Friday, November 14, 2014

Too Hot to Handle: IndoctriNation — The Christian and Education [Part 1]

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.
“88% of Christian children deny their faith by graduation day.”
That’s one of the sensational claims made in IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America, a three year-old movie about the evils of the public school system that, I must admit, I have not seen in its entirety. This trailer was used to promote it:

This, in a nutshell, is the film’s main argument:
“Sadly, most American Christian children are being discipled daily by pro-choice secularists, atheists, evolutionists, politicized bureaucrats, far left unions and oftentimes even child molesters. Under the guise of education the publicly funded monopoly of Government schools has engaged in a vast program of social engineering designed to eradicate the Christian faith from American life.

This film warns Christians about the subversive and anti-Christian nature of the American education system and calls on all Christians to participate in a mass exodus from government education for the sake of their children and the future of America.”
As a starting point for our topic today, it’s as good as any.

Immanuel Can, as a high school teacher with too many years experience to admit here, what’s your take?

Immanuel Can: Well, Tom, I’m tempted to call this post “Much, Much Too Hot To Handle”. I have found that most people have very strong and uncompromising opinions about this one. They are, variously, adamant that home schooling, Christian schooling, private schooling or public schooling is the only reasonable option. I watched the free version of the film, and it seems to be essentially a monologue focusing exclusively on the evils of public schooling in America. How applicable it is to other countries such as Canada or the UK is a matter of dispute, since those options are realized differently in different countries, as are others like Montessori, Catholic or charter schools.

Analyzing the “88%”

Tom: Let’s start with the scary stat: “88% of Christian children deny their faith by graduation day”. Let me suggest that it would be unwise to accept that statistic at face value, not because I mistrust the filmmakers or question their intentions, but because we’re talking about kids. To say that you can be 100% confident that any given six year old or ten year old who expresses faith and later denies it was truly saved seems extremely questionable to me. Sometimes it’s true; other times a profession of faith is a product of wishful thinking on the part of the parents or a desire to please them on the part of the kids.

At best I’d say that’s pseudo-scientific; at worst it’s scaremongering.

IC: I agree. And in fact, I think fear drives a lot of the parental conviction on this issue. I see this all the time: what parents want to know most is that their work is done, so far as providing the necessities for their children is concerned. They want to know that their child is normal, achieving well, educated, career bound and, of course, saved. To see those things happen, a good parent would do just about anything; but because they want them so badly, they also are very quick to rejoice when they think they see evidence of them, which is understandable. But because they are too soon made glad, they become very quickly very angry upon any indication that any of these things has not actually been happening.

Tom: A profession of faith from a child is a wonderful, encouraging thing, and not to be taken lightly. But it’s the corroborating evidence of a changed life over timein the language of scripture, the “fruit”, which is something that appears regularly and seasonally — that proves salvation. The seed falls on the soil, and we’re happy to see it shoot up, but until the birds of the air and the weeds and the rocks have done their bit, we don’t know if that early growth is mere enthusiasm or genuine rootedness in Christ. All of that takes time, and to render a verdict prematurely as to somebody’s faith or lack of it is a bit presumptuous until we see how they fare over time.

I’m not sure how anyone even quantifies something like faith. I mean, what sort of questions do you ask in a survey to arrive at a number like 88%?

IC: I suppose they’re counting some number of testimonies. I don’t know how else they’d do it. But how can a child that is genuinely saved be deprived of that faith? Does the Lord no longer know those who are His? If the doctrine of eternal security is true, then we could guess at most that either (1) through public schools, false professions of faith are being revealed, or (2) genuinely believing children are being temporarily confused by the schools. That second one is possible. But either way, it renders the number 88% meaningless: we don’t know what it’s 88% of.

The Corrosive Influence of Public Education

Tom: In any case, whatever the number truly is, we can probably both accept the proposition that a certain percentage — and it may even be a very high percentage — of children from Christian families that have made professions of faith at some point are turned away from Christianity through the atmosphere and influence of the public educational system. Is that a fair statement? And, if I may ask two questions at once, in your experience, would it be the high school or college/university experience that more likely to be damaging to Christian faith and testimony?

IC: Well, that’s the wrong question, I think.

Tom: Fine, fine ...

IC: I don’t mean I don’t want to answer it, or that I think it’s unreasonable to wonder about it — especially if you’re a parent. I would freely admit that both public education and higher education today are, for the most part, very corrosive to belief. I would further add that they are so in an extremely prejudicial and irrational way, not on the basis of having any inside philosophical or scientific superiority to justify their positions. You have to have gone through the entire system all the way — as I have — to see how absolutely true what I say about that is. But the question is not “Is it a tough place for a Christian?” but rather, “Is an easy place to be the right place for the child God has given me?”

If you can grasp that distinction, then you will quickly see what my whole argument on the topic is certain to be.

Tom: Oh, well, in that case ... I’m simply asking in your experience and as a point of interest, (a) whether it is fair to say that public education is potentially damaging (which you’ve answered in the affirmative, so we’re in agreement with both the filmmakers and common sense there), and (b) which, in your estimation, is more actively malevolent: high school or university?

But I’m not by that question for a moment insinuating that we ought to run and hide from public forums of any kind, educational or otherwise, just because they may be difficult places in which to be a Christian. That’s certainly not where I’m going.

Does One Size Fit All?

IC: I didn’t think you were, Tom, but that is where a lot of people go immediately. Let me put my case this way: a lot of people criticize secular education, and there are a lot of good reasons to do so. One is that it is a one-size-fits-all strategy for kids who are different. Another is that it seeks to educate by means of technique, rather than through relationship. Yet these same people will immediately turn around and advocate a different kind of one-size-fits-all solution and a different technique, such as “All of our kids should be in Christian schools or home schooled”. They don’t realize that in advocating just the one educational solution that they are behaving like the advocates of public education: they are seeking a single, technical answer to how to educate all kids.

Tom: And one size does not fit all.

IC: What we need to do instead is ask, “Who is the child that the Lord has given me?” Then we need to think, “How can he or she become what the Lord has intended him or her to be?” and “What educational environment is the best one in view of that?” Of course the answer may be different at different ages, times and stages of development, and in view of the different giftedness and abilities of each child. But what we all must not do is to stop asking the question and reconsidering where our child is throughout the entire educational process. If we do that, we’ve become become just as clueless and inept as any monolithic educational system.

Tom: And I’m fine with that answer. As you probably know, two of my own children went to their local public school. A third did two years at home and another year commuting to a school of his choice. So I have no vested interest in one type of education over another. It very much depends on the individual child and his or her needs in any given year of life.

But we’re getting lengthy here. Let’s continue this tomorrow.

IC: Deal.


  1. There are a few ways to look at religion in education. Catholic parishes now also have serious problems with keeping schools open. The reasons are financial due to lack of support or attendance by parish members. Many people feel, myself included, that running a school system parallel to public schools is a significant financial burden for a family and for the parish. So, some will simply select a parish that does not have an attached school. My preference is that a church should have a strong weekend religious education program instead of trying to compete in the three RRRs. Given that, together with strong parental encouragement and support, then the child can become the emissary, the salt of the earth, in the public school environment. It is not necessarily clear that the secular way would win out in that competition. Our children went to public school and they were capable in sorting out where the public system failed and how to behave and preserve their own values. In that process they met likeminded students and became friends and had their own positive, competing sphere of influence, which continues throughout their lives today. The parent and the environment at home and the continued church attendance and prayer life is the key element here. See this article below. The Lost Sheep the author is referring to are the children growing up in today's destructive secular environment.

    Who Will Rescue the Lost Sheep of the Lonely Revolution?


    At the same time it is clear that the clause of separation of church and state is being misappropriated in the USA by the secular left. Introducing only secular ideas and motives in a public education setting is just as much indoctrination in a secular religion and belief system that must be defended against. After all, the USA supreme court has officially declared secular humanism to be a religion.

    There is no logical, rational, legal basis why it should not be required to similarly provide historical education concerning traditional religions including explaining the details of the religious value system. The public is to blame for electing the wrong politicians which then stack the cards in favor of the secularist. This especially includes strong blame for casting the wrong vote on part of members of the religious community who appallingly often vote for candidates that totally contravene the values that they should cherish. If the Christian community consistently voted in their own best self-interest, they, combined, would be such a powerful voting block that they could sway every election. That this is not happening clearly shows that there is significant lukewarm adherence to Christian ideals and moral teaching for many, if not most, religious participants.

    1. Qman:

      I'm not optimistic about secular authorities providing religious education.

      Let's face it: they neither care nor want to care whether truth or falsehood is perpetuated about these, orient all their teaching to what I call public schools' Prime Directive (pace Star Trek). The Prime Directive is "nobody fights." Truth is far less important to government officials that that its populace should be united, so as to be maximally governable and to impart democratic legitimacy to the actions of the government itself. So indoctrination, not information, is job one of Ministries of Education today.

      The code expression World Religions advocates use today is, "Don't teach religion, teach *about* religion." But this is, of course, impossible in practice. To teach *about* a belief, but to teach in such a way that you imply that what it says *does not much matter,* is to teach skepticism at best, Atheism at worst.

      And the degree of secular ignorance regarding the insider experience of being a Christian is absolutely huge. That's as true of the textbook writers as of ordinary secularists. They just don't get what we're about at all.

      Were I you, I would not put the foxes in charge of my educational henhouse, no matter how much money they had.

    2. I know what you are saying IC, but I have a more combative attitude and perspective. I do not think that secularists are smarter foxes than Christians and I personally think the latter can and do hold their own as I have for myself and my family in that regard. If you read the article in the link I provided in my prior comment above then it should be apparent that secularism has its own demise built in because it creates a huge problem set for the individual, family, and society. Humanity has one consistent quality and that is if something rises to the level of a significant problem it will sooner or later get corrected, that is a principle of control theory similar to how a thermostat works. If it gets too hot, meaning it does not work and is detrimental, the control circuit kicks in, turns off the heat or the reverse, and this includes going to war if necessary. So, the fight against secularism is won not by shying away from it, but by living your Christian example in the public square through good parenting and the choices you make in live.

    3. No, the secularists are not smarter, Qman, but we cannot look to them to do our work for us.

      Meanwhile, I confess I don't share your optimism about humanity at all, and don't think that looking for improvement in that area can be justified from history. Biblically speaking, we are not "thermostatic": we are a fallen race, and a fallen race does not have its thermostat set correctly. When the human race acts in the name of justice, it often creates the same or greater injustices on the far side, because human nature is inherently not just. We don't win any battles with secularism by colluding with it, and we don't educate our children by turning them over thoughtlessly to agents bent on indoctrinating them -- which I assure you the public system is (literally) Hell-bent to do.

      We will lose the battle of the public square. After all, the public square is where they crucified the Lord of Glory. Only when He reigns will we be able to trust the public square again. Until then, I think we must not expect too much from fallen humanity.

    4. IC, one can have a realistic optimism. I think one of the reasons why Christ came was exactly because of the nature of the public square in those days. Christ came to transform and change the dynamics of the public square and gave us the responsibility to do so by the way we live. Think about it, he had to start completely from ground zero, we don't. That attempt would be useless if our light were indeed covered with a basket rather than illuminating the dark corners of the square. Also, the analogy with a thermostat is actually fairly close in that there are ups and downs as the circuit cycles to try and reach the new set point. What is important here is that the regression line through these cycles is positive. Think about our recent history and the horrific downs followed by the counter of the good side and the ups. We see that cycling happening right now and evidently will for a long time to come. Stopping secularism starts at home, simply change the channel and don't tune in to the messengers of naught. Don't even inadvertently give them your time and money, which they need to be successful. Do you think my optimism is misplaced because Christ questioned whether there would still be believers when he comes again? Well, in that case, the battle is already lost, isn't it? I for one try to figure out how else that should be interpreted because God cannot be the fatalistic messenger of defeat. So, I think we just have to keep at it and keep shining a light into the dark corners. God promised us that there are concrete benefits for us as his children that will differentiate our lives from godless people and will draw others to that way of life. As I recall that is exactly our biblical mission and our marching orders in this life because no one would see God in us and be converted otherwise.

  2. Qman:

    From where would we get the idea that "Christ came to transform...the dynamics of the public square?" I don't see that at all in Scripture. Instead, it seems to me He came to save lost sheep and transform individual hearts. "His own" nation, the Nation of Israel, "did not receive Him."

    The public square He left entirely as it was when He arrived: the Romans were still in control, His nation largely remained in unbelief, and He certainly did nothing to change the politics, the media or the school system of the day. So from where do we get the idea He was changing "the public square," or giving us a mandate to expect we could do it instead?

    But I'm not advising quietism. You're right to say "the battle is not lost," but that battle was not the battle for the public square, or for public education. It was the battle of salvation over death, of "as many as received Him" receiving "the right to be called sons of God." I'm all for shining the light into dark corners, and I agree we ought to make our lives distinctive for that purpose; but we have no promise that doing so will result in any public square victory for us. In fact, we have Christ's promise that "in this world you will have trouble." Only when He returns may we expect to "overcome the world."

    Until then, educating our children aright will not be a "public square" matter, for we cannot redeem the public square itself. The public square is exactly that -- a square where the secular public meets to do its business on its own terms -- not a place we, as Christians, can ever happily support.

    But we can agree that the solution, when it comes, is Christ.


    1. We seem to have a different definition and interpretation of "public square" then. To me public square is not exclusively associated with non-Christians, and secularists rather it is where we all hang out more or less frequently in our lives. It is "public" in my opinion if what you do and convey can affect and influence the other participants in the square, positively or negatively. By that definition and by the fact that Christ surely intended, and was fully aware of the impact he had, to change those present in the public square one can deduce hat he wished to transform the dynamics of it (influence it). Just the fact that he had the capability to "save lost sheep and transform" implies that he had a strategy to do so and thus wished to greatly influence the "business as usual" of the public square. The mandate therefore is the direct result of his influence and teaching, which would be useless if it was not perceived as a mandate to follow and implement his teaching. He did say that he wanted to set the world on fire, and I think that includes, by extension, also action through his followers not just by himself. In other words, he was clearly delegating responsibility to all converts, like a good manager would. This also suggests that it must be an ongoing effort in perpetuity (and I think we can agree that our performance review will include on how we did with that). There is therefore not just one suddenly appearing solution, because that is not how things work in this world, but a continuum of small solutions and results by all following the mandate producing the outcome that God wants to achieve (the solution) similar to what the faithful servants did when they doubled their investment they had been entrusted with.

      Of course we cannot co-redeem the entire public square, but certainly we do not have to be fatalistic but can influence it and establish and redeem portions of it where we have influence and change it, and set and live by our ground rules.

    2. I think we're speaking past each other a bit, Qman.

      The problem we need to clear up is the idea of "the public square." Since R.J. Neuhaus's famous book, "The Naked Public Square," it has generally come to connote the place where politics and shared political institutions (like public education) take place, and thus is not merely a synonym for "in public," which seems perhaps to be the way you're using the term. In other words, the question of "the public square" is essentially, "Can Christians, through their political influence, convert public policies and institutions for Christian use?"

      My answer is "No," for the simple reasons that a) the Lord Himself neither modeled this nor instructed us to do it, nor gave us assurance that such a thing would even work, and b) since "the public square" is by definition made up of an great variety of ideologies, each one bent on assuring the protection of its own values and agenda, we would be expecting unsaved, unregenerate man to somehow start behaving well without the expedient of any relationship to God; and that would, of course, be contrary to the Christian concept of salvation.

      Now, I think you're more worried about whether Christians can have influence TO non-Christians, or can be Christian IN the public square, or even whether they can influence for the good some of the decisions made WITHIN the public square: to all that I obviously say "Yes." But no, we're never going to turn the public square into an engine of Christian regeneration.

      I hope that's a clearer position. Maybe, then, we're not seeing this differently at all.

    3. Just as I thought, there had to be a difference of interpretation and yes, it makes more sense now. Although I am inclined to think that my "in public" interpretation of public square certainly overlaps with the Neuhaus interpretation or definition. For the simple reason that buildings, edifices, institutions, corporations, organizations, etc. have no life of their own but owe their existence of course to human beings whether through private personal or public initiative and participation. Thus, I don't agree that those entities cannot be changed or strongly influenced by Christians so as to act on their behalf or they would simply have to be considered to be the exclusive prerogative of the secular groups and non-Christian denominations and I don't think that could happen in today's times (except in isolated instances). Take the case just on the news where a high school in the USA was successfully sued by a student who was forbidden to start a Christian religious club on school grounds. This was thrown out by the courts as discriminatory and he can now do so. So, I deduce that the Christian mandate is always there no matter what the societal settings. I also think that success is not a question of the type of setting but is simply a question of showing our colors through how we use our free will. That's where and how God does his sorting and how, by action and reaction, our life and being is shaped to conform more closely to Christ or become farther removed.

      In one of my previous comments I lamented that the Christian community could be the most powerful interest group in the country if acting and voting in its best self-interest and that that is not happening. So, the potential is there to influence and transform the institutional as well as the public "Public Square." Combine that with personal and private choice to turn the channel and not participate and accede to the sordid influences of the public square and there could be enormous influence on "Public Square" political and commercial institutions of all types. So, I think I know who is to blame here if that is not happening.