One of the pitfalls of modern education is that it comes down to the student's level and gets stuck. Students are "reached," not educated, and much of the curriculum is student-driven. On the other hand, a pitfall of traditional education (often seen in Dickens' novels) was that it whacked students over the head with a standard and demanded conformity. The modern method tailors ever-changing standards to kids' "needs," with all the backbone of Jabba the Hutt, while the older method often didn't see kids at all -- just objects to beat and lecture to. And where past teachers could be defined as those who always wore wigs and never wore smiles, the modern teacher (and better yet, the youth minister) can be defined as he who sits on chairs backwards eating pizza, hoping to be cool and relevant with the kids.
Generalization granted. But there's still got to be a better way to educate children than the typical pendulum swings to the far opposite corners of whatever the last generation did. And, by golly, it just so happens that Love and Rigor can sometimes be friends.
Call it loving students up to the standard. We get down to their level so that we can bring them up again with us, and we are committed to bringing them up again with us because we know that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (Prov. 22:15), and that there is a specific way in which children should be brought up (Prov. 22:6). Childhood is a glorious, God-given phase, but it is not a phase marked by its wisdom and understanding.
So what happens if we have too romantic a view of childhood? We cuddle and coddle and cater to our kids, worrying about how dangerous the world is (mostly with germs) and wishing Peter Pan could do something about it. We can't bear the thought of disciplining them, or of making them do something they don't like, and when they throw fits, let's give them what they want and make them happy, poor dears. We want them to love Jesus, but we also want them to follow their hearts, and one day we wonder why our daughter Lizzie has grown up and cut her hair funny and calls herself Larry and thinks Jesus and Buddha are basically the same person.
Or on the flip side, what about a narrow view of childhood? We correct and we spank, but always with frowns and lectures, and if our children cannot finish their homework, it's their own fault for not having paid enough attention in class. Smiles are reserved for Friday nights only. Movies are always a waste of time, and any students with Facebook are likely not Christians, and if you don't agree with me, son, I'm your father, and you will go to your room immediately until you learn respect. And while you're at it, you can memorize scripture and forget bowling tonight with your friends.
In both cases, like clockwork, the kids go off to college, do a full 180, and the parents are somehow just dumbfounded.
Love them up to the standard. Teach them how to live by showing them how to live. Work with them. Help them. Talk with them. Sacrifice for them. Expect much from them. Allow no compromises or excuses from them because you do not make excuses or compromise yourself. Teach them diligence by being diligent yourself. Make them widely interested children by being widely interested yourself. Teach them service by serving, love by loving, and devotion to Christ by being devoted to Christ.
Reformations are messy, but so is the gospel. And for our kids, the gospel starts at the kitchen table and on the living room floor.