The raging culture wars have a long string of wounded soldiers and citizens in this world. The most devastating battle is the attack against the minds of young people. The specific culture war I have in mind is education and more specifically education in the Christian sector.
Christians should be in the forefront of reforming education in this country, a concept not so new. In Martin Luther’s An Appeal to the Ruling Class of German Nationality as to the Amelioration of the State of Christendom, Luther argued for reformation of education. Luther said, “The universities need a sound and thorough reformation.” Luther’s concern was that the Church of Rome was corrupt to the degree that “everything that the papacy has instituted or ordained is directed solely toward the multiplication of sin and error. Unless they are completely altered from what they have been hitherto, the universities will fit exactly what is said in the Book of Maccabees: ‘places for the exercise for youth, and for the Greekish fashion… . Nothing could be more wicked, or serve the devil better, than unreformed universities.”
Luther wanted to reform university education. Today the bankruptcy of public education at all levels has created a national disaster. Modernity and its replacement, the postmodern concept, have significantly contributed to the bankruptcy. Three unprincipled and ungodly worldviews dominant the educational process; they are pragmatism, utilitarianism, and relativism.
Pragmatism is particularly an American worldview. The authors of this worldview popularized its philosophical theory by dismissing metaphysical rationality. Dr. Gordon Clarke defines pragmatism as, “A theory is true in proportion to its success; but success in solving a problem is eminently a matter of approximation” (Thales to Dewey, by Gordon Clarke, p. 503-504). To put it another way, the theory is true if it produces successful results. It applies to every level and segment of society because it is the final source of meaning and truth. Although, pragmatism started as a philosophical movement, through the efforts of William James and John Dewey, it has become a popular worldview. If it works it must be right.
Utilitarianism is close kin to pragmatism. Webster defines utilitarianism as, “The ethical doctrine that virtue is based on utility and that conduct should be directed toward promoting the greatest happiness of the greatest number of persons” (Webster’s Encyclopedia Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language). This worldview applied on a personal level refers to using people to get what one wants. Combine pragmatism and utilitarianism to “use people if it works for your benefit.
Relative is a very useful word in normal everyday life. For example, I may refer to the relative nature of the church to God’s people. However, relativism takes on a theological/philosophical/psychological/epistemological/moral dimension. The most common use is moral or ethical relativism. Take the abortion controversy for example. One side says it is absolutely wrong to murder a child in the mother’s womb. The other side says it is relative to the circumstances and other variables. Ultimately, the logic of the law of non-contradiction defies relativism. The American philosopher, J. P. Moreland, explains that “moral relativism implies that moral propositions are not simply true or false.” Moral relativism is the predominant worldview in university education and to a lesser degree in secondary schools.
Modernity is a force to be reckoned with, but the force will eventually fail. It must because it is humanistic and not divine. It is proximate and not ultimate. Human autonomy is self-destructive. Divine aseity is the source of the ultimate authority and supreme power. If any educational system survives, it does so because it has ultimate authority to fulfill its purpose. Supreme power must accompany that authority or otherwise some other power will win the day.
Modern educators focus on the proximate rather than the ultimate. I don’t hear Christians say, “What does God say about education?” I do hear them say, “What does William James say about education?” There are a few Christians who might ask, “What did John Calvin say about education?” We cannot replace or repair our educational institutions and systems by consulting sinful men. Of course it is wise to consult the church fathers that went before us, but the ultimate authority must be the Word of God.
The postmodern educational philosophy is no help in the restoration of a rational godly educational system. In fact, postmodern thought is all the more reason to replace the present model. Postmodern educators have effectively created the religion of education as a means to change the culture. After the failure of the enlightenment and its progeny, the postmodernists made educational philosophy a god of the new age.
Herbert Scholossberg accuses the public schools of promoting “the socialization of diverse peoples” and they have been successful in that endeavor. It is sad that Christians, particularly postmodern Christians, have used the educational system in this country to homogenize the variety of cultures in the United States. Postmodern educators will not admit that ethnic groups are fundamentally different. To make many cultures into one is not a biblical world and life view.
The philosophical agenda to establish the educational elite has been a miserable failure. One rogue passing along information to other rogues produces a generation of uneducated hypocrites with a diploma to prove they attended a school of higher learning. The travesty is that Christians simply shrug their shoulders.
The educational system proposed by Dewey, Owen, Mann, et al., is a failure by their own standards. Statist education was their goal and all it has produced is an uneducated, uncivilized, and incompetent society that hates its culture of residence.
The academies of colonial America and the academies of the old Southwest were God-centered educational institutions. They resisted the liberal Unitarianism until at last the Unitarians took control of the educational institutions throughout America. The history of those Calvinistic academies shaped the intellectual, cultural, and political lives for many generations. Unfortunately the godless Unitarian universities have created a tyrannical force that has been the most powerful change agent in this country. Os Guinness believes that the role of American public schools was so successful that they “became almost the working equivalent of a European established church” (American Hour, page 155). He is right because the educational system in America is a rival to Christianity.
The reformation of the educational system in this country will be painful to the socialites, liberals, and statists. However, Christians do not have a choice in the matter. Reforming our educational system is a noble work for God’s people.