The experience of teaching older students this year has impressed upon me a reality that I knew, but had never ruminated on for very long. That reality is that education is never neutral, nor can it ever be. Most people, regardless of political or philosophical persuasion, are beginning to realize this. I could fill this post with video after video, from various sections of the country, where teachers openly acknowledge that their main priority is to shape ideology. I’ll spare you that, however, and just share one or two, if you haven’t seen them yet.
This teacher is far more direct and explicit as he states his educational aims:
There is a war on for the hearts and souls of the next generation, and for far too long, religious and traditional minded Americans have failed to recognize the reality of what happens in a public school classroom.
Upon further reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the reality is much worse than many of us ever realized. Our culture has pretended for the better part of 75 years that education can be neutral, that we can pour facts and information, void of ideological perspectives, into the heads of students. When you stop to consider that for a minute, it’s farcical on its face.
The fact is, we have always administered education with a point of view. When I was a kid, the ideology assumed the inherent goodness of the American system. No teacher or curriculum ever ascribed perfection of behavior to the founding fathers or successive generations. There was, however, a clear presumption that America has always been working, wrestling, and striving towards the ideals espoused in her founding documents.
There were higher standards and a general sense of trust between parents and students. Government education was never perfect, but it was decent. It produced a literate populace and it imparted a sense of cultural cohesiveness to its students.
What it failed to do however, was acknowledge that education can never be morally neutral. We live in a zeitgeist where moral relativism reigns supreme primarily due to generations of failure to explicitly offer an understanding of right and wrong. As homes splintered and came apart, while churches turned into seeker sensitive houses of lukewarm doctrine, the result has been at least two generations of people who are genuinely confused about what is acceptable and what is not.
One thing I know for sure is that kids want someone to give them a concrete answer to hard questions. This year, I have been asked questions with answers that have deep and far reaching implications. These teenagers are not asking me what I think about these things in order to be told, “Whatever you want to do is fine. You can figure it our for yourself.” They are asking me questions about the nature of life and morality because they assume, as they should, that their middle aged Christian teacher knows more about life, morality, and living the Christian life than their 16-year-old selves.
Education can never be neutral. Ever. 2+2 will always equal 4. This much is true. But history, literature, the sciences, and every other area of intellectual and academic life is built on basic assumptions about God and man.
Please be involved in the education of your kids. Don’t assume the school has it covered.