Education Is Not Neutral

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The Liberated Learner – Column by Suzanne Kearney

… everyone, when he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”

Luke 6:40 (NASB)

Both of my boys play competitive baseball. To mature in their sport, they practice daily with coaches and instructors skilled in – you guessed it – baseball. Could they learn from spending time with a professional football player? Perhaps they would gain some useful knowledge. But if most of their training came from the NFL, they would never reach their potential in baseball. In fact, they would likely turn out to be more comfortable on the football field.

When our children reach the age of so-called “formal” education, rarely do we sit down and thoughtfully establish objectives for these formative years. Instead, we ship them off and sigh with relief at the lifted burden, trusting that the system will teach them what they need to know. In so doing, we outsource the shaping of their minds, a responsibility that involves more than the imparting of information, but also the instilling of values. The question is, what values are being instilled?

Some would say, none. They argue that education can be value free, or “neutral.” In a recent opinion piece in the Coeur d’Alene Press, guest contributor Jim Jones writes, “…the government should stay neutral in the religious realm – allowing religious freedom but not forcing religious beliefs upon the population.” While Mr. Jones is speaking of what books should be placed in children’s libraries, I assume he would apply the notion of “neutrality” to every government institution, public education included. But is “neutrality” in education even possible?

In an earlier column, I profiled two core founders of America’s public school system. Certainly, their purpose was not academic neutrality. In fact, I would argue that what the educational establishment labels “neutrality” should more accurately be called secular humanism, a worldview which made its official debut in 1933 with the publication of the first Humanist Manifesto. This ideology was presented as a new “religion” and its first disciples called themselves “religious humanists.” Ironically, those fledgling secularists (as compared to today’s so-called “progressive” variety), understood better than we do that secularism is, itself, a religion. In the words of Tedd Tripp, “all human beings are worshipers; either we worship and serve God, or we make an exchange and worship and serve substitutes for God – created things rather than the Creator (Romans 1:18-25).” What do secular humanists worship? Namely, themselves – their own intellect, reason, and logic, as practiced in philosophy, science, ethics, law, and the like. It is not the disciplines themselves that are the problem – it is the valuing of man’s authority over God’s. In fact, every person has a worldview, a bias which colors his or her perspectives, communications, and opinions. A teacher attempting to provide a “neutral” education by eliminating God from the curriculum has merely appropriated the religion of the secular humanist, and will inculcate secular humanism into her students – whether intentional or not.

In their text Understanding the Times, Jeff Myers and David Noebel define worldview as “a pattern of ideas, beliefs, convictions, and habits that help us make sense of God, the world, and our relationship to God and the world.” Patterns and habits are established by repetition over time. A child repeatedly exposed to the government schools’ “neutral” education rooted in secular humanist ideology will likely become a secular humanist. Likewise, a student taught from a postmodernist framework will probably think as a postmodernist. Surprisingly, not even math is safe – Seattle public schools have been infusing Marxist ideology into what should be potentially the most “neutral” of subjects. Ultimately, it is impossible to completely divorce the values of the teacher from the information disseminated.

Once we understand this, the next step becomes clear. What is your worldview? Allow it to shape the educational goals you make for your own children. If you want to instill lifelong patterns and habits in the next generation that are in line with your family’s values, make sure they are taught by you, or by someone who shares your ideals. It’s not complicated: what goes in is likely what will come out. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he grows older he will not abandon it” (NASB). Or, in the words of Voddie Baucham, “We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.”

You would never send your young baseball players to football camp to learn how to bat. Why would you surrender their minds to be trained by the godless?