Borrowed Ethics Borrowed Ethics The past three decades have witnessed a remarkable growth in private Christian education, both in Christian day schools and in homeschooling. The effort has not been in vain. Standardized test scores repeatedly show that students in private Christian education far outpace their counterparts in public schools. It is reported that all homeschool students applying at Harvard last year were accepted. On the other hand, public schools continue to deteriorate- academically, morally and in safety. The number of shootings and killings in public schools last year, even by little boys, have shaken our nation into disbelief. We keep asking, Why? The answers are as varied as people offering explanations. President Clinton recently announced the standard establishment answer- more teachers, more programs, more money- i.e., more of the same. What should we expect for this? More of the same. This paper is not an attempt to fully answer ‘What has gone wrong in public/government schools?’. Many good articles and books have already addressed that.
I agree with those who are saying that the problem lies in the seed, not the plant. Responsibility for education of children was misplaced over a century ago through the efforts of Mann, Dewey, et al. Christ-centered education was replaced with so-called child-centered education. When this transition began in the mid nineteenth century, there still continued a strong Judeo-Christian ethic in the classroom. Prayer and reading of scriptures were also a normal part of the school’s activities. When state-run education began, it borrowed the spiritual capital present in schools and because of that; it ‘survived’ for many decades. Speaking of early American educators, Dr.
Rushdoony said, Absorbed almost entirely in the process of education, as a rule, it never occurs to these good men that the concepts that they took for granted of a good society were purloined from the Christian heritage that they have studiously ignored or denied. Without faith in God and fear of the Lord as a focus of education, spiritual capital was not being replenished. Now it appears that the spiritual capital has been spent and that the system is coming unglued. The apostle Paul gave us a clear warning, And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together(Col. 1:17). Another way of saying this would be, Things not in Him don’t hold together. How long it can continue is uncertain, but some are saying the end of public/government education is near.
Strange Bedfellows We assert the mixing of school and civil government is not only bad business, but also bad theology. Education of youth is simply not a government function, biblically speaking. Government schools should not be reformed; rather they should be dismantled, though carefully. What is truly needed is a thoughtful plan for separating school and state. It was precisely the mixing of school and government that was the heart and soul of Dewey’s pedagogical reasoning. In 1894 Dewey accepted the position of chairman of the Depart-ment of Philosophy, Psychology and Pedagogy at the University of Chicago.
It was here that Dewey established his Laboratory School. As noted by education expert Samuel L. Blumenfeld, Here was, indeed, a master plan, involving the entire progressive educational community, to create a new socialist curriculum for the schools of America, a plan that was indeed carried out and implemented. — he put forth his collectivist concepts of an organic society, the social individual, the downgrading of academics (emphasis mine), and the need to use psychology in education. In 1897 Dewey published his My Pedagogic Creed in which he stated, among other beliefs, I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living; I believe that education is the regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction I believe that every teacher is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of proper social order and the securing of the right social growth. I believe that in this way the teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God. Dewey got his wish- a messianic school system, but without the God of the Bible. What his messianic system has gotten us is a mess. As Blumenfeld stated, More than ninety years have gone by since Dewey set American education on its progressive course. The result is an education system in shambles, a rising national tide of illiteracy and the social misery caused in its wake. Supporting our own Demise What I am addressing in this paper is: ‘Why are the vast majority of Christian families still supporting government-controlled education by enrolling their children in state-run, dumbed-down schools?’ The answers are many.
Reasons often given by families are lack of funds for private school tuition, no Christian schools available in the area, and inability to homeschool. I am certain these are real issues for many parents and that there is much anguish in having ‘no choice.’ But one answer I hear often from Christian parents that is troubling is, Our public school really isn’t all that bad. Parents support this view with observations such as 1) there are many Christian teachers in our school (probably some), 2) our children are doing well (meaning they are coming home with A’s and B’s), 3) training at home and church is keeping our children on track spiritually (likely an over-rated statement) and 4) there haven’t been any shootings at our school. But do these provide sufficient evidence that the command Train up a child in the way he should go– is being met? The work of our Institute says Not so. Worldviews Identified Test results gathered by Nehemiah Institute gives strong evidence that in public schools ‘Christian Johnny’ is not being educated in the way he should go. These results are from a Christian worldview assessment service (PEERS Testing) provided to many Christian educators who are assessing how biblical or non-biblical the students’ thinking is on culture-shaping issues.
The PEERS Test identifies primary worldview philosophies in Politics, Economics, Education, Religion, and Social Issues (PEERS). Views in each category are identified as belonging to one of four worldviews: 1) Biblical Theism, 2) Moderate-Christian, 3) Secular Humanism, or 4) Socialism. Most people operate with basic principles from one or more of these worldview philosophies. Other worldviews which may have shaped our thinking include romanticism, atheism, New Age, materialism, nihilism (denying existence), and pantheism (God permeates all). Each of these perspectives embodies a view on how man should live. What we all are commanded to live by, and what all men are judged by, is discerned under the Christian or biblical worldview. This is God’s command for how man is to relate to Him and to one another.
The goal of education is to train up the child in the various disciplines according to a scriptural understanding of the subject matter. This is biblical worldview education. It is objective truth for all disciplines, for all ages, for all times. PEERS Testing aids educators in determining to what degree students (and faculty) are comprehending biblical worldview thinking. Based on PEERS test results of thousands of students from nearly all states over the past 11 years, and from a variety of types of schools, we can objectively and statistically claim that public school students from Christian homes are not being trained in the way they should go. Overall PEERS scores for students in Christian schools vary from a moderate-Christian worldview to Biblical Theism. But scores from Christian-home students in public schools predominantly fall in the Secular Humanism or Socialism perspectives.
While many barometers indicate that public schools are failing, PEERS testing shows they may well be succeeding-toward the wrong goal! If the goal of public education is to institute a philosophy of state-controlled democratic capitalism (a short leap to socialism), as viewed by some, then I would have to say government schools are close to claiming, Mission accomplished. Three Pillars of Education Differences in PEERS scores are not due to differences in religious training at home or at church. It is our opinion that the differences shown are primarily the result of three education factors: 1) Worldview brought to the classroom by the teacher; 2) Worldview presented in the curriculum (texts and tests); and 3) Worldview developed by observation that education in public schools is under the control of state and federal governments. State-run schooling turned teaching from a ministry into a secular vocation. Biblically speaking, teaching is both a calling and a gifting from God. The teacher is to be a master in his area of expertise, have good communication skills in presenting his knowledge and understanding, and ability to motivate his students in become lifelong learners. The work of the teacher is to aid the student in preparation for his calling in life such that God will be glorified.
All teaching should be theocentric in focus. However, with government-run education, the focus was changed to a secular and evolutionary view of life. With this change in focus, methodology of teaching took on new meaning. Consider the following comment from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (N.C.A.T.E.): Why is Teacher Preparation Important? (title) Some people still believe in the discredited view that teachers are born, not made–. Our needs as a nation have changed, and our expectations and requirements for teacher preparation must change with it. The movement for higher standards for student knowledge increases the need for teachers who are well-versed in the content which they plan to teach. This statement is telling.
The government sees educators first as trained workmen in methodology and only secondly needing to know about what they will teach. With this view, education became a professional vocation complete with degrees (B.Ed., M.Ed., Ed.D. and D.Ed.). Educators were then state-certified, assuring others of their ability to ‘train up the child.’ I believe this has led to expertise of subject matter giving way to technique of presentation, to some considerable degree. I was a professional teacher in the military and in a Fortune 100 company. I also taught in public and private schools for a short period and have been teaching in adult Sunday Schools for over 25 years.
It has always been my objective to be a master at what I was teaching and to be articulate in my presentations. I believe strongly in teacher preparation and in quality of presentation. Yet it has been my experience both in teacher training institutions and in the teaching profession to find many teachers who were anything but academically proficient in their field. Nevertheless they made a career of ‘teaching’ with good classroom management skills and good teacher-pupil relationship skills. Sometimes not even with that. The Heart of the Matter The main problem in government-run education, I believe, is the focus it has established as a foundation for teaching as a profession. The government requires teachers to be anthro-pological in focus rather than theological.
I still remember the blank-slate, born-neutral philosophy of children presented in education courses at North Dakota State University where I received a BS degree in math/education. One professor continually emphasized the view that all disciplinary action on children only inhibits their creativity! It was the teacher’s responsibility to ‘guide’ the disruptive child into seeing his worth. The teacher training I received was immersed in such humanism. Denying children necessary discipline only enhances their misfortune and/or destruction. Many, if not most teachers in Christian schools receive their education degree from state universities. Consequently, while being Christian in heart, they are often humanist in mind, to some degree. And with most Christian schools requiring state-certified teachers, due to their choice of being state-accredited, the humanistic worldview comes in with the teachers.
PEERS Testing has substantiated this in many Christian schools. This will be increasingly problematic as more parents move their children to private schools. The increased demand for teachers may cause Christian schools to lower their guard in faculty selection. I believe Christian schools need to seriously reevaluate the supposed benefits of state accreditation versus the restrictions applied to the school regarding personnel selection. With the humanist evolutionary focus in state-run education curriculum became a canned approach to dissemination of knowledge. We find limited texts (state approved), standardized lesson plans (talk about stifling creativity!), rote-memory tests, group instruction, etc. Teachers are no longer required to be masters of their subject and students don’t have to learn how to learn.
For the student, the goal of education is getting from test to test to test until one day he can say, Done with education. A substantial amount of work must be done by pastors, teachers, administrators, and parents to reverse this mechanistic view of learning. Yet control of education however, is the greater culprit in my opinion. The perceived provider of education becomes the master to serve. The aim of the student is to please the provider (I learn what he wants me to learn so I can have access to other benefits). The ‘right’ to state-controlled education encourages a view toward seeking other social ‘rights’ which only the ‘master’ can give. The very perception that government is responsible to the student for education cannot help but cause him to believe that the government should now ensure him a job, housing, healthcare, security, etc.
You made me, now take care of me. This is the fruit of messianic secular education. These three components of government schools- teachers, curriculum and control have created an environment in which the worldview of a student from a Christian home is pulled away from Christianity and toward Humanism. However, Christianity doesn’t have to be rejected outright in the public-school classroom nor does Humanism have to be taught explicitly (e.g., quoting from the Humanist Manifestos) for this change in thinking to take place. It is simply the man-centered view of life presented in the child-centered classroom in preparation for the state-centered society that gradually shapes the anti-Christian mind.
One scholar who saw it coming was Dr. A. A. Hodge of Princeton University. A century ago he said, I am as sure as I am of Christ’s reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen. Could anything have been more prophetic? I believe PEERS Testing corroborates Dr.
Hodge’s concern. Shaping of the Mind The following study gives results on ten of the questions appearing in one version of the PEERS Test. The study shows the differences in students’ thinking from those in public schools and those in Christian schools. Each item includes the appropriate biblical response, as determined by Nehemiah Institute. For items where an ‘Agree’ response is appropriate, results of students beliefs are shown by what percent answered ‘strongly agree’ (SA) and what percent answered ‘tend to agree’ (TA). For items in which a ‘Disagree’ response is the proper answer, the percentages are given as SD and TD.
Q11 Educational programs must be supervised by the government to ensure fairness, uniformity and equal opportunity to all citizens. Biblical response: Disagree SD Public Schools 10.2%, Christian Schools 52.4% TD Public Schools 49.8%, Christian Schools 26.5% Total Public Schools 60.0%, Christian Schools 79.0%, Difference 19.0% Q24 A government run program to ensure financial security at retirement age (e.g.: Social Security) is in the best interest of the nation as a whole. Biblical response: Disagree SD Public Schools 10.2%, Christian Schools 38.6% TD Public Schools 34.8%, Christian Schools 19.0% Total Public Schools 45.0%, Christian Schools 57.6%, Difference 12.6% Q26 The ideal government guarantees the citizens a minimum income, social security, unemployment compensation, health insurance and housing. Biblical response: Disagree SD Public Schools 20.4%, Christian Schools 59.6% TD Public Schools 15.1%, Christian Schools 13.5% Total Public Schools 35.5%, Christian Schools 73.1%, Difference 37.6% Q32 Society, not the individual, is chiefly responsible for social evils. Biblical response: Disagree SD Public Schools 19.8%, Christian Schools 70.8% TD Public Schools 39.7%, Christian Schools 17.1% Total Public Schools 59.5%, Christian Schools 88.0%, Difference 28.5% Q56 Welfare programs run by families/churches would be more efficient and do more overall good than what is presently being done by state and federal programs. Biblical response: Agree SA Public Schools 25.1%, Christian Schools 53.8% TA Public Schools 35.2%, Christian Schools 38.1% Total Public Schools 60.3%, Christian Schools 91.9%, Difference 31.6% Q71 Because human nature is constantly changing, values and ethics will also change.
Therefore, each generation should be free to adopt moral standards appropriate to their preferences. Biblical response: Disagree SD Public Schools 14.7%, Christian Schools 74.3% TD Public Schools 50.7%, Christian Schools 15.8% Total Public Schools 35.4%, Christian Schools 90.1%, Difference 24.7% Q83 Day-care schools for infants and toddlers, under the supervision of professional educators, will enhance the educational process of children and will produce more well-developed and productive citizens. Biblical response: Disagree SD Public Schools 5.0%, Christian Schools 39.5% TD Public Schools 44.8%, Christian Schools 25.6% Total Public Schools 49.8%, Christian Schools 65.10%, Difference 15.3% Q86 The foundation of all government is self-government under …