CHRISTIAN EDUCATION – AN ALTERNATIVE
By Anne Wilkins
“A Nation at Risk,” the most exhaustive government study ever conducted on the state of American education, warned that the mediocre performance of students threatened the future of our nation: “We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and as a people….. If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might have viewed it as an act of war.” The study further noted that “our society and its educational institutions seem to have lost sight of the basic purposes of schooling.”
Since the publication of this study in 1983, reform proposals have been numerous. Yet almost ten years later, a U.S. News & World Reform article, “The Exodus,” reported that public education remains in
trouble: “Despite a decade of effort to turn things around, there is a deepening perception that the entire enterprise of public education is foundering without any real hope of rescue, especially in the nation’s
Violence and drugs have invaded our public classrooms. Millions of tax dollars are being spent annually to repair school property damaged by vandalism. Test scores are steadily declining. And far too many high
school graduates cannot read the daily newspaper or perform basic mathematical computations. Consequently, parents are seeking educational alternatives. “The Exodus” reported that “many parents view the public schools as ineffective and dangerous, and are exploring other options before it’s too late.”
Christians have far more serious concerns than the quality of the educational process. They are also confronted with curriculum that is becoming openly hostile to biblical principles and morals. Although the
American educational system began in church schools where subject matter was harmonized with biblical truth and where students were taught to live according to the principles of God’s Word, today the public educational system no longer espouses a God-centered philosophy.
During the 1800s a movement emerged to secularize American education; however, this secularization process was not viewed as an attack on the Bible. Nevertheless, the foundational direction was set to purge public education of biblical teachings and morals. Today many people view secularization not as neutrality in religious beliefs but as a rejection of all religious symbols, teachings, and practices.
As Horace Mann, who is considered the father of American public education, worked to fashion a government-controlled system of schools supported by property taxes, he realized that it was essential for
public education to claim religious neutrality. The guiding principle became, “Let the home and church teach faith and values, and the school teach fact.” Most people did not recognize this philosophy to be a time
Until recent years, most of our nation’s teachers were dedicated to a God-centered way of life, so the secularization process in education moved at a snail’s pace. However, at the turn of the century with the rise to prominence of the philosophies of John Dewey, a signer of Humanist Manifesto I, the secularization process gained momentum.
Mann’s concept of secularization although not widely embraced at first, gained acceptance as people were persuaded that education could remain religiously neutral without being hostile toward biblical beliefs and
practices. However, others recognize that religion and education are inseparable. Philosopher Albert Whitehead remarked, “The essence of education is that it is religious.” Still the idea but not necessarily the practice of religious neutrality remains as the official position of the American public educational system.
If the Bible and the concept of God are not at the center of public education, what spiritual philosophy permeates American public schools today? The answer is secular humanism. Is humanism a religion? The
answer appears to be yes. In fact, humanism was acknowledged to be a religion in two separate United States Supreme Court rulings, once in 1964 and again in 1969. In essence, secular humanism denies the
existence of God and asserts the ascendancy of man. Humanism’s articles of faith, Humanist Manifesto II, written in 1973, declared its basic concept: “Humans are responsible for what we are and will become. No
deity will save us; we must save ourselves.” Concerning the education of children, an excerpt of a creed from the British Humanist Association clearly states this position.
I believe in no God and no hereafter. It is immoral to indoctrinate children with such beliefs. Schools have no right to do so, nor indeed have parents. I believe that religious education and prayers in school should be eliminated. I believe that denominational schools should be abolished….. I believe that children should be taught religion as a matter of historical interest, but should be taught about all religions, including Humanism, Marxism, Maoism, Communism, and other attitudes of life. They must also be taught the objections to religion. (Quote taken from Weep for your Children by Dr. Murray Norris.)
Some people may argue that humanism is not the religious philosophy embraced by American public schools. Certainly many public schools and teachers do not accept the tenets of humanism; yet humanism underlies the basic assumption of public school education. Dr. Francis Keppel, former dean of the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University and former United States Commissioner of Education, summed up the core philosophy of humanism in a brief statement: American education rests
on two assumptions from which all else derives: the idea that man is potentially good and that this good can be brought about by education. (Quote taken from Education That Is Christian by John Blanchard, Jr.)
This statement contradicts the Word of God, which reveals that man’s nature is sinful and that his potential good can only be realized by the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The shift from a God-centered to a man-centered philosophy of education has moved the public educational system toward spiritual darkness, bringing increased pressure upon Christian homes and churches. While not all school districts or educators have strayed from biblical principles, it is true that public education is becoming more atheistic in its orientation and curricula. And the trend is not only away from religious concepts and oral behavior, but also toward a more hostile attitude toward religious beliefs and behavior.
Christian Education-An Alternative
Christian school education is built upon the moral and spiritual foundation revealed in the Bible. The Christian school holds that the Bible helps us to distinguish truth from error. The psalmist wrote,
“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130). And Solomon stated, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is
understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). David also wrote, “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104).
Some parents may view Christian school education as a one-sided educational experience. Although Christian education seeks to train students to think objectively and to be knowledgeable about various
views, it recognizes that exposure to error must be discreet and in harmony with scriptural truth.
The apostle Paul admonished the young man Timothy to apply himself to study, but to “shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (II Timothy 2:15-16). To the Romans, Paul wrote, “But yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19). To be well-educated and formed, our children need not be taught secular humanistic concepts of science, history, or social behavior.
The Scriptures instruct us to teach children not a variety of philosophies from which any choice is equal to any other, but the precepts, commands and principles of wholesome and godly living. Solomon wrote instructions for every part and teacher: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Indoctrination may be a “socially incorrect” term for secular humanists since it implies teaching religious truth, but it is equally true that the goal of humanism is to indoctrinate public school students with – its secular view.
While Christian education is not a guarantee that a child will always live for God, it does offer an alternative to a hostile humanistic environment that is often encountered in public schools. We must
recognize that children are tender plants that need a protective spiritual shield as they struggle to understand life and its values. They need to be led to the safety biblical truth and the surety of definable concepts of right and wrong. The Christian school classroom is not an escape door away from society, but a spiritual door through which children can see life from the vantage point of God’s Word.
The Christian school alternative also creates a better climate for children to study. Reports indicate that drugs, discipline problems, racial tension, vulgar language, and even violence are common in many public schools. Some studies indicate that classroom learning and performance on aptitude tests are directly related to these disruptive activities. While the Christian school is not exempt from academic and social problems, it does not condone these kinds of disruptive activities. Consequently, the student studies in a kind yet disciplined environment that is conductive to learning.
Discipline in the Christian School
Discipline in the Christian school appeals to the highest motive for good behavior: obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. According to the aforementioned U.S. News & World Report article, “The Exodus,” a poll
conducted by the Houston Post indicated that eighty-five percent of parents “believed their kids were unsafe in city’s public schools.” Some teachers hesitate to confront students out of fear of them or their parents. In some urban schools, armed guards patrol the halls. But the need of guards has not stopped the toward accepting as normal the criminal behavior of students. In a 1980 Time article, “Help! Teacher Can’t Teach,” John Kotsakie of the Chicago Teacher’s Union complained that “schools are now being asked to be more tolerant of disruptive criminal behavior than society.” Now more than a decade later, conditions apparently deteriorated further.
The Christian school, on the other hand, teaches respect and obedience to authority church, home, school, and community. Only in a disciplined environment can students learn to contribute to the orderly conduct of society. When behavioral correction is needed, the Christian teacher disciplines according to God’s principles of love, mercy, respect, and justice.
Godly Role Models
Children in Christian schools are exposed to godly role models. Although many teachers in public schools are men and women of high moral character, some teachers have committed themselves to the pursuit
of ungodly and even deviant lifestyles. Christians must be concerned about the kind of men and women teaching their children. Although they may be interesting and effective teachers of basic knowledge and skills, their lifestyle, whether wholesome or otherwise, will bleed into the classroom. The teacher does not become a robot when he enters the classroom, for he will transmit what he is and how he lives as well
as the course of study. Students, especially children, are influenced by the teacher, who serves as important role model. The Bible reveals that “a pupil…after he has been fully trained will be like his teacher” Luke 6:40, New American Standard Bible).
Curriculum content makes a difference, but so does the person who teaches. For this reason, Christian schools set high oral and behavioral standards for their teachers. They examine not only an applicant’s academic credentials, but also his oral and spiritual characteristics. For six hours a day, the Christian teacher serves ad a parent substitute, striving to teach the child the same values he encounters in his home and church. A child is a unique creation of God and is to be reared in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
A Superior Academic Education
Students can receive a superior academic education in the Christian school. Children in some Christian schools may receive a substandard education, perhaps due to unqualified teachers or poor curriculum
materials. Yet numerous studies indicate that Christian school students score at or above the national average at every grade level.
Why a high achievement among Christian school students? It cannot be attributed to better funding, equipment, or facilities. It appears related to the emphasis in Christian schools on basic educational
knowledge and skills. The higher standards of behavior expected in Christian schools also contribute to academic progress. Moreover, the instruction received at school corresponds with the values upheld in
the home and church, creating an education climate that is internally consistent for the student.
Students who graduate from Christian schools are not handicapped if they desire to enter in an accredited college. All students who graduate from Christian schools are evaluated on an individual basis by college admissions officers, and a Christian school education has often given students an advantage.
Parents and church leaders should be aware of the content and climate of their local public educational system. Parental involvement by Christians can influence teachers, school administrators, and school
boards to guard against anti-biblical positions and moral misbehavior. Further, the Christian home and church must provide a solid foundation for all children, especially for those who remain in public education, and who will likely be faced with active opposition to their faith. At the same time, parents should be aware that Christian schools can offer a quality and often superior educational alternative for their children, an education that is consistent with the values taught in the homeand church.
(The above material was published by the PENTECOSTAL HERALD, July 1993)
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