The Myth of a Value-Free Curriculum 

A hand holding up a small stack of books with two white books on the bottom and some darker books on top.

By Dr. Nathan Iverson, Associate Professor in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at California Baptist University


At California Baptist University (CBU), our mission, anchored in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, seeks to provide a Christ-centered educational experience that integrates both academic rigor and spiritual development. The ever-evolving landscape of language education serves as a vivid illustration of this mission, showcasing the interconnectedness of values and pedagogy.

Diving into the Evolution of Values in Language Education

Every language is a living testament to the culture and values of its speakers. It evolves, adapts, and absorbs nuances as societies change. David I. Smith of Calvin University provides a fascinating exploration of this dynamic relationship between language, culture, and values.

Centuries ago, the objective of language curricula extended beyond linguistic proficiency. They were tailored to shape minds and morals alike. These curricula weren’t simply lessons; they were experiences. They took students on journeys where they learned about community and hospitality, faith and reverence, all while mastering vocabulary and grammar.

Yet, as the world transformed and societies placed greater emphasis on individualism, so did our approach to language education. Contemporary lessons began to prioritize personal experiences and aspirations, often eclipsing broader ethical or societal teachings. This shift doesn’t merely reflect societal change; it has the power to mold the values and priorities of future generations. A closer examination of many contemporary language curricula reveals a tilt towards secular narratives, with an emphasis on personal leisure and pursuits. 

This shift, subtly yet unmistakably, leans into a hedonistic perspective, prioritizing personal pleasure and individualistic experiences. Such a transformation underscores the pressing need for institutions like CBU, which endeavor to foster a balanced worldview, harmonizing secular knowledge with spiritual wisdom.

Transformational Education at CBU

Inspired by Paulo Freire’s philosophy and enriched by insights from David I. Smith, I have experienced CBU’s pedagogical approach as both revolutionary and rooted. Education isn’t a one-way street; it’s a shared journey of discovery, introspection, and enlightenment. Our approach to education underscores the symbiotic relationship between knowledge and values:

A Culture of Dialogue: Classrooms can be beautiful and dynamic spaces of interaction. Students are collaborators, co-creators of knowledge. They’re encouraged to question, critique, and contribute, making the learning process vibrant and inclusive.

Exploring Values Beyond Textbooks: While curricula provide the framework, the exploration goes beyond. Students have the opportunity to discover societal values, ethical debates, and moral dilemmas, enriching their academic journey.

Spiritual Emphasis: Spirituality isn’t a separate realm; it can be woven into the fabric of education. As students navigate academic challenges, they’re also guided on a spiritual journey of self-discovery and faith.

Harmony of Faith and Knowledge: Faith doesn’t stand in opposition to knowledge; it can complement it. This harmony ensures a holistic educational experience that helps us to mature holistically in mind, body, and spirit.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology: Where Values Shape Workplaces

While language education offers a lens to view the influence of values in academia, my own field of Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology showcases how these principles shape the professional realm. Here, we aren’t just talking about theories; we’re discussing the very blueprints of modern workplaces.

Ethical Business Practices: In an era where businesses are global entities, championing practices rooted in fairness, transparency, and integrity is paramount. It’s about creating workplaces where profit doesn’t eclipse principles.

Team Dynamics: The modern workplace is a melting pot of cultures, perspectives, and skill sets. Understanding and valuing this diversity ensures harmonious, collaborative, and productive work environments.

Work-Life Balance: The boundaries between work and personal life are increasingly blurring. Recognizing and promoting a healthy equilibrium ensures holistic well-being and sustained productivity.

Imago Dei in the Workplace: Beyond policies and paychecks, it’s the intrinsic worth of every individual that truly defines a workplace. This principle emphasizes the need to respect, honor, and nurture the divine essence within each individual.

Final Thoughts

As we mentor the next generation, our goal is to offer an education that’s academically rigorous, spiritually enriching, and deeply fulfilling. We aim to nurture individuals poised to embark on their careers with skill, character, and a heart attuned to Christ’s teachings.

A Faith-based University’s ethos transcends the mere dissemination of knowledge. We are in the business of shaping well-rounded global citizens, grounded in a Christian worldview, ready to embrace their purpose. As educators and mentors, our vision is to offer an education that’s not only academically challenging but also spiritually uplifting, ensuring that our graduates step into the world equipped with knowledge, fortified by faith, and driven by purpose.

As we stand on the cusp of an ever-evolving educational landscape, the lessons from the past and the aspirations for the future converge in the classroom. The journey through language, values, and the diverse fields of study like Industrial-Organizational Psychology reaffirms the timeless significance of value-based education. Let us champion an education that prepares our students not just for careers, but for lives rich in purpose, meaning, service, and impact.


I’d like to extend my gratitude to the CBU Teaching and Learning Center and the opportunity to participate as a Faith Integration Fellow in addition to David I. Smith of Calvin University for his invaluable insights and research on the evolution of values in language education, some of which have been referenced in this post. His work has been instrumental in shaping my understanding of this topic.

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