paul Little's Know What You Believe, and David Quine's Answers for Difficult Days. This is a rather directive study that guides students into acceptance and support of a biblical worldview. It requires neither personal research nor a study of primary documents to evaluate all available options. Although it deals with contrary beliefs, it does so in a cursory fashion most of the time. This first section might be the most problematic for those who differ from David Quine in regard to what constitutes a biblical Christian worldview.
The second section deals with literature and movies, demonstrating how they present worldviews that are either consistent with or contrary to a biblical Christian worldview. Students learn what to look for and how to analyze what they read or view as they work through The Chronicles of Narnia (three books), Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, It's a Wonderful Life, and The Wizard of Oz.
The third part of the syllabus guides students through C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity and Christian Overman's Assumptions as they move into cultural applications of worldviews, both positive and negative. This section of Starting Points, as well as the next, both bring in philosophical background that helps students understand motivating ideas that shaped our country. The final section uses Gary Amos's Never Before in History as the foundation for a study of the founding of the United States, drawing upon information and ideas raised earlier in the study.
High school students can derive one credit each in Bible, literature, and U.S. History with this course. They will be required to do a significant amount of writing, including lengthy essays. As with the other volumes, assistance is provided within the syllabus for developing each essay.
The next three volumes, World Views of the Western World, follow a chronological timeline. Year I, The Bible and Ancient Thought, begins with an introduction to the course and covers the basics of defining worldviews. Thus, students could skip Starting Points and begin with this volume. From there it moves on to a comparison of a biblical Christian worldview and Greco-Roman worldviews roughly covering the time period 1200 BC - 1200 AD (Primary attention is given to Ancient Rome, Greece, and the Middle Ages.) In-depth studies of the Book of Job, The Iliad, and City of God are representative of Quine's strategy of using significant pieces of literature as springboards for integrated study in each area. The second half of Year I shifts to the Middle Ages, examining changes in philosophical and theological ideas and their consequences through this era and beyond. Among other resources used with this volume are The Aeneid, Affliction (Edith Schaeffer), How Should We Then Live? (Francis Schaeffer), The Republic, The Universe Next Door (Sire), the How Should We Then Live? DVD series, Cornerstone's Adventures in Art and Classical Composers and the Christian World View, audio CDs by Francis Schaeffer, and audio CDs from the Knowledge Products series on figures such as Aristotle and Plato.
The second volume, The Grandeur of Christianity and the Revolutionary Age, covers 1200 to the 1800s addressing the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Revolutionary Age, political theory, early American history, and the rise of modern science. A primary focus is comparison and contrast of the Renaissance view of life with that of the Reformation. Year II uses such resources as Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, Reformation Overview DVDs, The Universe Next Door, Machiavelli's The Prince, Knowledge Product's audio CD on John Locke and his Two Treatises, The Shorter Catechism, Luther's 95 Theses, Bastiat's The Law, The Communist Manifesto, Hamlet, A Tale of Two Cities, and Animal Farm with extensive, in-depth study of The Divine Comedy. Development of Reformation theology is a major theme.
Year III: Christianity Answers the 21st Century, continues from the 1800s (the Age of Reason and the Age of Fragmentation) to the present, covering both world and U.S. history with a western civilization emphasis. Year III compares and contrasts the theistic ideas of the Bible with the naturalistic ideas of the 20th century. Examples of resources used with Year III are dramatized audio CDs on famous philosophers such as Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, and Sartre; Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson, Darwin on Trial (Johnson); The Plague (Camus); The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict; Walden Two (Skinner); C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength; three of the Star Wars movies as well as the movies Gettysburg and Gone with the Wind; How Should We Then Live? (both the book and the DVD series); and the Of Pandas and People science text. Quine's continual use of comparison and contrast effectively helps students understand both the underlying beliefs and the cultural outworking of different worldviews.
Since literature is a major part of these courses, Cornerstone Curriculum has been working to create The World View Library. This is a collection of significant literary works in readable translations to which they have added sidebars with definitions, occasional explanatory notes, and highlighted quotations. Fifteen books, including titles such The Iliad, Frankenstein, and The Law, are already available in the collection with others in the works. While you do not have to use these particular editions of the books, they will work especially well with these courses.
Rather than aiming for comprehensive coverage of history, these four Cornerstone courses instead focus upon key ideas that dominated each period. Following the lead of Francis Schaeffer in How Should We Then Live?, study centers primarily around the areas of philosophy, religion, literature, music, and the fine arts. It also ventures beyond Schaeffer into economics, law and government, and science. Extensive writing is required throughout all volumes, and basic paragraph and essay writing skills are taught for the lengthier assignments.
A chart at the beginning of Year I shows how many credits might be given for each subject area for the high school transcript; the entire three volumes are equivalent to 16 Carnegie units, so this is a major part of a student's high school course work. It includes enough units for basic requirements in English, history, government, and fine arts, with the equivalent of 2 units of philosophy/theology, 1 unit of science history, and surplus units in government, political theory, and economics. The last two subjects look great on a transcript! You will need to add math, lab science, and foreign language classes (plus health, physical education, driver's ed, and other electives) to complete high school requirements.
While students can work through these volumes independently, there are no built-in mechanisms for accountability—no tests or quizzes. However, there are numerous essay questions and writing assignments. Parents should be looking over this work and discussing the course content with students. However, most parents are not familiar with the course content, which makes this rather difficult.
Ideally, parents should also participate in the study, at least reading through the material, watching DVDs, and listening to the CDs. If this is not possible, having a student narrate lesson content to the parent, summarizing what they have learned, might be adequate although less than ideal. Consider having a few students who are working through the study (simultaneously but independently) meet with a knowledgeable adult periodically to discuss course content.
If none of these ideas are practical, all is not lost. You might leave accountability at the student's doorstep: they get out of it what they put into it. When you consider how little students retain of what they supposedly learn under the most stringent accountability systems, there is something to be said for allowing them to absorb as much as they can without outside coercion. After all, this is most often how adults function when they want to learn something. The key here is student motivation. I have found in teaching worldviews that once most students grasp the idea of worldviews and how important it is, learning follows naturally. They easily understand that this is learning that matters!
Note that each volume is a consumable course and is intended for use by only one student. No photocopying or resale is allowed. Thus, you need to purchase a separate syllabus for each student, although additional books are purchased at discounted prices. Packages include the CDs, DVDs, and books needed for each level. However, you can also purchase selected items from any of the packages if you already have access to some of them.