Tuesday, April 22, 2008

America’s Public Schools: Education or Indoctrination?

In recent weeks a number of events have transpired across the country concerning public education. While each of these events occurred independently of the others, each one bears significant testimony that John Dewey’s vision of public education is finally being realized.

In other words, we have much to fear!

The following words are difficult to write for several reasons. First of all, I hate having to admit I am wrong. Three years ago I challenged Al Mohler’s contention that evangelicals should begin to develop an “exit strategy” related to a proposed SBC resolution on public education. Although I remain opposed to the Convention unduly judging parents for enrolling their children in public education, I am re-thinking Mohler’s proposal in particular.

Second, as a product of the public education system, I turned out alright (although some might debate this point) and sometimes it is difficult to believe that government control over public education is more, shall we say, imperial than it was when I attended. Furthermore, my wife and I are presently quite happy with our son’s public elementary school. As such, I don’t want it to seem that what I am about to say is intended to be a blanket statement of all public educational institutions. As I have said earlier, there still remain areas of the country where parental and local control of education remains strong, although how much longer this will be the case remains to be seen.

Finally, its hard to write against a system that I know employs many good, Bible-believing, born-again people who truly care about the students they teach. Among those in that number is my younger brother. I cannot stress enough that for the most part, the problems with public education are not related to the teachers. Instead, the problems are inherent to the system itself.

Still, for evangelicals to simply ignore all that is happening in regard to government-funded and controlled education would be ignoring the elephant in the room. But such events do not happen in a vacuum, and to see their origin we need to revisit the roots of our public education system, beginning with its most influential philosopher.

John Dewey is widely considered to be the most influential educational reformer in American history. In light of this assumption, it is interesting to know that Dewey himself was only a teacher for a few short years. Before his 24th birthday he had decided that education was not his field. He continued his own education, completing a Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University in 1884. His doctoral work motivated further studies in the Philosophy of Education. Observing various understandings of education, Dewey sought a balance between Plato’s emphasis on the societal good and Rousseau’s rugged individualism. The ultimate results of his work were published in his 1916 book entitled “Democracy and Education.” Dewey’s conclusion was that an individual’s significance, purpose and meaning are inextricably linked to his or her relationship with society at large, and therefore, the task of educators was to bring these two worlds together in symbiotic relationship.

In fairness, there are benefits to this understanding of education. From the time of Dewey, education evolved beyond the instilling of mere facts and head knowledge, and set the goal of actually equipping people to be productive members of society. The problem was that over time, the pendulum swung too far in the other direction, to the point that today, education is no longer primarily about learning to read, write, add, subtract, and think. Instead, education is now about instilling a particular societal worldview. Richard Rorty, one of Dewey’s many epistemological protégés, contends that truth is “made,” not “found,” and therefore society should seek to free itself from “truth” and construct its own understandings. Likewise Mary Calderone, who first introduced and advocated the idea of public school sex education, suggested that children should be “freed” from the traditional influences of the past (i.e. parents and churches) so that they can broaden their horizons in the area of sexuality. No wonder Playboy’s Hugh Hefner volunteered to financially underwrite sex education during its first years. The results have had to be good for business.

The result of Dewey’s philosophy in the United States is our present system of public education, which is steeped in cultural postmodernism.

The move from “classical” to “social” education has yielded many negative results, including a highly centralized and tightly controlled curriculum, government “certification” for teachers, and a system that puts government beauracracy before students. Most damning of all, the move from classical to social education monopolized by the federal government is designed to bring our children to capitulate to the prevailing postmodern worldview. Simply put, public education doesn’t teach children how to think. It teaches them what to think. No more debate about the origin of man. Our culture follows Darwinian philosophy and children will simply be told this is the “truth.” There will be no opportunities to debate the validity of the theory of global warming. It is simply presented as scientific “fact.”

Ben Stein’s recent documentary film Expelled illustrates the prejudice against those who dare refuse to bow before the prevailing worldview. Although ultimately Stein’s film contains nothing particularly new, it serves as a fresh reminder that in our current educational climate, contrarian’s are not welcome.

Add to this my friend Kevin Bussey’s recent post on a national “Day of Silence.” Public school districts all over the country are observing this day in order to promote the homosexual lifestyle as normative. World Net Daily carried the original story, and reported that a number of very troubled Christian parents were choosing to keep their children home on this day in protest. Yet the school districts in Indiana warned parents that it was “against the law” to keep their child out of school for reasons of protest, and one father was warned by his son’s school principal that his son would fail for the year if he did not attend school that day.

In addition, legal challenges continue to be brought against parents who have chosen to circumvent public education altogether. In a recent California case, an appellate court took advantage of an admittedly questionable home-school environment to violate the rights of parents all over the state. “California courts have held,” stated Justice Walter Croskey, “that under provisions in the education code, parents to not have a constitutional right to home-school their children.” The court has now decided that there must be a “certified teacher” in the home before home-schooling will be allowed in California. Mike Smith, President of the Home School Legal Defense Fund in Virginia, has stated that as many as 60,000 families in the state may be affected by this tyrannical over-stepping of judicial boundaries. Teacher’s unions, by contrast, love this decision.

Such moves to usurp parental authority are, unfortunately, not isolated. School boards in general are granted almost unfettered power over parents, all in the name of salvaging a system that in many places—especially in the urban centers of the country—is irreparably broken, and made continually worse by an overbearing federal government.

With all of the above in view, maybe its time for me to jump on Mohler’s “exit strategy” bandwagon after all. More on how to do this later.


Jason Vaughn said...

Grat and informative as always.

jarainey said...

Well said. I still stand behind public ed. If we ever find a way to get the federal government to leave us alone the tide will turn. Local control is the way to go. My kids in South Carolina don't need to learn the same things that kids in Maryland learn and certainly don't need to learn them in the same way. Who knows our kids? That would be our LOCAL parents and LOCAL districts.

Dave Miller said...

Found your site on another blog. My wife is in school getting an education degree. The indoctrination and pressure they use is amazing.

Strangely, Iowa used to have one of the two top ranked education systems in the country, in the sixtie. Now, with all the new educational initiatives to "improve" our education system, we have plummeted.

The educational establish seems unconcerned with teaching our kids to read, write or do math, but is more passionate about indoctrinating them in moral tolerance, multiculturalism and a left-wing mindset.

Howie Luvzus said...

I see the lack of critical thinking skills in my students at Xavier. I think the pressure to perform on standardized tests is also a factor in the indoctrination of students.