Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: public schools

Am I a soldier of the cross?

 

Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof” (Judges 3:1-2).

After crossing the Jordan river into the Promised Land, Joshua led the Israelites in a few quick battles that left them in control of the whole land. The land was then divided among the tribes and it was up to each tribe to deal with any lingering opposition from the former occupants of the land. The above verses show that God knew that the Israelites would need to face opposition in order to remain vigilant.

Like the Israelites, we are prone to complacency. When things go well for a time, with no evident threats to our faith or our Christian way of life, we begin to believe that it is God’s plan for us to live at our ease.

This has been the case for Christians in North America over the past several generations. We have blessed the Lord for our freedom and prosperity, never dreaming that the Enemy was at work right under our noses. Today we are aware that there has been a major shift in public attitudes towards morality, the family and Christian faith. We didn’t see this coming, don’t understand what has happened, but surely it must be the fault of the politicians. If we could just get right-thinking people elected all would return to be as it should be.

Politicians did not create the situation we find ourselves in today – and they cannot fix it. They are being swept along just like the rest of us. The roots are much deeper and go much further back.

The humanist intellectuals who inspired the founding of our public school systems saw the schools as a means of removing children from the influence of their parents and forming their minds in the way that suited the purpose of the humanists. Their intention was to create a utopian society, a society where families and faith ceased to exist.

The first step was to convince parents that they were incompetent to train their own children. “Children need to be with other children their own age in order to learn how to get along with others.” The idea is ridiculous and should have been laughed to scorn, but it has been repeated so often, for so long a time, that most parents today accept it without question.

Evolution was introduced, in the name of science. The real reason was to convince children that there was no basis for any belief in right or wrong and no consequences to fear in choosing to live a life that did not accord with the teaching of their parents.

The old way of teaching reading by phonics was abandoned in favour of sight reading. Parents were told that they should not try to teach their children to read at home, leave it to the experts. The old way actually worked, nowadays we accept the 40% of the population has learning difficulties that leave them functionally illiterate. Much supposed research has taken place, many new methods tried, always with the same dismal results.

The same thing has happened in the teaching of mathematics. Parents are bewildered, so are the children. It seems that this was most likely the intention. The humanists are quite content to leave most of the population without the tools to figure out what is really going on.

So now we have children being trained that gender roles are not fixed, whatever they want to do is the right thing for them to do, and that it will be their responsibility to fix all the things that past generations have done to mess up our world.

Humanism has become the prevailing state religion and the schools are the shrines where it is worshipped. Our enemies are spiritual and must be fought with spiritual weapons. Have we forgotten what Isaac Watts knew almost 300 years ago?

Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To draw me on to God?

Sure I must fight, if I would reign;
Increase my courage Lord,
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.

School crisis in Québec

More than 50 congregations of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite in seven Canadian provinces are operating their own schools. These schools provide the foundational tools to enable their graduates to go on and continue learning whatever they need to make a living and be useful members of society. The schools are recognized as legal by their respective provincial governments, even though they do not follow the official curriculum or employ government certified teachers. Congregations of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite in 37 states of the USA are doing the same.

It has been in the news this week that this will not fly in the province of Québec. The school operated by the congregation at Roxton Falls, Québec is considered an illegal school and will be forced to close. Many attempts have been made to find an accommodation with the government; at times it has seemed that a way had been found, but the news this week appears to be final.

This leaves our brethren in Québec with three options: send their children to public school, home school their children, or leave the province. The families who live there would not consider public school to be an option, so in reality there are only two choices. I’m afraid that some will choose to leave.

Personally, I believe home schooling is the most attractive choice. After all, the education of children is the responsibility of parents, why would we think it essential to bring them all together into one building and have someone else teach them?

The forces behind the public education system have done their work well. When we look at the origins of public schools in North America, we read that the proponents openly stated their intention to remove children from their parents’ influence and to counter the religious influence of the home. They planted the thought that children needed to be together with children their own age in order to learn how to behave. That thought is still believed by many who want their children to be educated in a Christian setting. Why don’t we stop and think a bit? If there was any truth to the statement, then the children in the largest schools should be the best behaved children in our society. Has it worked out that way?

I hear people saying that home-schooled children aren’t learning much. That may be true in a few instances, there are variations in every educational setting. Yet extensive studies have been done of home-schooled children in both Canada and the USA and the results show that on average at every age level home-schooled children are far ahead of their peers in public schools.

Most parents who home school give two reasons for their choice: they want their children to learn more than what the public schools are achieving; and they don’t want their children to learn the attitudes and behaviour problems that are rampant in the public schools.

My observation of home-schooled children is that they will play in an uninhibited way with other children their own age, and are able to visit with children and adults of any age level. They are far more articulate than most children who learn in a classroom setting. Again there are differences from home to home, and child to child, this is normal, but on balance home schooled children learn more social skills than children learning in a classroom.

Many parents fear to even try home schooling, imagining that the work load would be too much. While home schooling families need to have a schedule and maintain order, they do not have to duplicate a classroom setting. And the children need to take up a good share of the household chores. This is a bonus.

We had supper in the home of a home schooling family who have five boys and two girls, the girls being the youngest. After supper the boys started playing around. After a few minutes, the father said, “Boys, what is it that you do every day when we don’t have company?” That was all he needed to say, the boys came and cleared off the table, put things away, washed the dishes, and did it cheerfully.

Consider all the time and money that can be saved by home schooling: no need for school buses or vans, no time wasted travelling to and from school, no school lunches to prepare ahead of time (the children should help prepare meals at home), no special clothes just for school, no need to try and pry out of your children just what happened at school today.

The studies of home schooled children also show that the education level of the parents doesn’t matter. Parents got better results than the public schools, whether they had a Grade VIII education or a Bachelor of Education degree. And yes, there are parents with a B. Ed. degree who do not trust their children to the public education system.

Parents don’t need to be experts in the subjects their children study. There are excellent textbooks available for home schooling families that will guide the children into learning on their own with some parental supervision. Universities now are competing for children who have been home-schooled through to a high school level. They have found that these students have learned how to learn and do far better in university.

My perspective on all this is that our independent congregational schools do serve a useful purpose. Not every family dynamic is compatible with home schooling; for instance there are single parent households and households where the parents are not united in the faith. However, we should not be looking for direction to the public school system. They have nothing useful to offer as far as textbooks and teaching methods are concerned. We will find more helpful examples in the textbooks and teaching methods used by home schoolers.

Where is Ottawa?

Judith Adler teaches a course on families and the cultural traditions of families the world over at Memorial University of Newfoundland.  A few years ago she began to suspect that her students had no idea where some of the places she was talking about actually were. So she gave them  a quiz.

The quiz consisted of a blank map and a series of questions. Questions like: label South America, Europe, Australia and Asia. Label the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. Three quarters of the students failed the test. Memorial University is located in St. Johns, Newfoundland, a port city on the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the students could not correctly identify the location of that ocean.

Ms. Adler gives this test every year now. She says the students are not dumb; when faced with the reality of their ignorance they get to work. When given a second opportunity to do the test they never flunk it the second time. They simply have never been taught the simplest elements of geography.

Classrooms used to have large maps that could be rolled down over the chalk board like a blind. There were probably large globes or atlases in every room. The world has become much smaller today. We are linked to the whole world via the internet and hear news from every corner of the globe. How are these students going to comprehend what is going on if they don’t even know where these places are?

My wife was only 17 when we married and had just finished Grade 11. She started Grade 12 that fall, but she was the only married lady on the bus or in the classroom, plus she had responsibilities at home, so she dropped out after a week or two. A few years ago she enrolled in a course to prepare for the GED exam. One evening the teacher began the class by giveing each student a list of 20 capital cities with a space beside them to write the name of the country. Chris thought there was probably a time limit so quickly ran through the list and wrote in the countries.

Then she looked up and realized the other students were completely at sea. The teacher then told them they could work together to find the answers. They came to Berlin, decided it was in China and proceeded to find equally astute answers for the other cities. Then they came to Ottawwa and were totally stumped. The teacher told them they could use the atlas. They found Ottawa and saw that it was in Ontario.

“But Ontario isn’t a country,” Chris protested.

“Well what country is it in then?”

“Ottawa is mentioned in the news every day,” hinted my wife.

“Oh, we never pay any attention to the news.”

These people were not immigrants, nor were they fresh off the northern trap lines, they were normal city folks, the product of our fine public education system. They had dropped out before finishing high school, but a Grade 6 student from years ago would have found that test a snap.

This is one of the reasons why we did not send our daughter to public school, and why our daughter does not send her children to public school.

Discovery learning

The Province of Alberta recently announced a complete transformation of their teaching methods. The new model is based on the wonderfully naive expectation that a classroom of 30 children of the same age will learn much better if the teacher is relegated to the background and not allowed to teach.

Where does this dewy-eyed credulity come from? Certainly not from any investigation into how such a classroom actually behaves. One has to wonder if the educational “experts”, having succeeded in excluding parents from the picture, are not finding too many teachers who actually want to teach some realistic values to their pupils.

Study after study has shown that children learn best from direct instruction, that the modern alternatives have resulted in a continuous decline in actual learning. The province of Quebec, for example, has resisted the move towards newer methods of teaching math. In Quebec they still teach the basics, like memorizing the times tables. The result is that Quebec students place 6th on the OECD comparison of learning outcomes, on a par with Japan.

Students from the rest of Canada are already far behind, discovery learning will put them even further behind. An article published in Educational Psychologist a few years ago, based on more than 100 studies over 50 years, stated that none of the research supported discovery learning.

Pardon my cynicism, but to me this just looks like the latest attempt of the “progressives” to seize control of our children’s minds and train them in their collectivist philosophy. I applaud all those parents who have removed their children from the abyss of public education. All the studies show that children who get their learning at home or in small private schools are far ahead in both learning and in responsible conduct.

 

 

Why parents need to be involved in their child’s education

Governor Jeb Bush of Florida was in Toronto at the end of October to speak on the educational reforms that have moved Florida schools from the bottom tier of educational achievement to near the top.  He spoke to the Economic Club of Canada at the Royal York Hotel, the talk was well-publicized and co-sponsored by the Society for Quality Education, yet the audience appears to have been remarkably free of any representatives of the Ontario educational system.

Perhaps they should have been paying more attention.  The OECD International Student Assessment statistics show that Canada is slipping one place per year in Math proficiency.  We are now down to 13th place, from 7th in 2006.  Even this ranking is higher than it would be if it only included the English-speaking provinces.  In Québec they still teach math by traditional methods and obtain the highest scores in the country.

In my humble opinion, the declining test scores are collateral damage from the all-out efforts of the educational bureaucracy to convince the public that education is a highly sophisticated process that is beyond the ability of mere parents.  It’s not that they don’t want to teach children to read and write, and to add and subtract, multiply and divide, but they want to do it in such a way that parents have no idea how they did it.

This does not appear to be an attainable objective.  At the same time that the public education system shows constantly declining results, studies in Canada and the USA show that home-schooling parents are obtaining results that are far superior.  Not only do those studies show that children do far better when taught by their parents, the results are the same for parents who never finished high school and those with a university degree or two.

The gurus of educational mystification react to those results either by ignoring them, or by suggesting that some kind of sinister brainwashing is taking place in these unsupervised home school settings.  Many of the rest of us believe the brainwashing is taking place in the public system and is the fundamental reason for trying to keep parents from understanding what is going on in school.  Blessed indeed is the mother whose daughter comes home from school and says, “Mom, the teacher said we shouldn’t talk to our parents about this because you probably won’t understand, but I really want to know what you think.”

For those of us who have opted out of the public system in favour of independent Christian schools, I fear that some of the attitudes of the public system still linger with us.  It is not the school’s responsibility to teach social skills to our children.  If my child is being a disruptive influence in school, it is my responsibility to apply corrective measures.  We should take an interest in what our children are learning and how they are learning it.  We should not be a disruptive influence on the school, either, but we really can help our children with concepts that they just don’t seem able to catch in class.  We should take an interest in the curriculum, too.  Our independent schools are apt to get the same mediocre results as the public system if they use the same curriculum materials.  There is a wealth of curriculum materials used by home schooling parents that are much more effective.

Back to Governor Bush.  Education reform was the main plank of his platform when he first ran for governor and once elected he began to implement his program.  All the schools in Florida were ranked by results as A, B, C, D or F.  The schools ranked A were given an extra $100 per student to spend as they wished.  Most schools used it for teacher bonuses.  Students in schools ranked F were given vouchers to switch to another school, either public or private.  Social promotion was banned after Grade 3.  Bush believes the first three years are spent learning to read and the following years in reading to learn.  It makes no senses at all to pass an illiterate child into Grade 4 and condemn him or her to a lifetime of ignorance.  The emphasis of his program was on providing measures of accountability and rewarding schools and teachers that were achieving excellence.

Other school systems in the USA are taking notice and emulating Florida’s measures, New York City, for example.  I’ve not heard of any Canadian public school authorities showing any inclination to follow suit.  Good education is not mysterious or expensive.  Our grandparents knew how to do it 100 years ago and those methods have not become outmoded, despite the pretensions of the educational bureaucracy.

As a final note, the Society for Quality Education offers free remedial programs for reading and math.  If your child is not doing well in these basic subjects, try these programs.  You will find them at: www.teachyourchildtoread.ca
www.teachyourchildmath.ca

Humanism as the established religion

It appears to have began long ago with Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), the patron saint of Roman Catholic theologians.  He studied Greek, Arabic and Hebrew philosophers and incorporated some of their thinking into Christian theology.  His major innovation was the idea that God and truth are not solely revealed by the Bible, but that man by his intellect can come to an understanding of truth by studying nature.  This may seem like a small thing, but it attributes to man a spiritual life and understanding that is apart from his relationship to God.

Five hundred years later, German philosophers Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) took up this theme.  Both professed Christianity, but completely separated faith and reason.  Truth is knowable only by reason.  God cannot be known, His existence cannot be proved or disproved, yet it is useful for the sake of morals to believe in God.  Kant called this Enlightenment, taking as his motto the Latin term Sapere Aude (Dare to Know).

There followed a string of German theologians: Johann Augustus Eberhard (1739 – 1809): Friedrich Schlieiermacher (1768-1834); Adolf von Harnack (1850 – 1930) and others, who rejected the authenticity of Biblical texts and redefined faith in ways that left out any thought of a transcendent God with a personal interest in His children.  Walter Rauschenbusch (1861 – 1918) and Charles Sheldon (1857 – 1946) brought these teachings into mainstream American Protestantism by means of the Social Gospel.

During this time, the teachings of Kant and Hegel became the official doctrine of universities around the world, opening the way for a search for a solution to the problems of mankind bereft of a spiritual nature.  The teachings of Marx, Freud and Darwin opened myriad possibilities for dealing with the needs of mankind.  Karl Marx took the teachings of the German theologians and taught a doctrine similar to the Social Gospel, but stripped of all religious language.

John Dewey (1859 – 1952) is regarded as the father of the public school movement in the USA.  He believed that democracy could only be achieved with a fully formed public opinion.  He saw the schools as the means for indoctrinating the humanism of the universities into the minds of the common people.

Over the course of the 20th century, the social gospel eroded the foundation and credibility of many Christian denominations and the public schools gradually indoctrinated generation after generation with a humanistic world view.

The indoctrination went gradually at first, but as schools were consolidated, in the name of efficiency, parents became less connected with what was happening in the schools.  To further this disconnect, there were propaganda campaigns extolling the virtues of the public schools and subtly conditioning parents to believe that they were not capable of properly teaching and training their children.  One of the most successful aspects of this propaganda was to convince parents that children would be social misfits if they did not go to school with other children their own age.

So now we have arrived at the situation of the current day, where humanism is the official doctrine guiding our society.  Chapels teaching this doctrine are found in every town of any size.  They are called schools.  In the larger cities we find complexes of massive temples to humanism, called universities.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.  (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).

Public Schools: mediocrity is the goal

There was a time, about 120 years ago, when almost everyone in Canada could read and write well, could do the math calculations needed in their daily life and work, often without pencil and paper, knew a good bit about world history and understood how governments worked.  It is not that way today.  It is said that a student finishing Grade 5 then knew as much, or more, than a student finishing Grade 8  today; a Grade 8 graduate then knew as much as a high school graduate today and a high school graduate then as much as a university graduate today.  How did this happen?

When I started school 65 years ago, the schools had already made the switch from teaching phonics to teaching sight reading – the Dick and Jane books.  i had been reading for a couple of years already, so this didn’t hold me back, but many others struggled.  My first few years were in a one room school, where a young single lady taught a group of 30 children in 8 grades – and she taught us well; those were the best years of my school life.

We moved to a larger town and now there were two grades to a classroom.  The teachers, most of them at least, were still very capable and maintained order in the classroom.  There was very thorough teaching in math, spelling and grammar, we were exposed to samples of the great English literature of the past, both prose and poetry.  I had skipped forward a grade at the beginning and could have gone faster, but my parents didn’t think that was wise.  So I read every book in the school library.

My parents were from an earlier era and believed that education meant that I should actually learn something.  My mother was always involved, helping me memorize math facts and encouraging me in any way she could.  She always got to know my teachers and invited each one over for at least one meal during the school term.   I understood that she wanted the teacher to feel free to talk to her if I was having any trouble in school – or making trouble!

The idea was already being circulated back then that parents didn’t know how to properly teach their children and should just leave education to the experts: the teachers.  It appeared to me that my mother was pretty much immune to that kind of thinking.

In the ensuing years, textbooks and teaching methods have been changed many times, following each new wind of doctrine about how children learn.  None of this works as well as the old-fashioned methods, but it has the great advantage, from the school’s vantage point, of cutting parents out of the picture.  They just don’t understand the new methods of teaching.  The children don’t either, but that’s beside the point.

Schools have become bigger and bigger and children have to travel further and further to get to school.   Many parents have little idea who is teaching their children.  This also serves to insulate the schools from parental influence.

Martin L Gross, in The Conspiracy of Ignorance – The Failure of American Public Schools, explains that a Bachelor of Education degree is the easiest of all degrees to obtain.  It consists of nothing but a bunch of pop psychology courses.  Aspiring teachers are  taught nothing about the subjects they are to teach, or how to teach them.

When one studies the origins of public schools, it becomes evident that the present situation is what was envisioned from the beginning.  The goal is not to educate children to think for themselves, but to indoctrinate them in the anti-family, anti-Christian agenda of those who consider themselves the elite thinkers.  Back in the days when most parents thought like mine did, they had to advance their program very slowly behind the scenes.  It is all much more open today.

I will return to this topic in future posts, but I want to mention two anti-family teachings that have become pretty much ingrained in the national culture.

One is that parents aren’t competent to teach.  Yet a national study a few years ago showed that home-schooled children scored much higher on standardized tests than children in public schools.  And it didn’t make any difference if the parents hadn’t completed high school or if they had a university degree or two.

The other is that children have to go to school with children their own age to learn how to get along with others.  Can’t parents see the evidence all around them that this is not working?  Children in years past had much better social skills when they learned them from their parents.

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