The Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America
There is a dangerous and unseen war taking place in our society. It is not being waged with guns, bullets, hand-grenades or loud bombs, but it proceeds unceasingly, daily, all around us. This war is insidious, but you will neither hear the sounds of battle, see bodies being torn apart nor smell the smell of death, because this war is different. While it leaves no visible bodies sprawled across the battlefield, it imprisons and endangers the eternal souls of millions every year. The big question is, do you see it?
I experienced this warfare first-hand as captive of our secular education system. It happened in my first year at a secular college. I came from a small cloistered religious high school, where I, like so many others, thought I was grounded in my faith. However, dazzled by my new surroundings, I soon found myself caught up in a whirlwind of ideas and information that had my head spinning. I was challenged by new friends who questioned my intelligence for believing in the Genesis account of creation, Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel and the miracles of the Bible. They told me that if I was going to major in science, I would have to believe in naturalistic evolution and put my thinking about God to rest. Amid these challenges and the cloud of confusion surrounding me came a biology professor who appeared all-knowing and all-wise.
A charismatic instructor with contagious enthusiasm for evolution, my freshman biology professor had me mesmerized in no time. A teacher like that, who is passionate about his subject and also a great communicator, can easily inspire new visions and aspirations in his students—and/or lead them astray.
In my case, it was both. I enjoyed the class so much that for the first time I began to visualize a life in some sort of science career, but it also caused me to abandon the One who created me and gave me breath. I became another casualty in the battle between the truths of Scripture and the lies of evolution.
My biology professor was teaching the typical evolution curriculum of the time and took every chance to vigorously proclaim his belief in biological naturalism. It’s what fueled him, and he used his classroom as a very effective pulpit for evolution. Like so many others in the class, I was soon convinced that evolution was a settled fact that was accepted by virtually the entire scientific community. In just one month at college I was denying and even mocking my Creator, who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sins.
Completely contrary to my 12 years of parochial religious education, I quickly found myself headed down the road to being a professed atheist. Great teachers are change makers who have the ability to lead students down an exciting path of discovery and new knowledge. The paramount question to ask is: Is it the right path?
Perhaps not surprisingly, after graduating from college I became a public school science teacher and worked part-time as an adjunct professor at the local community college teaching first-year chemistry. I briefly attempted working in the laboratory, but because I am more people oriented, and have a gift for teaching as well as an inherent love for science, the classroom was the perfect fit. And just like my former biology professor, I entwined my passion for science with the popular mantra of evolutionary naturalism in my lessons.
I was totally at ease in the classroom, my students excelled and, of course, this caught my principal’s attention. That led to opportunities to start a science club on campus and to develop research programs for gifted students that produced awards and accolades for the school and community. It was especially in those informal environments through interaction with those bright kids, where I espoused my personal atheistic beliefs. I was a dedicated teacher who loved to teach and influence young minds (and still do). But as I reflect on my past as a young, enthusiastic schoolteacher, I regret how I influenced those impressionable lives toward a godless, empty life. I also know this happens every day in our public schools. Don’t kid yourself. Teachers not only teach subjects, they teach who they are and what they believe in. Just as I, and my professor before me, many instructors in our public education system are doing daily battle with the beliefs and convictions of Christian students in their classes.
I still remember telling my Mom that I didn’t believe in God and that we came from monkeys. She was stunned. My mother was raised going to church and came to this country as an immigrant from Italy at a very young age, and in her own quietly blunt way replied, “That’s stupid.” She went on to say, “I can’t believe what they are teaching at college these days.” Now that I know the truth, I play this scene over and over in my mind and feel the same way Mom did. These public institutions that take our hard-earned tax dollars are propagating a godless worldview, which includes evolution, sex before marriage, the homosexual agenda, and worshiping man (humanism) and the environment. In Job 1:7, God asks Satan, “From where do you come?” Satan replies, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from on it.” Today, the devil is “going to and fro” in our educational system and is “walking back and forth” in its hallways. He knows how important the next generation is, and is busy waging spiritual warfare in our schools for the hearts and minds of our young people. It is carried out by misguided teachers and through deceptive textbooks, but as Ephesians 6:12 informs us:
…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
The Shocking Truth about Our Public Schools
Collin Gunn, a Scottish filmmaker, has created a provocative and hard-hitting documentary on American education called, Indoctrination: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America. On the cover it says, “If you’re not ready to take a look at the true state of public education, you will want to avoid this unflinching and highly controversial film.” After previewing the DVD, our CSI staff agrees with this statement, but also unanimously believes it is something people need to see. Gunn creatively employs a school bus in the movie, taking his family on a road trip across the United States to investigate our schools. The film deftly captures the realties of the battles taking place and features many touching and thought provoking testimonies from Christian parents, teachers, administrators and students.
At one of the first stops, I found myself filled with empathy for the parents who have raised their kids to believe in Jesus Christ, and whose constitutional rights are routinely violated by the very institution charged with educating their youth. Their faith has been censored out of America’s schoolrooms, and replaced by a godless agenda deeply imbedded in the curricula and teacher training. Commenting on this, R.C. Sproul, Jr., of Ligonier Ministries, offers this convicting statement:
Freedom in the end isn’t about having guns, having money or having houses. Freedom is about raising our children to serve the Lord Jesus. All reality exists so that God’s name will be known, and the government school says you can’t name His name. They are forbidden by law to publically and clearly state that Jesus Christ is Lord.
At another memorable “bus stop,” Gunn interviews Mike Metarko, a Christian public elementary school principal in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who describes his struggle of balancing God’s law and man’s law in a secular environment. He says it’s like trying to plug holes in a leaky dike and describes a battle with the Anti-Defamation League over an after-school Good News Bible Club. Despite his efforts, this man says he feels like he is on shaky ground because our educational system is crumbling, stating, “It is not built upon God, not built upon His Word, not built upon His truths, but built upon man and his desires.” We learn that shortly after this interview took place Mr. Metarko resigned from the public school system after 15 years, and was planning to write a book about his experience.
The fact is that our public school system has a very dubious beginning, which helps explain why there is such a fierce battle when it comes to mentioning our Creator. Indoctrination illustrates this with an animated sequence of a bus traveling through a historical timeline of its development. We are reminded that American education was originally rooted in biblical training as initiated by the Puritans, who came to these shores for the freedom to worship the God of Holy Scripture in the first place. As time went on, the informal one-room schoolhouse that was an integral part of a local community—and closely reflected its moral values—got changed into a more regimented, state-controlled and generically theistic system, which began to neutralize the use of Scripture and then finally got rid of it, along with prayer.
The biblical teachings and moral values based on God’s Word that are so important for young people to learn, and that made America great, began to be diluted through the influence of Horace Mann. He was an educational reformer who helped create the first state board of education in Massachusetts, which became the guiding model for all states and even the federal government. Modeled after the Prussian school system that began in the early 19th century, which was designed to indoctrinate youth to obey the king and the dictates of the state, Mann’s approach required mandatory attendance, was funded by government taxes and used a state curriculum with teacher training, which led to state certification. Mann convinced the Massachusetts legislature to adopt this model in 1852 under the name of “Normal Schools,” which became the archetype for our nation’s public school systems today.
Mann believed public education would be “the great equalizer,” getting rid of social ills like crime, poverty and ignorance, and producing the moral fiber to know right from wrong. He was a Unitarian with a liberal interpretation of God’s Word, who did not believe in the Holy Trinity or the deity of Christ—he was basically a theistic humanist. A popular quote of Mann’s from an address he gave in 1859, two months before he died, states, “I beseech you to treasure up in your hearts these parting words: Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for Humanity.”
It is clear that after 150 years of public school experimentation, this is not happening. The failure of our public schools today can be traced directly back to Horace Mann’s efforts to exchange traditional biblical content for European humanistic philosophy. The basic framer of our public education system substituted God’s absolutes for man’s authority, and we are paying the price.
After the cartoon school bus in Indoctrination lets Horace Mann and his neutral theistic framework on board, it gets filled up with other culprits that have contributed to the decline of our public school system. One key figure is Charles Darwin, who waves his hands proudly at us—which is where the Creation Studies Institute intersects with the film. Students are seldom told about the problems and weaknesses with Darwinian evolution, because such inquiries are routinely censored out of the classroom. Through the years our colleges and universities have become especially dogmatic about teaching evolution, with any evidence that doesn’t support the theory edited out of textbooks or labeled as religious and non-scientific. Students are told that the Genesis account is a fairy tale, and the notion that God created the universe and everything in it is openly mocked.