Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Educational Choices Aren't Neutral



It's the first day of school in most districts across Canada and elsewhere and thousands upon thousands of children have been deposited at the door of public schools far and wide.  Many of those children are the offspring of Christian parents, parents who erroneously believe the Bible is silent concerning the education of their children or that educational choices are neutral.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Educational choices aren't neutral and the Bible has quite a bit to say regarding who's responsible for teaching children and the ramifications of rejecting biblical truth in this (and every) area.  




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Education Choices are Not Neutral: The Implications of Islamic Madrasahs and Government Schools for Our Christian Children


Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. Psalm 1:1-2


By Doug Phillips


Education is inescapably a religious discipline. The content, methodology, and the very culture in which education takes place are the product of the theologies which drive them. There is no neutrality. When parents choose between a Biblical vs. non-Christian educational paradigm for their children’s education, they are actually making a decision between competing faith systems. The question is simply this—in which religious educational system will my child be discipled?

Content is Not Neutral

As to content, the choice of which facts to emphasize and which to exclude, the interpretation of those facts, and the organization of ideas are all driven by faith assumptions which are entirely religious in nature. Without the correct starting points, even “facts” will not be adequately explained within the context of a truly Christian worldview. As Van Til has observed, “brute factuality does not exist.” All facts must be interpreted to have meaning. Furthermore, the Bible rejects the notion that facts can be taught in a neutral environment when it declares that one must first fear the Lord before presuming to attain knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).

Methodology is Not Neutral

Educational methodology, or pedagogy, is not neutral. For thousands of years, men have debated over educational methodology. All of these debates have centered around issues like “What is the true nature of the child?”; “What are the true goals of education?”; “What is the role of the state vs. the parent in training the child, ” and “How are values, ideas and information best taught to a child?”; just to name a few. The answers to these questions are at the heart of the greatest religious battles of all time. These questions can only be answered in terms of religiously-driven faith assumptions about God, man, the state, etc.

From the ancient Greeks to the evolution-driven pedagogical theory of the 19th, 20th and 21st century, religious beliefs have always driven educational models. It is inescapable. The modern government school classroom is a reflection of the religious priorities of men who are at war with the God of the Bible. The government school model is a self-conscious rejection of the biblical model, and an advancement of a humanistic, evolutionary and statist view of the child. It was built on the philosophies of some of the most virulent God-haters in history from Plato to Rousseau to Dewey.

Ultimately, there are only two pedagogical models—that which was known to Abraham and Moses and Solomon and can be described as the biblical or Hebraic approach to discipleship, and everything else. “Everything else” might be described as the Greek model. It comes in many shapes and sizes, but at the end of the day, it grants to the state a jurisdiction reserved to the family. It is based on a wrong view of the goals of education, the nature of the child, and the nature of the universe.

Culture is Not Neutral

But there is even more on the line. The very culture in which education takes place is a reflection of the religious assumptions, values, beliefs, and character qualities of the people who form the environment in which education takes place. Plato understood this. His religion was heavily rooted in statism. The child was a ward of the state. Plato was deeply concerned about the negative impact of the culture of the family on the educational objectives of the state for the child. This is why he made it a primary objective of his pedagogical philosophy to remove children from their parents, strip them of their clothing, place them in gymnasiums (“place of nakedness”) and have a special class of state approved experts disciple children in the objectives of the state with an emphasis on athletics, philosophy, and warfare.

Moses understood this too which is why, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he set forth and prioritized a form of discipleship training that required substantial parental involvement through face-to-face interaction that would occur in real-world environments over the course of a day. The very culture of the family—both the household and the family enterprise—is a primary backdrop for this walk-along-side, educational model communicated in Deuteronomy 6 and elsewhere.

The Bible is the Source of Authority on Education

In the great debate over Christian education, we must begin with the source of authority. It is the Bible. There is no other source. The Bible alone is the source for determining the presuppositions which drive our view of education. When it comes to education—there is no neutrality.

Of course, to say that there is not “one way” to educate children may be a correct statement. It really depends on what you mean by that. Within a biblical paradigm, there may be a diversity of Christ-honoring applications which are consistent with the biblical precepts, patterns, and principles. After all, the essence of wisdom is the ability to thoughtfully apply transcendent biblical truth to changing facts and circumstances. But to say that there is not “one way” to educate a child is not to say that all approaches are biblically lawful or wise.

The Core Problem with Government Education

One example of a biblically unlawful approach to Christian education is government schooling. The fact that, from a biblical perspective, the state should never be involved in the education of children to begin with is not my primary concern. Nor is the reason for my opposition to sending children of Christian parents to government schools rooted in my concerns over the poor teaching standards, the sexualized nature of the school culture, violence in the classroom, and the destructive nature of the youth culture and peer environment found in government schools. My principal objection is not even that the false theory of evolution permeates every academic discipline.

My primary concern is that these schools are religious institutions in opposition to Christ. These schools are either for Christ or against Him, and they most definitely are not for him (Matthew 12:3). They represent the discipleship program of a false religion. This religious bias permeates every part of the government school experience, including the content, the methodology, and the very culture of the government schools.

No Madrasahs and No Government Schools for Our Christian Children

No Christian parent who chooses to place their child in a Shiite Muslim madrasah school can argue that a high level of parental involvement justifies their decision. Nor does parental involvement in government education fix the core problem. In one sense it only exacerbates the problem by placing a Christian veneer on an act of parental abdication.

Sending our children to be discipled for 24,000 hours of their lives in academic temples of false gods is inconsistent with what the Bible says about the training of children. In the Bible, parents are positively commanded to teach their children to love and fear God (Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:4-7; Ephesians 6:4), and to grow in the knowledge of His Word and its applications to all of life (Joshua 1:8; 2 Peter 3:18) through a daily, walk-beside, morning-to-evening method of discipleship (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) which is drenched in the love of Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:1-3). They are also warned of the dangers of deceptive teachers (Psalm 144:11-13; Colossians 2:8; I Timothy 6:3-5, 20-21), dangerous influences (I Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 13:20, 2 Peter 3:17), and false religions (2 Peter 2:1-2; Jude 3-4). They are reminded that you can not have true education without the fear of the Lord, because knowledge begins with the fear of God (Proverbs 9:10; Psalm 111:10). They are even reminded that those who reject Christ as the foundation of knowledge are fools (Psalm 14:1). It is therefore proper to ask—why would I want to hand my children over for their daily discipleship to peers and foolish teachers? Why would I want to require my children to daily sit in the classroom desks of the scorners when God tells me that such people will not be blessed (Psalm 1:1-3)?

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