This Series of Blogs provide vignettes of the early pioneers of The Muscular Christianity Era - Faith-Sport Integration who laid the foundations for the Modern Day Sports Outreach Movement
THOMAS ARNOLD – USING SPORT TO DEVELOP CHARACTER
If Thomas Arnold is known by anyone in the 21st century it would more likely be someone in the field of education, rather than a Sports Minister. This is because Thomas and his son were pioneers in the educational systems and philosophies of the day. Yet Arnold played a foundational role for modern day Sports Ministers. Arnold’s educational innovations were widely acclaimed by the19th century British society and yet his philosophy of education is completely antithetical to, and would be quite despised by many modern day educators in America. Arnold believed headmasters were called of God to create a school with a Christian tone. To Arnold, a school was first and foremost a place for character formation and only secondarily a place for learning and study. He certainly wanted to impart a quality education but he believed developing character in his students was even more important. To this end he sought ordination so as to be able to administer the sacraments to his students and responsibly teach them moral law and theology. He did in fact receive his ordination from the Bishop of London, Dr. Howley, who affirmed spiritual mentorship to be a crucial role of a headmaster. Arnold later also received his Doctorate of Divinity.
Born in 1795 Arnold had only a brief time with his own father, who died when Thomas was only six. This early loss may have been a driving force which made Arnold more keenly aware of the need young boys have for a male role model, mentor and father. Although denied a relationship with his father, Arnold was still the recipient of an education at the finest schools available and began his own teaching career at the age of 25.
Thomas married his wife Mary who bore him seven children of whom six lived into adulthood. As if to make up for his own loss of a father, Thomas had excellent relationships with his children and it was said that they all adored him. Some of his grandchildren are well known today as authors and thinkers that include Julian and Aldous Huxley.
Arnold began his teaching career at Laleham school. He taught there for 10 years and it was while at Laleham that he began to develop his educational principles. The three that he instituted were:
1. Religious and moral instruction come first
2. Gentlemanly conduct is taught second
3. Intellectual ability is developed third
After his tenure at Laleham he was selected from some 50 candidates for the more prestigious headmaster position at Rugby school. Rugby was not a school that taught the sport of Rugby, but rather was a first class educational institution in which the sport of Rugby was created. The sport assumed the name of the school. Arnold inherited approximately 100 students, but quickly increased that number to over 300 by his sheer energy and progressive and innovative educational methods. It was at Rugby that Arnold’s religious and educational principles really solidified. He methodically went about creating a Christian tone for his academic community, but not by the standard approaches of increasing the amount of religious services. Rather he believed that the headmaster was to emulate what the Christian life was all about and that the boys needed to learn how to make their faith relevant to and integrated in every aspect of their lives.
THE CHRISTIAN TONE AT RUGBY
Arnold became not only the headmaster but also the chaplain of the school. Thus, he taught the intellectual aspects required for graduation in the classroom, but he also preached to the students on a regular basis in the chapel. His sermons always dealt with temptations typically facing boys and how they were to be handled. These messages emphasized practical issues and solutions to every day problems. He wrote one entire book which was devoted exclusively to these sermons to his students.
Beyond the required chapels, Arnold insisted prayer to be included in the daily life of a student. He believed this to be especially true for the upper classmen who Arnold knew could better appreciate its importance. Continual prayer and other regular spiritual regimens stemmed from Arnold’s belief that one could not separate the sacred from the everyday, moment by moment life. He believed and taught the sacred was always present.
This blog is an excerpt from a future book: "Surrounded by Witnesses" by Dr. Greg Linville All rights reserved. For any reproduction right, including copying, computer reproduction, etc. contact:
Dr. Greg Linville at CSRM International C/O The World Outreach Center 5350 Broadmoor Circle N. w. Canton, Ohio – USA 44709 or email@example.com
Other blogs and articles on Local Church Sports, sports theology and ethics written by Dr. Greg Linville and other local church Sports, Rec & Fitness Ministers are archived at: http://www.csrm.org/blog/