One of the problems of public education is that it inevitably teaches values; and all too often those values are not those of the parents but of education bureaucrats whose values and ideas can be very different from what parents want for their children. The great British historian Christopher Dawson noted this as a growing trend of the twentieth century and expressed it eloquently and sadly in these words: "[M]odern education and propaganda give the community such control over the thought and emotion of the individual that religious emotion and belief no longer have free play. The inner world of spiritual experience has been opened up by the child psychologist and the schoolmaster and has become public property, so that the child can literally no longer call its soul its own." When the schools work against parents, they tacitly assert, in the words of author Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld, "that children [are] owned by the state." And the morality of the state can be at stark contrast with traditional Christian morality and with the values Christian parents try to impart to their children. In the state of Massachusetts alone:
• A public school freshman health textbook in Silver Lake said, "Testing your ability to function sexually and give pleasure to another person may be less threatening in the early teens with people of your own sex ... You may come to the conclusion that growing up means rejecting the values of your parents." (Reportedly, students were not allowed to take this book home.)
• After sitting through a week's worth of compulsory school assemblies during "Homophobia Week" in Beverly, a fourteen-year-old told her dad he was homophobic. Another student reportedly expressed his revulsion with the school events in a local newspaper, saying, "I felt disturbed and nauseated. I witnessed biased testimonies by gays and the public mocking of a priest in our auditorium." Needless to say, parents were not alerted to the school's festivities glorifying homosexuality.
• Also in Beverly, after a parent had removed a child because sexual harassment instruction was substituted for algebra class for four days, the teacher cajoled the student to return anyway, saying, "Your parents don't have to know."
• In Manomet, an eighth grade student informed his health instructor that materials he had distributed to the class conflicted with his parents' beliefs, but the teacher dismissed the student's concern. "If you have any trouble with your parents," he said, "tell me and I'll handle them."
• A principal in Newton would not abide by parents' directions to remove their children from a condom-distribution program, telling them, "It's too important."
Another example of schools keeping parents out of the loop occurred in St. Louis, Missouri, where a mother, Debra Loveless, was barred from attending a school-sponsored assembly at Metro High School organized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). GLSEN holds itself out as the country's largest consortium of educators, parents, and students dedicated to preventing "discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender/identity expression in K-12 schools." Loveless had tried to attend the event herself after deciding not to let her daughter attend but was prohibited from doing so. Loveless filed suit against the school district. Before trial, her attorneys, with the American Center for Law and justice, worked out a settlement agreement with the school whereby it agreed to revise its policy so as not to bar parents from attending events based on their beliefs about the event. School officials, under the revised policy, reserve the right to remove disruptive parents.
Considering the vulnerability of young children, the potential ramifications of the deliberate exclusion of parents from input and control are sobering.
While we now expect public schools to impose a strict prohibition on Christian symbols, practices, and expressions, other values-laden instruction is routinely given. In a federally funded health program for public secondary schools, the "Teenage Health Teaching Model;" teachers are instructed to emphasize the students' choice on whether to engage in the "legitimate options" of smoking, drinking, and drugs, based on what they believe is "right for them." Many parents, who are legally responsible for their teenage children, might not approve of the public schools telling their sons and daughters that underage drinking and the use of illegal drugs is something for them to consider if it is "right for them." But that's not all this program teaches. It tells students there are many positive ways to express anger, such as sex, screaming, locking oneself in a room, meditating, slamming doors, and throwing things.
The idea that "meditation" and relaxation techniques are something schools should encourage is increasingly widespread, but also carries some disturbing baggage with it. One mother was reportedly driving her kids to school when she realized her second grade daughter was uncharacteristically quiet, even though her brother was bothering her. The daughter's eyes remained closed and she was unresponsive when the mother called her name. When the mother "shook" her little girl out of her trance she calmly explained, "Don't worry, Mommy, I was relaxing, painting my mind picture, and was with my friend Pumsy." She said that she had learned to do this at school.
"Pumsy" advocates claim that "Pumsy" is in some forty percent of the nation's public schools.
Pumsy teaches students to relax by going on fantasy trips to receive "counseling" from their imaginary friends, which include Pumsy, a dragon. There is also a similar program using "DUSO," a dolphin. Parents have challenged these activities around the nation, mostly successfully. Because of the controversial DUSO program, the New Mexico senate passed a law calling for the elimination of psychological or mind-altering techniques in public schools.
Some Christians have objected to these programs because of what they believe are their humanist and New Age themes. While Pumsy may include some good, it also sends a subtle message that children can find an ultimate source of wisdom (and goodness) within themselves. Just by tapping on that inner reservoir, they'll automatically begin to behave better and achieve greater fulfillment. A passage from the Pumsy student storybook reads: "Your clear mind is the best friend you'll ever have. It will always be there when you need it. It is always close to you and it will never leave you. You may think you have lost your clear mind, but it will never lose you." Students are encouraged to believe that they can eliminate negative feelings and urges not by dealing with them or confronting the source of whatever might be troubling them, but by ignoring them and looking within for their "clear mind." Many Christians have also objected to these lessons because they seem to convey the message that guilt is an artificial human construct, not a natural (and sometimes even healthy) response to immoral or inappropriate behavior.
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