Narnia series may effect children positively, guest professor says

Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Clay Sprague | Contributor

Many may remember reading, hearing or watching any number of C.S. Lewis’s classic tales of Narnia such as “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” or “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” These tales have had an undeniable cultural impact since they were written, but Dr. Mark Pike thinks that the benefits that children can gain from these stories goes well beyond the realm of the imaginary.

Pike is a professor of education at the University of Leeds in the U.K. and has served as the head of the department of education there since 2014. In addition to these responsibilities, Pike is also the director of the Narnian Virtues Character Education research project, which he helped form. This research project is designed to study the effects that the values found within Narnian stories can have upon children from the ages of 11 to 13. It is this research project that Dr. Pike came to Baylor to promote on Tuesday, when he gave his presentation in the Cox Lecture Hall of the Armstrong Browning Library.

Before Pike’s presentation, Dr. Perry Glanzer, a professor of educational at Baylor, briefly described the success the project has had so far by telling the story of a poor, underperforming school in the U. K.

“When this ‘character education’ was made a centerpiece by this school, the pass rates for the state exams increased from around 18 percent to around 80 percent,” Glanzer said.

Pike began the presentation by explaining the procedure of the study. Because of a sizable donation from the Sir John Templeton Foundation, the materials are free of charge to any school willing to participate, provided that they comply with a few simple requests. For example, the research team asks that the school both pre-tests and post-tests the children in order to collect the data which will allow them to determine what kind of impact the curriculum is having on the children.

“These methods help both us and the children,” Pike said, “While they are learning about the various Narnian virtues, we can also learn as educators. We can learn how to better use character education moving forward.”

To more precisely focus the study, Pike and his colleagues highlighted six of the most important Narnian virtues for the research project to focus on. Along with these virtues, Pike and company provide schools with two passages related to each of the virtues that the children will study as a part of the curriculum. These virtues, which are wisdom, love, humility, courage, self-control and justice, will be tested in the students both before and after the taking curriculum in order to test the effectiveness of the course.

At the end of the presentation, Pike extended an invitation to any educator of children ages 11-13 who is interested in participating to contact the program and get involved.

“What we are have here is certainly exciting,” Pike said. “We have people involved from all over the world, the U.K., the Netherlands, Cambodia. We are certainly hoping to add Texas to that list.”