Monday, May 31, 2010

Pietistic Retreats or Boot Camps

Education (part 27)

Some have viewed the Christian school as a place to retreat from a corrupt culture and secular education; a place to shelter our children from the harsh realities of modern culture. They become retreats from the world, while we wait for the return of Christ to rescue us. In such places, students are sheltered but often naïve and ill-prepared to enter the world as effective soldiers of Christ.

Set over against this are the few Christian schools that recognize the need for the Christian school to be a boot camp that prepares students for service in the world. Rather than retreating from the culture, students are prepared to conquer the culture for Christ. They are exposed a wide variety of things from the culture in the context of a distinctively Christian philosophy of education. They are given the tools of learning that will serve them for a lifetime.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Failures and Sins of Christian Schools

Education (part 26)

What is a "Christian school"? Is it a school full of Christians? Is it a place where everyone there has been baptized and joined the church and all are going to heaven when they die? Somehow it is thought that if enough Christians gather together and start a school, they should be able to muddle their way through. But they cannot, because the Lord Jesus is not the headmaster.

On the other hand, is it possible to have school full of Christians and still not have a "Christian school"? Or, is it a school with a biblical philosophy of education, so that the education is distinctively Christian; a place where every subject is taught from a biblical perspective. Perhaps every individual in the school is not a Christian (yet), but everything that is taught in it is Christian. If the school is thoroughly Christian then we would expect to see such an education produce Christian students who know how to think and live like followers of Jesus Christ. If a day school or home school is not consistently producing quality Christian thinkers with quality Christian character, then that school still has a ways to go.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Reacting to Government School Failures

Education (part 25)

In reaction to some of the negative fruit that is borne in government schools (e.g., violence, drugs, promiscuity, pop-culture, etc.), many Christians have sought other alternatives. Some have thought that if we could just have prayer and teach creation in the government schools then things would be all right. Of course, the government schools have seen that such things are inconsistent with their own goals.

Others have turned to Christian day schools or home schools. Some of these have been excellent, while many have fallen short of a thoroughly Christian philosophy of education in theory and/or practice. Rather than solving the root problem, many of these schools have only offered another version of the same problem. I would like to offer a brief critique of some of the failures and shortcoming of some of these schools. It's not enough to run from something; we have to run to something, and we have to have a clear view of what that something is.

Friday, May 28, 2010

An Equal Opportunity Offender

Education (part 24)

There are sins enough to go around. I was once asked at a conference whether I thought it was a sin to send your children to a public school. That was/is a hard question to answer, partly because I do not want to offend anyone and partly because a complex answer is required. Sin is any lack of conformity to or transgression of the law of God. God's law requires that we diligently teach our children the Word of God 24/7. That diligence is more than a vague or general consent to the truth of the Bible, but is rather a comprehensive demand to inculcate a distinctively biblical worldview in every subject. I do not think government schools can do this. I also think many Christian and home schools fail to do this. And I certainly think the Church has failed to instruct its members why and how to do this. Thus, the sins involved are not only individual, but also corporate.

In order to sort through this question, we all have to go to the Word of God and allow it to be our only rule of faith and life. What does the Bible say about the education of our children? This is not a matter of defending our particular turf, but rather of making sure that we are on God's turf. That work has to begin with the Church faithfully setting forth the biblical standard.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Rage Against God: Chapter 9

Excerpts from Peter Hitchens:

The Left's hostility to Christianity is actually specific, because Christianity is the religion of their own homes and homeland, the form in which they have encounteredand generally disliked and resentedthe power of God in their own lives. Islam, for most of the Left's time on earth, has been an exotic and distant creed, never taught to them as a living faith and never likely to be their own or to require their obedience. Therefore the Left can sympathize with it as the enemy of their Christian monoculture and as an anti-colonial and therefore "progressive" force. Some Marxist leftists in Britain have taken this to its logical conclusion and have formed alliances with British Muslims despite the Muslims' highly conservative attitudes toward women and homosexuals. Others prefer to live in a state of unresolved doublethink. This position is becoming harder and harder to maintain as Islam grows in power and reach, and as it becomes a major religious force in many nations of Europe, where so many "progressives" live…

God is the leftists' chief rival. Christian belief, by subjecting all men to divine authority and by asserting in the words "My kingdom is not of this world" that the ideal society does not exist in this life, is the most coherent and potent obstacle to secular utopianism. Christ's reproof of Judas"the poor always ye have with you"when Judas complains that precious ointment could have been sold to feed the poor rather than applied to Jesus' feet (see John 12:1–8 KJV), is also a stumbling-block and an annoyance to world reformers. By putting such socialistic thoughts in the mouth of the trader-to-be Judas, and stating so baldly the truth known to all conservatives that poverty cannot be eradicated, the Bible angers and frustrates those who believe that the pursuit of a perfect society justifies the quest for absolute power…

The last of these [referring to the "enormous power of 'progressive' education"]by refusing to teach the previously accepted canon of literature, history, and philosophy, by attempting to turn Christianity into a museum-piece, and by abandoning the concept of authorityhas left advanced societies entirely disarmed against intellectual assaults they could once have repulsed with ease. These influences were the real driving force of the 1960s social, sexual, and moral revolution that now seeks to destroy the last remaining restraints on its victory.

There is a general belief in the West that Marxist revolution came to a bitter and conclusive end with the fall of the Soviet Union and the European Communist regimes in 1989–91. On the contrary, the New Left were released from painful bonds by this collapse. No longer were they burdened with the failure of the Soviet experiment, which could always be used to argue against them. They were free at last from the identification of radical politics with the Kremlin enemy, which kept them out of political power in the Western democracies…

Any ideology or revolutionary state must alienate the young from their pre-revolutionary parents if it hopes to survive into future generations.

All Schools Are Religious

Education (part 23)

Religion directs and controls our lives. It's not a question of whether people are religious; it is only a matter of which religion a person serves. This religious orientation is often not acknowledged in our day, yet God's creatures cannot escape this fundamental truth of their nature. They might worship false gods, or they might worship the true God, but they will worship someone or something.

Every religion vies for power and control of our culture and thus, someone's religion controls every school. One of the most useful tools in the quest for power over the lives of men is found in the educational system. Kenneth Galbraith regards it as the successor to land and capital as the most important determinant of who controls whom. George Orwell observed in his novel, 1984: "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Understanding that whoever has power over the mind has power over the culture, Orwell had one of his characters declare: "The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them." This is an excellent explanation for the increased centralization of government education.

By the time the Roman Empire ended, its extensive system of local public schools was firmly under the control of the emperors. In our day we see the control of education being placed more and more into the hands of the government, especially federal government. We should remember that it was the purpose, from the beginning, for the government schools in the United Stated to be a moral and social force. As we have seen with one of the founders of compulsory public schools was Horace Mann, he saw the goals of public education as promoting the socialization of diverse peoples. "Give us your children and we will repair the world." This clearly proclaims the religious goals of modern humanism and the government schools.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Rage Against God: Chapter 8

Excerpt from Peter Hitchens:

The Decline of Christianity

It was the 1940s revolutionary period of nationalization, rationing, and growing state power that gave George Orwell the imaginative background for 1984, his novel about a perpetual socialist future of oppression, regimentation, and shortage. It was coupled with one of the most thorough-going attempts to introduce a socialist state ever attempted in a free country with the rule of law and an elected Parliament. The Labour government elected in 1945, with a huge Parliamentary majority, had many of the characteristics of a revolution, nationalizing private property and centralizing state power, greatly increasing the direct role of government in the national life in a way never before attempted in peacetime (though familiar from the recent war). Many of that government's measures were popular, not least the creation of a National Health Service, which made most doctors employees of the state but gave the poor guaranteed free medical treatment. Many of these changes had their roots in English and Scottish radicalism, not in Marxism or Communism, and were inspired by Christian sentiments. The wartime Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, had considered himself a Christian Socialist, and much of the Church of England believed that the 1945 Labour government was enacting Christian legislation and turning the country into an ideal Christian society. One effect of this was that the church relinquished control of many of its secondary schools to the state (a mistake the Roman Catholics did not make), in return for the promise of a daily act of Christian worship in all schools—a promise that would be extensively broken within a few decades…

During the 1960s Christianity was slowly, by gradual degrees, driven into the margins even when religious matters were under discussion. A new generation of teachers, many of them not themselves Christian in any serious way, did not wish to obey the law requiring a daily act of Christian worship in state schools. A revolutionary reorganization of these schools in the 1960s and 1970s, combined with an official decision to widen the recruitment of teachers, coincided with the cultural revolution of the same period. At around the same time, Britain began to absorb (or in many cases fail to absorb) large numbers of migrants from the Indian subcontinent who were not Christian.



Education (part 22)

Even though the most enthusiastic opposition to any blending of religion and education comes from the supporters of government schools, no school of any kind can maintain such separation. Value-free education is a contradiction of terms, and any hierarchy of values constitutes a religious system. John Dewy, another public school guru from the past, supported public schools as "religious in substance" but in a way that did not come "at the expense of a state-consciousness." He recognized that Christianity placed limits on the loyalty that one could have towards the state, but that the new religion of the schools did not.

Author Herbert Schlossberg observes that:

Education is a series of religious acts partly because the power of assumption is so great. Assumptions are even more powerful than assertions because they bypass a person's critical faculty and thereby create prejudice. Government education assumes God to be irrelevant to the educational process when, in fact, 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge' (Proverbs 1:7). Such false assumptions by the government schools can then be combined with arguments that prove the truth of what is false. These false assumptions are particularly beguiling because they appeal to one of our worst instincts—the desire to be fashionable or at least to avoid being associated with the unfashionable or unpopular." [Idols for Destruction, 1983, p. 210]

The assumptions of modern government education concerning the nature of man, the function of the state, the nature of truth, and so on, are such as to inculcate a set of presuppositions into our children that cannot escape being called religious.

As Christians, we cannot allow our children to be sacrificed to such a modern-day Molech. Can you imagine the ancient, faithful Jews taking their children to be taught by the Levites on the Sabbath and then handing those same children over to be educated by Canaanite schools the rest of the week? Remember, it is not a matter of whether our children will be taught religion in school; it's only a matter of which religion they will be taught.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Rage Against God: Chapter 7

Excerpts from Peter Hitchens:

Commenting on how the fear of God's judgment affected him:

Fear is good for us and helps us to escape from great dangers. Those who do not feel it are in permanent peril because they cannot see the risks that lie at their feet.

Speaking of the "modernization" of the Anglican Church (a "modernization" that is ongoing among contemporary evangelicals):

Anglicans are very accommodating, deferential, generous, and kindly people. Although most of them probably preferred the old to the new, many thought it would be bad manners, or uncharitable, to resist the urgent demands for novelty issued by their vicars. It was quickly clear that there was in truth no alternative. First, there would be an "experiment" with new forms, which was always deemed a success. Then there would perhaps be a period when old and new alternated. Then the old would be relegated to early morning (a concession to the aged) and perhaps the evening. In a few years, 400 years of almost unbroken tradition had been wiped out. What resistance there was had been patronized or ignored…

Lamenting the loss of the old forms:

This small, private battle for poetry and beauty—to which I am still committed—is as nothing compared to the greater conflict that we now face. No doubt it would be easier to fight if we were better armed. But in recent times it has grown clear that in my own country the Christian religion is threatened with a dangerous defeat, by secular forces that have never been so confident. In the United States, where Christianity appears stronger, it is by no means as powerful and secure as it imagines. Why is there such a fury against religion now? Why is it more advanced in Britain than in the USA? I have had good reason to seek the answer to this question, and I have found it where I might have expected to have done if only I had grasped from the start how large are the issues at stake. Only one reliable force stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. Only one reliable force forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of law. Only one reliable force restrains the hand of the man of power. And, in an age of power-worship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.


Retreat of Advance?

Education (part 21)

We want to praise the progress that has been made but understand that this is only the first step and that there is much yet to be done in the way of reformation. We will not undo the harm of government schools by simply retreating from our culture. There is another problem: Christian's say we see something we don't like; something that is dangerous, something we want to protect our kids from, so we'll just retreat from the culture into our own little ghettos and create our own system and avoid the world. Much of fundamentalist Christianity has generated those types of schools, and this has created different problems.

Our belief is that the Christian faith addresses every area of life. Therefore, the function of the Christian school is to develop schools to train young men and young women to go forth into the world, not away from the world; to conquer this world with the Word of God. We are not retreatists within the culture. Our goal is to prepare to take the culture. Our task, as followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, is to establish, maintain and advance distinctively and thoroughly Christian schools.

You cannot beat something with nothing. Dr. Machen noted, "A monopolistic system of education controlled by the state is far more efficient in crushing our liberty than the creedal weapons of fire and sword. Against this monopoly of education by the state the Christian school gains a solitary protest, it contends for the right of parents to bring up their children in accordance with the good faith of their conscience and not on the manner prescribed by the state." 

In Matthew 12:30 Jesus said, "Whoever is not for Me is against Me." Those are the only two options. You are either positively for Christ, positively working for His ways, working to obey His commands, implement His policy or you are against Him. There is no neutral ground, there is no third position. How could we support a government education that has gone beyond a false claim of neutrality, which was bad enough, to now openly opposing the Christian faith? How could we think that this is somehow being obedient to the commands of our Lord? Jesus called every believer to forsake himself and his relations to other people and things and to follow Him wherever He leads (Luke 14). He is the Lord of every area of life, including our intellectual pursuits. Paul instructs us that we are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Do you think he just gave that to parents and not to their children? It is ok if you take every thought captive but then send your children down to the Philistine school five days a week where no thoughts are taken captive for Christ, where God is left at the front door. Does God matter? Is He irrelevant when it comes to the pursuit of knowledge and thinking? "Be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind."

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Rage Against God: Chapter 6

Excerpt from Peter Hitchens:

I came to the conclusion—and nothing has since shifted it—that enormous and intrusive totalitarian state power, especially combined with militant egalitarianism, is an enemy of civility, of consideration, and even of enlightened self-interest. I also concluded that a high moral standard cannot be reached or maintained unless it is generally accepted and understood by an overwhelming number of people. I have since concluded that a hitherto Christian society that was de-Christianized would also face such problems, because I have seen public discourtesy and incivility spreading rapidly in my own country as Christianity is forgotten. The accelerating decline of civility in Britain, which struck me very hard when I returned there in 1995 after nearly five years in Russia and the USA, has several causes. The rapid vanishing of Christianity from public consciousness and life, as the last fully Christian generation ages and disappears, seems to me to be a major part of it. I do not think I would have been half so shocked by the squalor and rudeness of 1990 Moscow if I had not come from a country where Christian forbearance was still well established. If I had then been able to see the London of 2010, I would have been equally shocked.

What a Mess

Education (part 20)

Samuel Blumenfeld writes: "The plain unvarnished truth is that public education is a shoddy, fraudulent piece of goods sold to the public at an astronomical price. It's time the American consumer knows the extent of the fraud which is victimizing millions of children each year." H. L. Mencken observed that "a startling and dramatic improvement in American education requires only that we hang all the professors and burn down the schools."

The test of the Church's relevance in any age is the degree to which it is willing to take a biblical stance towards the vital issues of the day. This has been the weakness and, unfortunately, it is true of much of the twentieth and twenty first century evangelical Church in our day. It is oftentimes more concerned with fitting in with the world than it is with challenging the world with God's Word. Education is one of those issues the Church must face head-on. In fact, it's likely the most important and strategic issue facing Christians as they struggle to reclaim the culture. Without the development of a self-consciously Christian school movement there will be no reconstruction of our nation in terms of the Christian faith. It is vitally important therefore. if we are to be salt and light in our generation. that we confront this crucial issue and develop a thorough understanding of the Christian philosophy and practice of education.

Unfortunately, this has been one of the problems. I am truly thankful for the Christian home-schools and day schools that have developed, oftentimes as a reaction to the mess that we have been talking about. Unfortunately, many of these schools have frequently failed to think through sufficiently what it means to have a thorough and distinctive biblical philosophy of education.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Rage Against God: Chapter 5

Excerpt from Peter Hitchens

The Christian church has been powerfully damaged by letting itself be confused with love of country and the making of great wars―which can only ever be won by ruthless violence—are seldom fought for good reasons, even if such reasons are invented for them afterward. Civilized countries become less civilized when they go to war. And they hardly ever have good outcomes. In fact, I think it safe to say that the two great victorious wars of the twentieth century did more damage to Christianity in my own country than any other single force. The churches were full before 1914, half-empty after 1919, and three-quarters empty after 1945.

I would add that, by all but destroying British Christianity, these wars may come to destroy the spirit of the country. Those who fought so hard to defend Britain against its material enemies did so at a terrible spiritual cost. The memory of the great slaughter of 1914–18 was carried back into their daily lives by millions who had set out from quiet homes as gentle, innocent, and kind and returned cynical, brutalized, and used to cruelty. Then it happened again, except that the second time, the mass-murder was inflicted on—and directed against—women and children in their houses. Perhaps worse than the deliberate, scientific killing of civilians was the sad, desperate attempt to pretend to ourselves later that it was right and justified. In this way, the pain and damage were passed on to new generations who had no hand in the killing. War does terrible harm to civilization, to morals, to families, and to innocence. It tramples on patience, gentleness, charity, constancy, and honesty.

BTW: Peter Hitchens has won the 2010 Orwell prize, England's most prestigious writing award. Click Here

A Pause Before We Continue

Education (part 19)

I have seen some outstanding public schools with outstanding teachers and remarkable students. I have seen some lousy Christian and home schools with some poor teachers and inadequate students. Of course, we have all seen the opposite in each of these situations. The point here is that having good parts does not necessarily make a system good and having a good system does not necessarily make all the parts good.

It is foolish for Christians to assume that all the things that go on down at the public school are immoral or corrupt and that no good thing can come from them. Many outstanding students have graduated from PS 101, in most cases it is probably due (in part) to parents who were motivating and disciplining their children. It is likewise foolish to assume that all the things that go on at Christian day schools or home schools are incompetent and shoddy. The birth or rebirth of Christian education has many challenges to overcome, much of which is financial, and some of which involves the learning curve of any new project.

What I'm trying to do in these posts is step back and take a look at these efforts from a biblical and principled point of view. Ideas always have consequences. Moreover, it's always tempting to be defensive about whatever I happen to be doing at the time. It's important, however, that I not only am critical of the other system, but it's even more important that I'm willing to be critical of the system that I'm in, and that is often a hard thing to do. It seems to be a built in feature of our fallen natures to justify even our bad ideas.

Changing a culture is a slow and difficult process and it's not accomplished without making significant mistakes along the way. We rarely have a choice between the bad and the ideal. In fact, most of the time we have several choice between things that fall short of where we would like them be. It might take several generations before we can reclaim certain lost territory and we should be patient with one another along the way. Humility and grace are always essential if we are to honor the Lord with our efforts.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Rage Against God: Chapter 4

Excerpt from Peter Hitchens, speaking of the British battleships:

The loss of these ships makes the heart sink. I still clearly recall the sultry afternoon in August 1960 when HMS Vanguard, our last battleship, was towed to the breakers, where she was to be turned into washing machines and razor blades. I knew as I watched the slow, dreary occasion (she ran aground as if in protest) that it was a day of melancholy, loss, and decline, however much the TV commercials of that unusually dishonest and tawdry era tried to tell me that I was in a cheerful age of progress. I had felt the same when allowed, around the same time, to handle a Golden Sovereign, by then a collector's piece but before 1914 the normal day-to-day currency of my country. We had exchanged this real and valuable thing, with its beautiful engraving of St. George slaying a dragon, for a paper promise. How could that be called progress? The word has made me suspicious ever since.

A Summary of Our Survey

Education (part 18)

Well, that's a brief survey of the history of government schools. In future posts we'll be looking for the solutions. We will seek to develop a more self-conscious and consistent biblical worldview that includes the education of our children. You see, government education is an instrument of government policy. A government school administrator or teacher is (and we should always keep this in mind), first and foremost a government employee. Otto Scott suggested that public school, i.e., government school teachers, should perhaps wear uniforms and that would make the point a little more obvious to us. Such employees are obligated to implement government policy wherever it may be. 

There are still some Christian teachers and administrators in the system who fly under the radar and who undermine the official goals. We are all aware of individual instances where we have Obadiah's in the system who work against the system and we are thankful for that. But we need to understand that they are working in a subversive way and that won't last for long. It's certainly not a basis by which, or upon which we as Christian parents should make decisions about where we should educate our children. The idea that there is someone, somewhere in a public school, or even ten or twenty who are trying to undermine the system is a separate issue that is not one that should have a bearing upon what we should do as Christian parents.

Public or government educators are rarely freedom fighters. They are more likely to be loyal servants of their political masters. Where do they get their paychecks? How many times have I heard at the university from education students (it's almost an incantation and a genuflect), "what does the state require? What will the state say if we do that?" When these discussions come up, even from professing Christians we hear: "Oh, we can't teach that, the state won't let us. Well, Jesus is Lord, every day, all the time. He not only will let us declare His lordship, He requires that we do so. See Deuteronomy 6.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Rage Against God: Chapter 3

Faith in "Science"

The Christian conservatism of my schools did not protect me from the rather Victorian faith in something called "science" that was then very common. Perhaps this is because Christianity was not implied in every action and statement of my teachers, whereas materialist, naturalistic faith was. This faith did not require any great understanding. Mainly, it was just an assumption, a received opinion we all accepted. At the age of fifteen, despite an almost complete inability to learn the most basic parts of the school science curriculum, I was wholly satisfied that evolution by natural selection—which I did not understand because it was not thought necessary to explain this holy mystery—fully explained the current shape of the realm of nature.

(These days I know, with complete certainty, that there are a number of things about which I have no idea at all, nor does anyone else. This knowledge would have greatly surprised my fifteen-year-old self.)

I likewise thought—when I was solemnly first introduced to it at the age of thirteen—that "science" had fully explained the motions of the planets, the law of gravity, and the mysteries of time. Anything that had not yet been explained would no doubt soon be discovered. There were no mysteries.

Because we could observe gravity in action, we somehow knew what it was. Nobody then mentioned that its operation, especially in empty space, simply cannot be explained. All was settled. Just learn the Table of Elements, your species, your elementary biology, and your formulae, and that was that. The fact that the "laws" dealt with in this subject are all accounts of what did happen, rather than rules about how things should happen, was passed over in silence. Why and how were silently but inextricably confused. The use of the majestic word "laws" curiously turned the mind away from speculation about whose laws they might conceivably be or why they might have been made. Science, summed up as the belief that what could not be naturalistically or materialistically explained was not worth talking about, simply appropriated them.

Why then should any reasoning, informed person need the Idea of God? What would he have explained that was not known among the Bunsen burners, the jars of' acid, and the pickled embryos in brownish fluid, in the Science Block? Perhaps if I had been taught science with a little less confidence and told that these claims were open to argument, I might have been more interested in it. (Though I doubt it. My type of schoolboy thought it a little demeaning to be "good at" the useful and workaday subjects.). But I should stress that I was not actually taught these articles of the materialist faith, let alone the arguments that continue to rage around them. I was simply given the impression by adults that these things were the case, and that this was all settled forever.

It was the faith of a faithless age. I had no idea, then, quite why so many of the older generation had set their faces so hard against religious belief. I was quite shocked when I later discovered the true state of affairs. They did not know half the things they claimed to know. Their faith in science was an attempt to replace the Christian faith, ruined by wars and disillusion, with a new all-embracing certainty.


The Pervasiveness of Government Education

Education (part 17)

When we think about Christian education versus public education, we are overwhelmed partly because of the powerful presence of public education in our culture. We are sometimes so unaware of our own history that we might assume that the way things are now is the way they have always been, or at least they are the only way that they will work now. A simple but overwhelming physical presence of government schools helps to create this illusion.

Think about it, when government resources (that is a euphemistic term for your taxes); when government resources can take a 20 acre lot and transform it in a matter of six months to a year into a massive educational "Mecca" that's pretty impressive. No matter where we go, the government schools are visible to all, along with city halls and courthouses. With acres of lawns, sports fields and beautiful buildings, with labs and cafeterias, classrooms, computers and gymnasiums, the government schools are almost a sacred landmark in every community. It's understandable why people can come to assume that children cannot be educated without such facilities.

The school building represents a considerable public indebtedness. There are over 92,000 elementary schools and over 35,000 high schools in this country. Think of all the property and equipment. It's a major employer in every community. No wonder it's hard to find pastors who are not fearful of taking up this subject in speaking about the necessity of Christian education and the dangers of government schools when their churches are so full of public school students and public school teachers.

Government education is big money; it's big business. Apart from national defense, it represents the largest single tax-based system of cash flow in the United States. The combination of vast sums of money, a network of training colleges and an army of professionals and bureaucrats all make up this formidable establishment. All this is supported by a host of professional organizations, publications, lobbyists and unions. The political power of educational establishment is great. This is another reason it is dangerous.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Some Things Never Change

The "progressives" are currently in charge of the asylum and conservatives are growling at the gates. I am hopeful that we are (perhaps), seeing the beginning of a genuine awakening of substance, but it's too early to make that call with any certainty. I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from R.L. Dabney who wrote this in 1887:

This is a party that never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward toward perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. The pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always—when about to enter a protest—very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its "bark is worse than its bite," and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance. The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it "in wind," and to prevent it from becoming pursy and lazy from having nothing to whip. [Discussions, Vol. 4, p. 496.]

The Rage Against God: Chapter 2

Peter Hitchens, speaking of the moral change in Britain in the mid 1960s:

The change that followed was not slow or gradual, but catastrophic, like an avalanche….The astonishing swiftness of the change, like the crumbling of an Egyptian mummy to dust as fresh air rushes into the long-sealed tomb chamber, has been one of the features of my life. It suggests that our old morality was sustained only by custom and inertia, not by any deep attachment or understanding, and so had no ability to withstand the sneering assault of the modern age.

A Growth Industry

Education (part 16)

In the twentieth century we saw nothing but growth in public education. Like all bureaucracies, the educational bureaucracy has replaced their original task, that of allegedly educating children, with the objective that all bureaucracies end up with, which is self-perpetuation. They have succeeded in this goal. Richard Mitchell in his book: The Graves of Academe, correctly observes, "when we say, as we seem to more and more of these days, America is failing, it is because we don't understand the institution. It is in fact, succeeding enormously. It grows daily, hourly in power and wealth." Business Weekly reported this, "public schools already take more than one-third of state and local spending on goods and services and taxpayers are increasingly unwilling to pour billions more into a system that is widely perceived as having failed."

This country spends $373 billion a year [1999-2000] on public elementary and secondary education, making it one of the largest government expenditures. An average of $6,911 was spent on each student—an increase of 6.2 percent from $6,508 in school year 1998–99. Total expenditures for public education, including school construction, debt financing, community services, and adult education programs, came to nearly $382 billion. The 6 million people working for the public schools account for about 30% of all civilian government employment. According to National Review, fewer than half of these are teachers. Forbes magazine reports that in constant dollars, that is dollars adjusted for inflation "government schools spent $974.00 per student in 1945. By 2006 that amount was $9,138.00 per student. [$526.6 billion]" During that same period math scores on the ACT dropped 22 points and verbal scores dropped 47 points. In 2010, the total amount spent on public education topped one trillion dollars.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Rage Against God

I have begun reading Peter Hitchen's new book, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith. Peter is the brother of the currently popular atheist author, Christopher Hitchens. It promises to be a very good book. Here is an excerpt from chapter one:

…I was actively angry and resentful at the catechism's insistence on rules I had no intention of obeying. By the time I was twelve, I had a sense, when I encountered this text, of a very old and withered hand reaching out from a dusty tomb-like cavity and seeking to pull me down into its hole forever.

The dark purity of the seventeenth-century language was also disturbing. It was the voice of the dead, speaking as if they were still alive and as if the world had not changed since they died―when I thought I knew that the world was wholly alterable and that the rules changed with the times. Now I am comforted greatly by this voice, welcoming the intervention of my forbearers in our lives and their insistent reminder that we do not in fact change at all, that as I am now, so once were they, and as they are now, so shall I be.

The Glory of America

Education (part 15)

By the late 1800's, the government schools, while still retaining some element of Christian influence, were well entrenched in the American culture. Presbyterian theologian Robert L. Dabney observed in 1889 that "nearly all public men and preachers declare that the public schools are the glory of America; they are a finality and in no event to be surrendered." Dabney warned that the Church does not and cannot repair the mischief which her more powerful, rich and ubiquitous rival, the secularized state is doing and thus giving under the guise of a non-Christian education an anti-Christian education. Dabney goes on to predict this: "Christians must prepare themselves then for the following results: all prayers, catechisms and Bibles will ultimately be driven out of the schools."

By the beginning of 1926 there was a proposal before the U.S. Senate to establish a federal department of education. The goal was to unify and make uniform the education received by all government schools. It wasn't enough to have government schools, now we need to make sure that they're walking in lock-step with one another; teaching the same things; having the same training for teachers. They wanted a big, monolithic system.

Dr. J. Gresham Machen from Princeton Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian minister and noted defender of the Christian faith, testified before the Senate against the formation of such a department of education. Dr. Machen observed: "A great many educators I think have this notion that it is important to be doing something, to be going somewhere. They are interested in progress and they do not seem to care very much in what direction the progress is being made." Machen warned of the serious danger of a federally controlled education when he said this before the Senate: "But let us be perfectly clear about one thing. If liberty is not maintained with regard to education there is no use trying to maintain it in any other sphere. If you give the bureaucrats the children you might as well just give them everything else."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Unintended Consequences

Education (part 14)

The irony of our puritan heritage is that the puritans had it right at many points but one area where they missed the mark was concerning the issue of government education. It's easy in a homogeneous culture, especially when you control that culture; to favor government and tax supported control of institutions. What the puritans had opposed in England when it came to themselves, they hardly noticed when they held the power and influence. The common or government school was seen as a more efficient vehicle for instructing children in the Christian faith. The same system the puritans supported for the promotion of their views soon became the chief vehicle for opposition to the very ideas they sought to promote.

The genie was now out of the bottle and the public school juggernaut was building up speed. The word juggernaut was one of the titles of the god Krishna, and in India the idol would be put on a big cart with wheels and the juggernaut was taken through town and loyal devotees would sometimes throw themselves in front of this huge cart and be crushed to death as this thing built up speed. This juggernaut called for blind devotion and so it is really an apropos term to use in this case. The public school movement became a juggernaut and it was building up speed as it went. It still crushes some of its devotees.

Monday, May 17, 2010


A choice is a selection of one thing over another thing or things. Sometimes, we have no choice, but even on those occasions it's usually that we feel we have no choice because the alternative is unacceptable to us (e.g., getting spanked, fired, or shot). Our choices always reflect our relative values. As we make choices we're deciding how to spend our limited resources; primarily our time and money. For example, when we choose to spend our time on one activity we're often simultaneously deciding not to do something else. We have determined that the first thing is of more value than the other and as we make such decisions we declare to others (including our children), where our priorities are. This is one of life's inescapable concepts.

Life involves establishing and balancing our priorities or values. There are many things that are constantly calling us; some legitimate and others illegitimate. Work, family, church, school, recreation, vacation, rest, music lessons, sports, entertainment, fellowship, service, and much more are set before us regularly and call for us to arrange them in their proper order. Like merchants vying for shelf-space at the grocery store, life's competitors are often in conflict with one another and test us to see where our values are today.

As daily self-denying followers of Jesus Christ, He has given us some help in seeing what is ultimately valuable and thus assisting us in making the right choices. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matt. 6:33). His Word is the only rule to direct us concerning how we might glorify and enjoy Him (Matt. 4:4). Every choice must be filtered through our Christian calling so that every choice is directed toward His glory. This is what we are called to do―to glorify Him with our lives―to glorify Him with our choices.


Education (part 13)

Despite considerable and continued opposition, all attempts to stop the growth of educational state-ism failed. Thus, from its very inception, educational state-ism was the prime promoter of state-ism itself in America. The symbol of the triumph of state-ism was the creation of the first "normal school." It is amazing how terminology will be adopted very judiciously to put forth an idea. The "normal school" was the first state financed and controlled teacher's college. When you use a word like that, anything that falls outside of that must not be normal, right?

Opposition to the idea of state controlled teacher training remained strong until 1845 when the opposition was finally overcome, just a little over a hundred and fifty years ago. Since, for Horace Mann, the normal school was to be "a new instrumentality in the advancement of the race," the linking of state power to teacher education was a crowning accomplishment. Once the philosophy of state-ism is firmly entrenched in a nation's teachers' colleges it will not be long before that philosophy will permeate every other aspect of society. The simple truth that experience has taught us is that the most potent and significant expression of state-ism is a state educational system. Without it state-ism is impossible. With it, the state can and has become everything.

One other thing that was used that made this attractive to unthinking people was the promise of a bright future. A glorious vision was predicted for the future of the common schools. As Horace Mann wrote in the "Common School Journal" of 1841,

The common school is the institution which can receive and train up children in the elements of all good knowledge and of virtue before they are subjected to the alienating competitions of life. This institution is the greatest discovery ever made by man.
In two grand characteristic attributes it is super-eminent over all others, first in its universality, for it is capacious enough to receive and cherish in its paternal bosom every child that comes into the world. And second in the timeliness of the aid it proffers its early seasonal supplies of counsel and guidance, making security antedate danger. Other social organizations are curative and remedial; this is a preventative and antidote. They come to heal diseases and wounds, this to make the physical and moral frame less vulnerable to them. Let the common school be expanded to its capabilities. Let it be worked with the efficiency of which it is susceptible and hear nine-tenths of the crimes and the penal code will become obsolete. The long catalog of human ills would be abridged. More would walk more safely by day, every pillow would be more inviolable by night, property, life and character held by stronger tenure, all rational hopes respecting, the future brightened.

The perfectibility of men by way of universal and compulsory government education promised the naïve a utopian future. Give us your children and we will repair the world. It was difficult to resist a free education that offered such a glorious and universal hope.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What Are You Made Of?

An excerpt from a sermon to the graduating young men of 2010:

You're about to have an opportunity, not only to demonstrate the character and virtues you have already developed (or failed to develop), but you will also have the opportunity to add to and strengthen your character and virtues, if you will. I beg of you to give this your full attention.

In late July of 1850, the Rev. and Mrs. C.C. Jones wrote to their two sons who were headed off to Princeton University and they gave them parting instructions:

Our very dear Sons,

It is for the first time in your lives that you are about to leave your home and the society of your parents to be absent for a length of time, and at great distance, among strangers. And we cannot forbear addressing to you a few parting counsels, which we hope you will regard as the expression of our deep interest in your welfare and our sincere affection for you. And it gives us pleasure to believe that they will receive not only consideration but be adopted by you as rules upon which you may frame your character and regulate your lives.

They go on to offer a long list of exhortations and admonitions.

And so, as you guys head out to see what you're made of―to see if indeed your calling and election is sure―I ask you to consider these questions:

  1. Will you prepare for and rise up on the first morning of each and every week (starting with the first week) to worship the one true and living God, or will you sleep in?
  2. Will you resist the temptation to be crude with your mouth or to engage in course jesting, or will you give in to fit in?
  3. Will you remain chaste and pure in your thoughts and behavior, or will lust dictate your sexual behavior?
  4. Will you indulge those Internet images or will you follow the apostle's instruction and flee youthful lust?
  5. Will you keep company with the righteous or will you walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful?
  6. Will you keep yourself full of the Holy Spirit and His fruit, or will you fall into the dissipation of intoxicating substances?
  7. Will you be wise with your resources or will you squander them or gamble them away?
  8. Will you be diligent in your studies as a workman that needs not be ashamed, or will you become the sluggard that Proverbs warns against?
  9. Will you show gratitude and respect toward your parents and the others who have sacrificed to give you opportunities, or will you be selfish and petty?
  10. Will you be honest in all your relationships and activities, or will you operate in the shadows of deception?
  11. Will your love and serve your neighbor with great sacrifice, or will all your time and resources be spent in pursuit of your own desires?
  12. Will you be courageous to stand up of your faith in Christ, or will you fade away in shame?
  13. Will you be humble, remembering who you are and what Christ has done for you, or will you be an arrogant and cocky young man?
  14. Will your new Bibles be well worn and well read, or will they remain stiff and unused?

You see, all these questions will be asked of you every week in a variety of ways, and how you respond to these questions will, little-by-little, form you into a certain kind of man; a certain kind of husband; a certain kind of father. Those little decisions will compound themselves and form you either into a man of virtue to the glory of God and a reflection of your new nature in Christ, or else they will reveal an old nature that is void of the Christian virtues to which your baptism obligates you.

Graduation Prayer of Dedication

O wise and loving heavenly Father, we rejoice today at the sight of these young women that you have called unto Yourself.

You formed them in their mother's wombs and have numbered their days.
We pray that You would now direct their steps and make their path straight.
Grant them the wisdom of Christian humility and the grace of Christian charity.
Protect them from temptation and from those who would do them harm.
Establish them in righteousness, equip them for service, prosper their way, and grant them Your peace.

May it be obvious to all who know these young women that they are building their lives upon the sure foundation of Jesus Christ and His word.

Fill them with Your Spirit; 
Give them a hunger and thirst after righteousness. 
Give them true faith,
True repentance from sin.
True wisdom.
True courage to stand for what is right and against what is wrong. 

For "Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isa. 40:30-31).

We ask Your blessing now in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. AMEN.

Enter Horace Mann

Education (part 12)

If any single person can be credited for changing America's socially, academic and ultimately political direction it would have to be Horace Mann. It was Mann who was able to overcome the considerable opposition to state-ism while others couldn't. Mann proclaimed the State must assert itself as primary parent of children. Crime and vice were certain to explode unless children could be pried away from their degraded custodians and civilized according to formulas laid down by the best minds.

It was thought that without compulsory universal schooling the idiosyncratic family would never surrender its central hold on society to allow utopia to become a reality. Family had to be discouraged from its function as a sentimental haven, and rather pressed into the service of loftier ideals—those of the perfected state. Mann's success was due to a strong sense of mission, combined with his practical political experience as a legislator and the strong financial, cultural and social backing of the Harvard Unitarian elite.

Mann hated Calvinism with a passion, which delighted most of his Unitarian supporters. As H. G. Wells would later write (1905): "The leading principle of Utopian religion is the repudiation of Original Sin." He succeeded mainly because he knew how to divide his opposition. The backbone of the opposition to educational state-ism came primarily from orthodox Calvinism; Christians who feared the long-range anti-Christian effects of public education.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Matter of Worldviews

Education (part 11)

The problem, and it's very important to understand what's going on here—it's important to understand it historically but it is also important to understand it in our current situation—the problem was not one of economics. The problem from the beginning was philosophical and religious. It was a matter of worldviews. If both the socialists and the Unitarians embraced educational state-ism as the future way to human moral progress it was for two very clear reasons. First they rejected the biblical view of man and second they rejected the biblical view of history. Rational, heroic, perfectible man was elevated to god-like status. Historically man should expect moral progress. Man is always to be improving and be improved upon. The secular state was expected to dispense a justice and equity not to be found in the Scriptures.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Lyceum Movement

Education (part 10)

The anti-religious views of Owenism turned many people away. Christianity was still a dominant force in this country and this opposition forced them to adopt covert techniques to advance their cause. It was also in 1829 that Josiah Holbrook launched the "lyceum movement" to organize educators of America into a powerful lobby for public education. While Holbrook, with help from the Unitarians, organized educators through the lyceum movement, and the Owenites promoted a national system of education, the American people were going in the opposite direction.

The free market favored private education. New private academies were springing up all over the country. Had the free market forces been permitted to operate, the common schools would have either disappeared or been reduced to the basic function of the dispensers of free elementary education to a dwindling constituency. In the long run it would have been more economical for the towns if they just felt the need to do this, to pay the tuition of poor children to attend the private schools rather than for the towns to maintain these free schools, and you know I am using the word "free" in a very loose sense. Nothing is free; it was free at the taxpayers' expense.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Establishing Experimental Communities

Education (part 9)

In 1825, Robert Owen came to America to establish his ideal society, a communist colony at New Harmony, Indiana. The New Harmony Socialist Community was formed. The experiment received much newspaper publicity and attracted a large number of followers. There were quite a few of these kinds of communities that sprung up in an attempt to create a utopian community, but Owens' was probably the most famous. Owen wrote:

I came to this country to introduce an entire new state of society, to change it from the ignorant selfish system to an enlightened social system which shall gradually unite all interests into one and remove all cause for contest between individuals. 
This ought to sound frighteningly familiar to anyone who is keeping up with the public policy and multiculturalism present today.

Owens' experiment failed in less than two years. He concluded though that the reason it failed was that the adults were untrained and corrupted the result. They hadn't been taught right. They hadn't been trained in not being selfish. What was needed was a rational education to precede a workable socialist society; we needed to backup and start earlier. We needed to get a group of children that we can train and then we can have this ideal society. So, the Owenites, along with the Unitarians, subsequently launched a strong campaign to promote a national system of education.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Harvard Unitarians

Education (part 8)

From the beginning the Unitarians and socialists were the main leaders in the sustained effort for public education. If we looked into this a little further we would see that many of the leaders in Boston were also associated with Harvard University and that is where Unitarianism had its deep roots. Many of those, as we will see, who write and argue for the necessity of public education will be Harvard professors. Between 1823 and 1825 for example, James Carter, a Harvard Unitarian, published a series of essays deploring the general trend away from the common schools and advocated the expansion of public education and, very significantly, the creation of state supported teacher's seminaries. It wasn't enough that we want public education, we have to get control of the teachers' training also in order to have the right people fill the posts.

The Harvard Unitarian elite gave Carter's proposals their strongest endorsement and widest circulation. George Tiknor, of Harvard, reviewed Carter's essays and stated, "from the spirit of this age and the advantages that this country combined, we are looking for better results than have yet appeared. Mr. Owen will not accomplish them for us nor will any enthusiast, however much more generous and philanthropic or less vain and shortsighted." Now hear this, "The grand lever which is to raise up the mighty mass of this community is education. The schools hold in embryo the future communities of this land. The schools are the pillar of the republic. To these let the strong arm of government be stretched out. Over these let the wisdom of our legislatures watch."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

So Why Go Public?

Education (part 7)

The promoters of public, primary schools waged a vigorous campaign in the press. The fact that over 90% of the children were in school didn't matter to them; they focused on the few that were not. They warned that unless these children were rescued from neglect they would certainly become the criminals of tomorrow. Their cost to society would in the long run be far greater, they said, than the cost of a public, primary school system. By the way, if the argument here was just economic it would have made far more sense for the city just to pay the tuition of this 10% to attend the private schools; far less expensive than establishing a public school system. Their persistence, however, paid off and a primary education was finally made public. Keep in mind we are still talking about the very young grades here. 

So, why did the first organized effort take place in 1818? Well about that time a Scotsman named Robert Owen announced to the world that he had discovered the basic principle of moral improvements. We know Robert Owen today as the father of socialism. He claimed to have "discovered" what he considered to be the basic truth about human character. Man's character is made for him by society, by his upbringing, education and environment. Children in a cannibal society after all grew up to be cannibals and children in a selfish competitive society grew up to be selfish and competitive. No one, he said, is innately depraved or evil. 

The Unitarians of Boston fell upon these words with great delight. They wanted confirmation you see that man was indeed perfectible through the process of education. Owen stressed the importance of starting this process early, and this is very important. He emphasized that this process of education must start early in order to have a better chance of molding the child's character. By the way, in an education course I took in college, there were many advocating that the state get control of children from the time of birth (especially of the poor) in order to shape them from the beginning. 

This is why the Unitarians launched their campaign to create the public, primary schools. Thus the public education movement had as its goal, from the beginning, to reform the character of man into the future man. This, like all educational theories, is theological and religious in nature. Somebody's theology and religion is going to educate our children. Leaving education to chance meant leaving it private, and this is why in 1818 the Unitarians insisted on creating the public primary school system. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Turning Point

Education (part 6)

We come to a real turning point in Boston in 1818; this was not that long ago. So the conditions were that the private schools were outpacing the public schools easily. There is consistent growth in private and Christian education. But it is in Boston in 1818 that the first move to expand the public schools at the expense of the private was made. The school committee appointed a subcommittee to make a citywide survey of the schooling situation, which revealed some very interesting facts. About 2,360 pupils attended the 8 public schools in Boston but more than 4,000 attended the 150 private schools. The survey also revealed that over 90% of the city's children attended school despite that fact there were no compulsory attendance laws and the primary schools were private—the Dame Schools. The committee therefore recommended against establishing public, primary schools.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Growing System

Education (part 5)

By 1720, Boston had more private schools than public ones and by the end of the American War for Independence, many towns had no common schools at all. By the beginning of the new nation Boston was the only American city to have a public school system. Even then it was hardly a system at all compared to what we think of in today's sense of the word. What we would call primary education, working with the very young elementary children, was left to the Dame Schools. Dame Schools were the home schools that taught reading and writing at a very elementary level.

Literacy was a prerequisite for entering the public grammar school at age seven; they had to already know how to read and write. There were no compulsory attendance laws. For the next 20 years public and private schools coexisted in Massachusetts. The more efficient private schools expanded at the expense of the common or public schools. Outside of Boston the growing middle and professional classes were abandoning the dilapidated public schools for the new private academies. Only in Boston did the common schools hold their ground.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Old Fashion Private Education

Education (part 4)

In the beginning private schools were doing quite well. The United States for her first 50 years was the most governmentally unregulated society that had ever existed. For education this meant complete freedom and diversity. No accrediting agencies, no regulatory boards and no teacher certification requirements. There were private schools of every sort and size: church schools, academies that prepared students specifically for college, seminaries and Dames schools (which were elementary reading and writing schools taught by women in their own homes), and charity schools.

The common schools were the original public or government schools. Ironically they were first established in the commonwealth of Massachusetts as a means of transferring the Christian faith from one generation to the next. There was a concern in Puritan New England and that concern was the needed to educate children to read God's word and be taught the Christian faith so that it will be perpetuated generation after generation. They were committed to a high degree of biblical literacy. This idea of a biblical commonwealth didn't last long. Puritan orthodoxy started as the dominant force and thus the common schools were a reflection of this force. Nevertheless, this Puritan influence weakened as the colony grew.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Thanks to someone who loves me, I realized that I need to back-up before proceeding with these posts on "Rethinking Education" and give some qualifiers and disclaimers. As R. L. Dabney said, "the education of our children is the most important work on earth," but he didn't mention that it is the most difficult work on earth. Nobody has it just right and there's always room for improvement. Public schools, private Christian schools, and home schools can all point to particular successes and they also provide myriad examples of disasters. I know some rotten kids that have come out of public schools, private Christian schools, and home schools. I also know some shining examples of faithful and committed Christians who have also emerged from these as well. Therefore, the discussion of education cannot proceed on anecdotal evidence but must address the underlying principles involved.

Cultural conditions, educational difficulties, personal and corporate limitations, bad experiences and a host of other problems make our educational decisions complex, challenging, and often frustrating. There are personal sins and corporate sins that put sand in the gears. Nevertheless, we must know where we are going and why, and Scripture is the only rule to direct us as to how we may glorify and enjoy God. The principles of Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6:4 are universal, and so our discussion/debate must proceed along the lines of how best to apply and implement these requirements. My goal with these posts is to open the discussion among Christians and to challenge them to rethink the principles of education and to work to develop better alternatives.

As I said previously, there have been and continue to be many inadequate Christian schools. The fact that I think public schools are a bad idea (for principled reasons), is not an endorsement of bad private and home schools. Unfortunately, these are often the choices we are left with. I intend to begin with a brief history of the government schools, dealing mostly with the underlying philosophy that has driven their development. This is not unrelated to the political philosophy that we have seen in the past and that has come into its own most recently. This part of the discussion will be followed by an analysis of the relative strengths and weaknesses of private Christian schools and home schools.

I have no doubt that Christian children can be positive influences on other children in the public schools. My problem with Christian children in public schools is that I do not think God gave the government the duty, the authority or the wisdom (Prov. 1:7) to educate children to the glory of God. While there are some Christian teachers who are exceptions, I'm speaking of the system as a whole. Public schools are not "for Christ." They purport to be neutral, but that is not possible. Also, in principle, since God did not give the state the authority or the duty to educate children (He gave that to parents), it is wrong to tax everyone to pay for government education; it's simply not their job.

The child's heart (which includes his mind) is ultimately the issue and the home is the primary place where this instruction should occur. However, since the school is assisting parents in this God-given task, it's important that the school not undermine this by teaching that God is irrelevant to the educational process, or by denying certain truths of Scripture (e.g., creation, sin, salvation, and many more). Certainly, some families can and do make some progress in countering this at home, but the influences of a school are powerful and sustained. Moreover, I have seen many "good Christian kids" corrupted by their peers in the public schools (1 Cor. 15:33). I also oppose the idea of a Christian school being a retreat from the world (which many are). Rather, I see it as a boot camp to prepare them for service in the world. We should be producing students who have a broad exposure to the world and its ideas and who have been taught how to look at that world from a distinctively Christian worldview. We don't send eight-year-olds to the jungles of Africa to be missionaries; we train them first, and when they are well-equipped, we send them out to serve. Finally, the quality of the education must be first rate, and most Christian schools have a long way to go in this department.

A few things we can do for one another: 1) pray for each other; 2) show grace and patience toward one another as we work through these issues, knowing that many factors come into play; 3) talk, discuss and debate with each other (in love); 4) get informed.

Now with all that said, I will proceed to see if I can stir the pot a bit J

Christian Opposition

Education (part 3)

Some of the greatest opposition to Christian education will come from professing Christians. I think there are several reasons for this. There are some who are simply uninformed, while others have had bad experiences with less than adequate Christian schools; we might say less than "Christian" Christian schools. In many cases it's simply a matter of unfaithfulness. There is also the misguided notion that we should send our children into the system to be missionaries and a positive influence on the system when it is much more likely to be the opposite. And for many, the real motivation is financialpublic education is "free." It's therefore particularly important for the Church to make a positive and persuasive stand on this issue. We must make a determined and sustained effort to reverse those attitudes within the Church that are apathetic or hostile to a distinctively Christian education.

We might be tempted to think (as we often are on a lot of issues because we are so disconnected from our past), that our present system has always been with us. It's easy to assume that things have always been as they are now. Many presume that the things we have currently are better than they were in the past because we have been indoctrinated with a progressive or evolutionary view of history. Since we live in the twenty-first century we must be doing things better than they were done before. For example some people might assume that Americans adopted public or government education because private education was in some way unable to meet the needs of the new democratic society that was developing. Yet the historical record indicates that prior to the introduction of compulsory education, Americans were probably the most literate people in the world. Neither did the private schools exclude the poor from receiving an education. In some towns there were more free schools supported by private donations than there were poor pupils to go around.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pervasive Influence

Education (part 2)

What could you do if you had the power to manage and influence almost every American child day after day for close to twelve years? Do you think you could affect the character of the nation or change the way the culture views the world? As J. Gresham Machen put it, "If you give the bureaucrats the children, you might just as well give them everything else." Thomas Sowell wrote in his book, Inside American Education, that: "Too often American educators are like the Wizard of Oz handing out substitutes for brains, bravery and heart." He goes on to say, "Too many American schools are turning out students who are not only intellectually incompetent but also morally confused, emotionally alienated and socially maladjusted."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rethinking Education

Education (part 1)

I have been involved with Christian education (home schools and day schools) for over thirty years, as a parent, pastor, teacher and board member. I owe a debt of gratitude to many who have written, spoken and led the way as pioneers in the resurgence of this important work. I have also had the privilege to work alongside an army of dedicated and sacrificing parents, teachers and administrators, and I have witnessed much progress and the lovely fruit of those labors. Thank you! These "Education" posts are taken from a series of lectures I put together several years ago. My research was drawn from several sources but I especially want to acknowledge Samuel Blumenfeld's book, Is Public Education Necessary?, published in 1981, as being most helpful in helping me understand the history of American public education.

One of the problems we have when we come to consider the topic of education is that we ourselves are the product of some kind of education. It will therefore take a conscious effort on our part to rethink the educational and philosophical issues in terms of what God has to say about them. The intellectual climate of our nation today came primarily from the government schools where most of us were schooled to think. Government education, because it is nearly universal, monolithic and a self-sustaining institution, has more power to create our worldview and character than almost anything else in America. It strongly influences what we feel and how we will do the work of the mind (even when we don't realize its influence). This should not be surprising when you think about it. Growing up, each week we spend two or three hours in church and thirty to forty hours in school.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The World in the Grip of an Idea

As I was thinking about our current political climate I remembered a book I read back in the early 80's: The World in the Grip of an Idea, by Clarence Carson. The idea he referred to goes under many names and guises, but in all its forms it adds up to collectivism, or socialism, which ruthlessly crushes the lives and aspirations of individuals in its utopian quest for heaven on earth. This idea stands diametrically opposed to the idea of the gospel of Christ and it has been ruthless in its opposition to Christ and His Church. On one front it is openly hostile and on another front it has sought to hijack the Church by undermining her foundation.

The progressive agenda is motivated by religious zeal. Man is innately religious (being made in the image of God), and when he rejects the true God, false gods rush in to fill the void. The idea that has gripped the world seeks to achieve Paradise―human bliss―on this earth by focusing all efforts toward its realization. On the face of it this sounds wonderful: brotherhood, harmony, progress, peace, equality and prosperity. The refrain from John Lennon's "Imagine," captures the idea: "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us and the world will live as one." 

Of course, there is that annoying sand in the gears, which is this: we don't all agree on how to achieve this unity and bliss. And so, progressives have no problem with attempting to remove the sand. They do this by seeking to root out, discredit, and discard all aspects of culture that do not work to their end. Any pursuit of self-interest must be divested of any cultural influence. Socialism must alter the entire social environment to accomplish its goal of utopia. In order to achieve this social transformation, it will require a large and powerful central government which will function as the instrument to concert all efforts to destroy and alter the old culture and to make room for the realization of the new humanity. Anyone or any group who gets in way of this idea will be crushed. Carson wrote:

The thrust of revolution in our time, and gradualism is piecemeal revolution, is not simply to divest us of ownership or control of our property. It is that, of course, but it is so much more. It is to divest us of our received culture. It is to break the ties that bind the members of family to one another. It is to sever religion from education. It is to interpret every relationship with the power of the state, not in support of the individual but to have the relationship determined by social imperatives. It is to so alter the familiar adjuncts to our being that they are no longer ours but belong to something beyond us. It is to blur the distinctions between male and female, to merge the concept of adult and child, to cut away the authority of culture, and to leave us naked.