Rich Bordner, founder of The Daniel Collaborative, has been a high school teacher for grades 9-12 since 2006. He taught in California for 9 years prior to moving to Texas in 2018, where he has been teaching since then. In that time, he has taught both regular and honors English in all high school grades, as well as courses on Research Methods, Philosophy, Science Fiction, ESL, and Remedial Reading/Writing. He earned bachelor’s degrees in both English and Philosophy from The Ohio State University in 2002, and a Master’s degree in Philosophy from Biola University in La Mirada, California in 2013. Due to his training and further study since then, he takes a philosopher’s approach to English, regularly using his training in class through units on logic, debate and research, and literature. His role in The Daniel Collaborative is to be a resource for parents and church leaders, helping prepare students for the worldview and life challenges that await them in college and the adult world. Rich and his wife Ezichi educate their two daughters via a classical homeschool hybrid model, so like other parents and church leaders, they, too, are “in the trenches” of education with their own family.
Put succinctly, The Daniel Collaborative’s mission is “preparation for the challenges that await.”
Challenges in the world abound, not just when it comes to daily living, but spiritually, morally, ideologically--every which way. Once your student(s) leave your home, will they be ready? Are they even fully *aware* of what those challenges are? Will their minds and hearts be able to cut through the fashionable nonsense to get to and stand upon truth?
These are questions that are imminently important, and more and more parents are asking them. Being prepared takes, among other things, a prepared mind...a mind that can see through the fog, that is not “blown about by every wind of doctrine.” We all can see “doctrine” is everywhere, not just in church, and our kids are bombarded by it constantly. This goes well past knowing facts, high test scores, and college acceptance letters.
Studies—by Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith and others—demonstrate that an alarmingly high percentage of young Christian students are incredibly inarticulate about the basics of reality and the Christian worldview. There are exceptions, but on the whole, they are ill prepared for what awaits. Don’t mistake my point: they might be responsible and nice citizens, who balance many responsibilities and treat others with respect. They might be articulate on a wide range of topics. However, when it comes to the ability to think through the most fundamental and important questions of life, and when it comes to the ability to address the cacophony of political rhetoric thrown at them by interested actors, typical young adults struggle mightily.
The good news is that much of this is not simply because “they are teenagers.” It is a matter of preparation and training, a matter of culture, and thus is preventable and correctable.
If you were going to run a Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or compete in a Crossfit competition, would you show up only having trained for an hour or two in your living room? That would be insane! Yet a great number of our young show up to college and adult life with an analogous amount of training on the crucial questions of our day.
Our youth are current disciples of Christ, and will be future husbands/wives, mothers/fathers, leaders, employees, citizens, and voters. On that last role, our children will, in the future, not just have a role in choosing the governmental policy that will affect the lives of all generations…they will be tasked with choosing the leader of the free world. There are many things fulfilling that duty requires. One of them is a sound mind. It is not optional. This goes far past “being smart.” High ACT scores and college acceptance letters do not a good life make. It’s wisdom. Understanding. Knowing the times. This kind of knowledge touches the voting booth, the home, the job, and the street. Does our culture’s education adequately prepare them for those roles? Does the usual youth group weekly gatherings, common in American churches, combined with youth group retreats and Vacation Bible School, get them ready? There are pockets of light in our culture, but the common answer is “no.” Most of us recognize that even a college education is wanting.
They need more. This is what The Daniel Collaborative is all about. You are already concerned about the impact of the culture on your students’ intellect, emotions, and actions, and are taking measures to filter that influence through your direct role in his or her education. The Daniel Collaborative is a program that will ground your children’s approach to life on sound principles that will allow them to properly evaluate the options and information swarming around them.
I am someone who is on the front lines with you: I am the father of two daughters; my wife and I homeschool our children; I earned two undergrad degrees from a secular university; I have been a public school teacher since 2006, in both urban city schools and suburban schools; lastly, I have not only taught a wide range of English courses, but have taught Research Methods, ESL and worldviews/philosophy courses. I routinely formally teach logic in my classrooms….I “get” your concern—I vividly see the need for this emphasis every single day in multiple ways.
We offer training to prepare young men and women for the challenges they *will* face outside the home. The Daniel Collaborative’s domain is worldview challenges that, if left unaddressed, can sideline or erode a young student’s trust in the Faith Once For All Delivered to the Saints. It is not a matter of “if” they will face these challenges. They *will.* The structure of education in the West and the pulse of the culture at large guarantee it.
The following habits of mind and soul are the pillars we stand on. The Daniel Collaborative seeks to form young men and women who:
Are intellectually resilient
Possess mental fortitude
Love truth and stand firm in it
Possess ordered and clear habits of thought
Possess a deeper understanding of the world, themselves, and the people around them.
Character and habit formation is, of course, a lifelong process, so we can’t pretend that through our courses students will have “arrived” at excellence in any of the above, but our aim is to assist parents in doing what they are already doing: forming the hearts and minds of their sons and daughters in Christian discipleship. We know you already care about this and work hard at it. We simply are a part of the process: a tool for you to use. As Jesus attests in Matthew 22:37, the mind is an integral part of our worship. It is our goal that, after your young adults have gone through some of our courses, they will not only be better able to navigate their college classes and demands of their chosen careers, but will be better able to navigate life and less likely to fall prey to/be intimidated by the plethora of smooth sounding hokum out there. In addition, our courses will assist you in not only giving your children a good defense, but a good offense as well, helping them be actively influence those around them for the good.
J.P Moreland, professor of philosophy at Biola University, has it right when he says:
“…It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize our entire culture is in trouble. We are staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, and we can no longer afford to act like it’s loaded with blanks…Our society has replaced heroes with celebrities, the quest for a well-informed character with the search for a flat stomach, substance and depth with image and personality. In the political process, the makeup man is more important than the speech writer, and we approach the voting booth, not on the basis of a well-developed philosophy of what the state should be, but with a heart full of images, emotions, and slogans all packed into thirty-second sound bites. The mind-numbing, irrational tripe that fills TV talk shows is digested by millions of bored, lonely Americans hungry for that sort of stuff.”
Just think, he penned those words in 1997, several years before social media hit it big. We can’t pretend that our courses will be a panacea or one-step cure for Moreland’s diagnosis, but we do aim to be one small part of the solution. Our courses are one small way to bring order out of the chaos, both in individual students (and their parents!), and in the culture at large.