is no neutral ground between the proposition that God created
the world out of nothing and the proposition that the universe
is an eternal self-existing entity. But though objectors may admit
that there is here a philosophic incompatibility, they may at
the same time hold that philosophy is so remote from the practical
business of teaching children that any concern over anti-religious
influence is purely academic. Even the optimism or the pessimism
of the teacher does not affect the contents of arithmetic. Philosophically,
neutrality is impossible, they grant; but educationally neutrality
is a fact.
This seems to be the
commonly held opinion about the decisions of the United States
Supreme Court banning prayer and Bible reading from public education.
Prayer is definitely a religious activity, and the State must
not support any kind of religion. Let arithmetic be taught and
religion ignored. Now, there is one good point at least in the
Court’s decision. The case originated in a school system
whose officials had written out a prayer and had required the
teachers to pray that prayer. The school officials had supposed
their prayer to be innocuous and satisfactory to all religions
that prayed at all. It was a "nonsectarian" prayer.
Since the decision, various amendments to the Constitution have
been proposed that would permit nonsectarian prayer. Presumably
this would mean a prayer composed by the school board and imposed
by them on the teachers. Insofar as this was and is the case,
a Christian must view the Court’s decision with favor. For,
in the first place, it forces the teacher to make a prayer with
which she disagrees, either because she is irreligious and does
not want to pray at all—and compliance makes her a hypocrite,
or because she is religious and sees that this nonsectarian prayer
is not neutral, but anti-Christian.
these nonsectarian prayers are anti-Christian can very clearly
be stated. The Bible teaches that all prayer to God must be based
on the merits of Jesus Christ. No one can come to the Father but
by Christ. There is no other name by which we can be saved. Hence
to pray without including Christ in the prayer is an offense against
God. It is far better to have no prayer at all in school than
such a nonsectarian prayer. The use of the word sectarian
or nonsectarian is itself an offense and insult. Sect
has always had a pejorative sense, and to stigmatize a Christian
prayer as sectarian is not an exercise in neutrality.
It might seem then
that the Supreme Court has maintained neutrality by its prohibition
of prayer in the schools, and that only those who want prayer
are anti-Christian. Of course, also, any who do not want prayer
are anti-Christian; and it was quite a feat for the Court to satisfy
devout Christians and loudmouthed atheists by the same decision.
But whether the decision and its results can satisfy the Christian,
and whether the schools are neutral—now that the school
board theologians can no longer impose their prayers—still
requires a little more discussion.
That neutrality is
impossible becomes clearer and clearer as the system of Christian
theism is further understood. Mention has already been made of
the fact that Christianity is not to be identified with and restricted
to a bare belief in God. For example, Christianity has a theory
of evil; it differs from the humanistic theory; and therefore
a secular school cannot adopt the same policies a Christian school
adopts in dealing with recalcitrant pupils.
That there are recalcitrant
pupils hardly needs to be said. But perhaps it does need to be
said to those who conveniently forget what is going on. In addition
to the material recounted in chapter one, there was the case of
subversive, obscene, Black Panther literature sold to high school
students in Indianapolis in 1969 with the approval of at least
some of the teachers. But it is illegal for the Gideons to distribute
New Testaments on school property. In the first two weeks of the
1969-70 school session, fifty robberies and beatings, including
stabbings, were reported to the Indianapolis police. The police
believed that they were less than half the crimes committed because
children who are victimized are often afraid to report the attack
for fear of reprisals. Some parents refuse to send their children
to school in order to save them from violence at school. In one
of the affluent Indianapolis high schools it is estimated that
fifty percent of the pupils are drug addicts. Not all heroin addicts,
to be sure; but on their way by means of glue, goofballs, LSD,
and similar drugs.
conditions have been encouraged by the liberal, humanistic policy
of dealing with lesser forms of student misconduct. Liberalism
has ridiculed the Christian notion of punishment. From babyhood
children must be spoiled, not spanked, or in any way repressed.
As early as 1922, John Dewey in Human Nature and Conduct
(Part II, Section 2) encouraged youth to rebel against parental
discipline. Parents have tamed "the delightful originality
of the child"; they instill in him moral habits; and the
result is a mass of "irrationalities" and "infantilisms."
When Dewey’s philosophy is translated into the penal code,
with its emphasis on rehabilitation (for the criminal is sick,
not wicked; and the community is guilty, not the criminal), twenty
thousand people commit murder in a single year in the United States,
and not one of them is executed. The following year, naturally,
more people commit murder.
Neither John Dewey,
nor the liberal penologists, nor the public schools are to be
blamed for the origin of these crimes. Liberal theologians and
liberal educators are to be blamed for failing to repress evil.
The public schools deserve ridicule when they claim to be the
saviors of democracy. By their permissiveness they have encouraged
arson, drug addiction, and sexual immorality. Even in strictly
curricular affairs their permissiveness and their extension of
the concept of democracy beyond its proper political meaning often
have resulted in the attempt to make all pupils equal by reducing
requirements to the minimum so every- body can pass. In such schools,
more often in metropolitan areas, a student must not flunk; he
must be promoted. In high schools that have come under the present
writer's observation, some juniors (no doubt seniors, too, but
the following examples are restricted to personal knowledge) can
not read fourth-grade material; in a botany lab a student could
not read the instruction sheet, and a twenty-year-old boy "graduated"
without being able to read—well, without being able to read
two paragraphs of anything. This sort of democracy, this permissiveness,
these liberal policies encourage and augment evil; but they do
not initiate evil. Evil is initiated in what John Dewey calls
the delightful originality of the child.
argument aims to show that a school system cannot operate as a
neutral between the liberal and the Christian position. A school
system must have some policy for delinquent children, or for those
who begin to cause trouble, and this policy cannot be both left
and right. It cannot be both Christian and humanistic; and there
is no middle, neutral ground. The two philosophies and their educational
implications differ on what to do, on what evil is, and on how
it originates. Something has been said of the prevailing views
of public educators; now it is required to show that Christianity
has a totally different view of evil and totally different policies
for combating it.
is excerpted from an essay which originally appeared in the May/June
1988 issue of The Trinity Review. It is reprinted with permission
of , P. O. Box 68, Unicoi, TN 37692. Available
online under "Review Archives" at .