Christians ought to tend our worldview on a regular basis. The apostle Paul reminds us of this as he writes in Colossians 2: “…see to it that no one takes you captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy …” This idea is also the lynchpin in Paul’s great theological treatise in Romans 12 with the imperative, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
This worldview cultivation is critical for the thinking Christian because, as it has often been said, if one speaks a lie often enough and loudly enough, it will eventually be regarded as the truth. This seems even more the case in our current context, given all of the various means and platforms of communication, and is all too characteristic of the discourse in the public square—assuming that discourse is even actually allowed.
One current topic in the marketplace of ideas is education policy. This is particularly so given the recent wave of school choice initiatives swelling up across the county. The debate fostered by legislative action has prompted a renewal of two lies about education that have become accepted truth for many. These lies are that education is inherently neutral and that education is, by nature, non-religious.
Regarding the assertion that education is inherently neutral, even a cursory reading of history quickly dispels that myth. Regardless of what one may assert and lobby, virtually no one really believes education is neutral. All education emerges through and from a worldview. Civilizations from the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century all understood the significance of education as a generational tool for shaping culture and forming worldview.
In America, this use of education has also been the case. The early days of public education in the 17th century were largely aimed at literacy and particularly biblical literacy (e.g. the Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647). Public education was dominated by Protestantism and its advancement, sometimes at the expense of Roman Catholics, which gave rise to an independent parochial school system. This movement continued into the 19th century until the pressure of mass immigration caused a shift of pubic education’s focus toward socialization. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, public education’s bent shifted from Protestantism to Americanism. From its inception, education in America was understood to be both religious and not neutral. Today, we ignore this reality at our own peril.
Perhaps modern American Christians have no issue with or even applaud these first two movements, but it is important to note their significance. A more careful consideration of these movements adequately debunks the dual notions of education being both non-religious and inherently neutral. The shifts in public education philosophy in America championed by John Dewey and his followers, however, eradicate any illusion of a noble neutrality and demonstrate that ideas do, in fact, have consequences. Dewey and his cronies were unapologetic disciples of secular humanism, which seeks to elevate man and science at the expense of God.