Back to School—Really?

BackToSchoolby Deana Chadwell8/14/15
It’s that time again — back-to-school ads fill the TV screen. Football teams sweat through summer practice. Teachers return to their classrooms, hoping against hope to get totally prepared for the year to come. And yet we all know that something is rotten in America’s schools.

America was once a well-educated country – de Tocqueville mentioned that on his tour of the fledgling nation in the early 19th century. He was astounded at how well informed the average man-on-the-street was. He would be horrified today.

The man-on-the-street videos are not only embarrassing and scary, but test scores and graduation rates back up the videos with dismal scores, and many of those who do graduate can’t read or write, can’t compute, can’t speak without using the F-word. Competent, inspiring teachers are vacating the profession at an alarming rate – one can only take the frustration and disrespect for so long.

And it’s not going to get any better if we keep doing what we’ve been doing: dusting off the same old band-aide programs, dressing them up with new names, and hoping against all rationality that this time it will work. It won’t. There are some fundamental reasons for this dead end.

Mainly, education is caught up in a landslide caused by the weakness of its very foundations and hastened by the frantic efforts of a movement so off base, so deeply, fundamentally flawed that it must implode.

Education, from time immemorial has been rooted in religious belief. The most knowledgeable people in any tribe were the priests, the shamans. From the scribes of Israel, the Wise Men of the Gospels, the monks of the Middle Ages, the scientists of the Renaissance, the Ivy League schools at their inception, education and religion were joined at the hip. Up until John Dewey and his “progressive” anti-religion attitudes, educators recognized that connection and nurtured it.

Why does this learning-believing pairing work? Why is it so hard to teach without it? The short answer is that learning is hard work and requires a substantive motivation to accomplish. When human beings acknowledge their Creator, curiosity ensues – Who is this God who made me? Why did He make me? What is my purpose? What is the purpose of the universe? What are the properties of this universe? What is the nature of man and how can we connect with God? What will happen in the future? The important questions, the wondering questions all start with God.

Secular humanism, the main philosophy behind public education since Dewey, teaches that we are each the master of our own fate and that everything is about us, for us, through us. It teaches moral neutrality, so nothing is shocking, nothing is reprehensible, nothing is important, and nothing is interesting. Our school librarian – a lovely lady – used to say that most things weren’t worth learning since everything was going to change anyway. The librarian! It teaches that science knows everything, and only those with the power of science can know anything. And yet, science is always changing its collective mind, and often at the whim of a grant bribe. God, on the other hand, doesn’t change. What we learn about Him will never be useless.

Progressivism, however, promotes the idea that the state is the supreme being; its priests are the bureaucrats and politicians, its disciples the men in white coats.  None of this promotes curiosity; none of it provides purpose or direction. And it relegates education to nothing but job training.

For decades after Dewey the schools limped along still able to pull their students into at least a semblance of learning. The family still stood behind the schools and the family taught its children about God. Those kids could find purpose and interest in that divine knowledge.

But much has changed. The family is crumbling like a stepped-on potato chip. And much of that can be laid at the feet of the leftist, progressive ideology and the government policies that resulted. Prior to Johnson’s Great Society only 7% of black families were missing their fathers; now, 73% of African American families are fatherless. A single mother is hard-pressed to feed her children let alone take them to church and watch over their schooling. The family, as a bulwark against ignorance, feels, especially to teachers, like a lost cause.

So we have a gigantic, expensive, paradoxical institution hanging around the necks of our children. It teaches them that nothing is true, that we mustn’t make any moral judgments, that respecting authority is an antique idea, and that their own self-esteem should be their greatest concern and then we expect the kids to learn. When they don’t, the government, which is now synonymous with the schools, gives them harder tests, which undermine self-esteem and do nothing at all to ramp up curiosity.

The secularist attitude has ruined our schools. But, but, but, sputters the progressive, but we have to have separation of church and state! We have to keep our schools neutral! Really? If you send a kid through 16 years of schooling in which God is never mentioned, except in a derogatory way, you end up with a person who doesn’t see any evidence for, or information about, or guidance from the Creator of us all. That’s not neutral.

But, but, but, says the humanist, we’re a secular society. Really? And how’s that working for you? Any teacher will tell you that the best students, the successful students are, more often than not, from religious families. The troublesome students, either the arrogant pseudo-intellectual kids, or the dropout wannabes, usually are not.

By forcing our schools into this anti-God stance we have destroyed them. If the government (and the bigger the government the worse this is) runs the schools, God (according to 21st century attitudes) must be excluded. If we exclude God from education, we also exclude the impetus for that education, and we remove much of the philosophical, moral, virtuous, character-building material goes with Him – literature, music, art, history, science – all these disciplines must be heavily censored, rewritten, dumbed down. If we do this, then we are training robots, not enlightening human beings.

If God is excluded from schools then so is any authority to demand good behavior. If several generations receive their education from Godless schools, then fewer and fewer of the population know anything at all about Him or about absolute values, like truth. If couples who don’t know God raise children, they won’t know God, and the family will be unlikely to develop consistent values, let alone values that lead to confident, well-behaved, motivated students.

So, how do we break this chain when the separation-of-church-and-state meme seems carved in stone? We educate our children in the way they should be educated; at home. We set up vouchers to be use at the school of the parents’ choice. We support specialized charter schools and open up school registration so that parents can choose where their kids go to school. If parents can send their kids to a school that teaches what they believe, then the church/state hammer no longer has any weight and some schools will go back to allowing for the reality of God.

Many options are sitting there in the classroom, enthusiastically waving their hands, just waiting to be called on. Enough data already exists to prove that these options work. So, as the kids and their new backpacks march off to school this fall, let’s keep our eyes open, do some research and make a move. It’s up to each of us to fix this.


Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com.
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Deana Chadwell

About Deana Chadwell

I have spent my life teaching young people how to read and write and appreciate the wonder of words. I have worked with high school students and currently teach writing at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. I have spent more than forty years studying the Bible, theology, and apologetics and that finds its way into my writing whether I'm blogging about my experiences or my opinions. I have two and a half moldering novels, stacks of essays, hundreds of poems, some which have won state and national prizes. All that writing -- and more keeps popping up -- needs a home with a big plate glass window; it needs air; it needs a conversation. I am also an artist who works with cloth, yarn, beads, gourds, polymer clay, paint, and photography. And I make soap.
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14 Responses to Back to School—Really?

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    John Dewey, as a socialist, didn’t want students to learn and especially to think on their own. He wanted students who could learn and parrot the party line, and that was all they needed. And what do we get in our schools today?

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Home schooling is helping the country from completely sliding off the mountain which is Western Civilization into the filthy morass which is cultural Marxism.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      This is one reason the Demagogues are so hostile to home schooling (even though many New Age liberals rely on it). Of course, their fealty to the teachers’ unions also provides a motive. (One example of “life is complicated” is that people can act out of a large number of motives, some good and some bad. There might even be some good motives for Demagogue hostility to home schooling, though I don’t know of any.)

      • My liberal teacher brother was always anti-homeschooling because he thought that was the way evil parents got away with abusing their children. Gees. My 2 youngest granddaughters are home-schooled and they love it — and they test out far far above grade level. It is one of the best tools we have going for us.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          One of the proofs of the fraudulent nature of public education is that home-schooled children (i.e., those taught by amateurs rather than professionals) tend to do better.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Deana sees things from the top of the ladder. And maybe that’s what it’s all about.

    I tend to see things halfway down that ladder. I don’t see the need for God, per se, to learn a computer language. Or how to read. Or how to do mathematics. From my perch on the middle tier I see the need for an emphasis on academic subjects rather than the indoctrination of a Progressive worldview onto young skulls-full-of-mush by bureaucrats and state authorities who misuse the power they have over a captive audience.

    From the middle rungs, I see a system jerry-rigged to favor teacher’s unions (government employees, for the sake of the party that gains from this). I see a system whose point isn’t teaching children but giving adults secure employment, thus the entire system is generally not subject to weeding out the corrupt, the dishonest, or the incompetent. The system is not subject to fair competition and normal market forces. There is little opportunity for corrections, and schools themselves have become expert at deflecting criticism and concern from parents.

    I see a system of reduced intellectual capacity as teaching is more and more the profession considered easy (the “study hall” of careers) and which therefore does not attract the best and the brightest. From halfway up the ladder I see this reduced competence more easily bored and bamboozled by the newfangled…giving in to fads rather than doing the hard work of the tried-and-true. Teachers become entertainers, even coddlers, rather than asking kids to roll up their sleeves and apply a little elbow grease. And why should they if they are slackers in their own careers?

    I have no problem believing that good teachers are being weeded out of this awful system, thus concentrating the poison. But does anyone care? The point of education used to be to prepare people for an independent and productive life. Now can anyone say that a large impetus for public schools is not as a baby sitter so that women can find “fulfillment” outside the home?

    From this ledge two feet off the floor, I see a truly great thing — bringing the light of knowledge to our children and passing on the best of our culture — being degraded by incompetence and twisted for political purposes. If anyone can afford to, they should place their kids into a private school (one that you have carefully researched) or bring them into a home school group.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Albert Shanker of the American Federation of Teachers (for whom Linda Chavez worked for a while) once supposedly said (though he denied it) that they would start to care about the children they (mis)educated when those children started paying union dues.

  4. oldguy says:

    This is what happens when Cliff Notes replaced the great literary works of mankind.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s how I see the moral question intersecting with education.

    It does arrive at the top in the basic question of: Why should people be educated? And the answer is that is that people should be made industrious and of some use to other people. People should develop their god-given talents and go out into the world and make it better by offering a product or service that is a benefit to other people’s lives (while suppling yourself with a living).

    The alternative is living in ignorance and being of shallow mind — and likely being a moocher as well. An education will not only teach us useful skills but give us a wider view of our world, including that of the arts, history, literature, and philosophy. Intelligence and knowledge is absolutely no guarantee of becoming a good man, but it is a likely precondition for wisdom.

    But in regards to learning the academic subjects, that’s more of a technical question. We don’t need God, per se, to learn Fortran. But what we then do with our knowledge and skills is indeed a moral question.

    • You’ve hit on my point. On the surface, saying that God is necessary for learning to take place makes little sense. But the self-discipline, the desire to KNOW, the hunger for knowledge for its own sake (which is the only thing that produces a scholar) are all at some deep, subterranean level, fueled by the knowledge of God. We might be able to go without Him for a generation or two, stoking our sense of wonder and amazement through residual cultural assumptions, but it won’t last long. What did the 2nd Commandment say? Four generations and then we’re doomed. Hmmm….

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Regarding the flaws in modern education, here’s a heartening article: NFL Star to Return ‘Participation Trophies’ Given to His Sons. His sons are six and eight years old.

    The article concludes with:

    His kids are learning at a young age you don’t get “Participation Trophies” when you screw up your life.

    I do think that some things are age-appropriate. It’s okay to treat Kindergarteners like Kindergarteners. But at some point — maybe about eight years old or so — you really probably shouldn’t be handing out participation trophies. By all means, have a “most improved” trophy or “hardest worker in practice” trophy. I have no problem with incentivizing effort and excellence and spreading it out a bit. But the point is rewarding something, not catering to some vague namby-pamby sense of “self esteem” and automatically rewarding kids for just showing up.

    In fact, in most places, this is already appropriately done. Most teams have some treats and things for the kids after the game. Hell, I’ve seen the teams of young kids just get their asses handed to them by another team, but at the end of it all, they’re all smiles on the sidelines enjoying their treat after the game.

    At some point you’d probably want to just give them bread-and-water after a loss, but not when they are at an age before high school. But can the concept of “age appropriate” make any sense to this culture that has become so juvenile and namby-pamby from top to bottom? I wonder. We seem to be losing the ability to make wise and fine distinctions. We’re forgetting how to use good judgment.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I have since consulted with my all-knowing prognosticator on topics large and small (the “Love and War Man,” and that includes sports as a topic). He has told me that the participation trophies are actually for the parents. It’s a way to give them some payoff for driving their sons or daughters to and from practice and attending the games. Otherwise the kids themselves care very little about them. They are quickly thrown on a shelf and forgotten.

      In fact, many aspects of sports are there to facilitate the parents — who, as I’ve learned firsthand, are the biggest pains in the asses in regards to sporting events for kids. Kids present their own challenges, but it’s the parents who are the biggest trouble and the hardest to handle.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        He has told me that the participation trophies are actually for the parents.

        Very astute man. I believe the kids are not often bamboozled by the phony/feel-good trophies. This shows good sense and understanding.

        Why is it the parents are so easily fooled? Clearly a sort of brain softening takes place in many people once they have children. Objectivity and reality seem to disappear.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I don’t know that the parents are fooled about anything. They just want some kind of payoff for all the time they’ve spend being the supportive parent. I can certainly understand that if that is what motivates many of them.

          It can be such a bizarre thing to take part in children’s sports. At an early age, in order to protect them from such nasty things as losing, they don’t keep score. But my Love and War man tells me that kids tend to know exactly what the score is. So perhaps this “no keeping track of score” rule is mostly for the parents.

          One can understand parents wanting their children to succeed. But anyone who has ever been on the sidelines understand that most of the rules at any ballpark or stadium are there to keep the parents in line. Most of you probably have some idea just how lunatic many parents are about winning and losing. The kids certainly would rather win than lose, but having regularly attended the baseball, basketball, and football games of my nephews, I can tell you that the kids handle defeat verly very well. Momentarily they may be upset, but it passes real quickly.

          For the kids, the trophy *is* participation. They have a lot of fun. When you’re out there actually doing, there isn’t a lot of time for regrets. But, geez, the parents on the sidelines can be remarkably vulgar and win-conscious. They tend to invest way more into it than the kids do.

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