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  • School Daze:  Who Decides What Johnny Reads?!
  • School Daze:  Who Decides What Johnny Reads?!

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    May 27, 2024

    “Antidotes to Idolatry” – Part 6

    By Dr. Jeffery J. Ventrella

    It takes a village [to raise a child]”[1]

    “We’re coming for your children”[2]

    “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”[3]

    Home schooling tripled during the so-called pandemic and its aftermath.[4]  Reasons exist for this recent explosion of educational choice.  Choice and educational diversity should be welcomed, especially for our children.  Yet many progressive elites, such as Harvard Law School professor, Elizabeth Bartholet, strongly oppose such diversity, especially home education.[5] And, (this is delicious), in leveling yet another broadside attack against home education, Harvard Magazine, in its “sky-is-falling” article, “The Risks of Home Schooling,”misspelled “arithmetic.”[6] Memo to Harvard:  home educated students excel at spelling bees.[7]

    The Harvard elites, nevertheless, express concern about parents controlling the instruction of their own children.[8]  But what’s really driving the elites’ efforts focuses on preventing parents from frustrating the State’s pagan-infused indoctrination of the next generation. The elites’ hostility to parental control is consequently about way more than improving standardized test scores or learning the ABC’s.  Let’s get to the gist.

    Curtailing Curriculum Control

    Paul informs us that when the Truth is exchanged for the Lie,[9]ethics arise, particularly related to sexual behavior.[10]  In other words, the Lie propels ethics that undermine – and ultimately oppose – the heterosexual normativity of Creation.  Culturally, there can be no status quo of “live and let live” between the Truth and the Lie.  Rather, the Lie seeks to have its ethics increasingly both practiced and approved, displacing the Truth’s ethics.[11]  

    Case in point:  Recently, the United States Court of Appeals (4thCircuit) rejected claims advanced by parents seeking to “opt out” their children from a sexually-oriented LGBTQ curriculum.[12]  The parents’ concerns were not idiosyncratic or prudish or even remarkable.  Let’s be clear:  the parents sought not to ban the curriculum – though as taxpayers footing the bill – they would be well within their rights to do so.  Rather, the parents here simply sought to limit the sexual content and culture foisted upon their young children – which seems like something responsible parents should do and something that should be welcomed by school officials: interested, attentive, and involved parents.  

    Not so, according to a multitude of national entities.  These ideological entities intervened in this local lawsuit, opposing the local parents.  They came under the guise of being “friends of the court” or amici curiae.[13]  Notice the swarm of ideological advocates standing against these parents:

    • National Education Association
    • Maryland Education Association
    • Mongomery County Education Association
    • ACLU
    • ACLU of Maryland
    • Lambda Legal Defense and Education Association
    • GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders
    • National Center for Lesbian Rights
    • Human Rights Campaign
    • Rainbow Youth Alliance

    And get this:  several States officially – via their Attorneys General – also “invaded” Maryland to oppose these concerned parents:  MA, CA, DE, CT, HI, IL, ME, MI, MN, NV, NY, NJ, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA

    Each of these entities opposed the parents, meaning that each approved of the curriculum’s content and use.  The patina of neutral education evaporates quickly when the curriculum’s content emerges.  What sort of content are these ideological organizations and taxpayer-funded States supporting and seeking to impose on Maryland school district parents – against the parents’ wishes?

    Consider this example cited by the court in its opinion.  The curriculum only approved one text for pre-K use:  Pride Puppy!This text is designed to introduce the alphabet to 3-and 4-year-old children.  How so?   By exposing children to LBGTQ sexualized culture.  As the court explained:

    For example, the alphabet primer Pride Puppy!, which is the sole text expressly approved for use in pre-Kindergarten and Head Start classrooms, depicts a family whose puppy gets lost amidst a LGBTQ-pride parade, with each page focused on a letter of the alphabet. The three- and four-year-old audience is invited to look for items such as “[drag] king,” “leather,” “lip ring,” “[drag] queen,” and “underwear.” J.A. 98 (brackets in original); see J.A. 82–99 (reproducing Robin Stevenson, Pride Puppy! (2021)).[14]

    And, the teacher’s guide for employing this curriculum includes “helpful” moral McNuggets like this:

    The guidance also counsels that if a student says that “a girl . . . can only like boys because she’s a girl,” the teacher can “[d]isrupt the either/or thinking by sayingsomething like: actually, people of any gender can like whoever they like[15]

    Isn’t this what every loving parent desires for their child?  A teacher who intentionally disrupts their child’s thinking about fundamental realities and categories like maleness and femaleness.  And in doing so, running roughshod over the parents’ religious convictions[16] – let alone moral reality.  If this is how the alphabet is taught, one wonders: How would phonics fair??!!  More to the point:  How should we think Christianly about this beyond the “yuck factor” propaganda?

    Christ, Curricula, and Children

    The Cultural Mandate ≠ Potted Plants for Jesus

    Foundational to the Christian Faith is the conviction that God is not simply “bigger” or “prior” but that He is the Creator.  This is where Scripture begins: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”[17] The Creator/Creation binary is fundamental and non-negotiable for understanding reality and rightly functioning within it.  Believing this truth is a non-negotiable component to a valid Christian confession according to the early Christian creeds.[18]  And, Scripture invokes the Creator and His creation repeatedly throughout the scriptural canon.[19]

    God the Creator quickly connects His image – Mankind – to the Creation.  God directs and commissions Adam and Eve specifically with respect to the creation:

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

          So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

          And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”[20]

    This mission, known as the Cultural Mandate, requires developing knowledge to execute it. Why?  The creation is vast, complex, and diverse; and mankind is finite.  The knowledge necessary for exercising dominion is anything but intrinsic.  Cultivating and harvesting plants differ from doing the same with fish or deer.  Mining differs from textiles, etc.   Studying the stars differs from studying the circulatory systems of frogs; or nuclear fission.  All this presupposes learning and therefore education:  developing and acquiring knowledge of God’s world is foundational for true education.  As Dr. Van Til confirms:

    There is perhaps no concept underlying our system of education better fitted to bring out the distinctive character of Christian education than the concept of creation. . . . [W]e find in the idea of creation a divine ordinance for education.[21]

    Accordingly, education comprises a necessary creational norm.[22]  Confessing creation compels creationally-contextualized curricula.[23]  

    Therefore, the question is how can we best be educated?  Does education consist in affirming reality as created, or denying it? Can we fully learn something apart from Christ?  Pursuing education without referencing God and His work still takes a religious position towards God; it’s not – nor can it be – a neutral position.  It absurdly says that God is irrelevant to our understanding and functioning in the world He designed, created, and is redeeming.

    Note that the Maryland curriculum at issue here makes these wrong moves:  Christ is nowhere to be found,[24] and instead, teachers are instructed to “disrupt” the student’s thinking about creational norms regarding humanity as designed, particularly the immutable heterosexual dimorph.  These moves lack true educational benefit; instead, this is a form of unrighteous programming that suppresses the truth about human design and purpose.[25]

    Christ’s Lordship ≠ Epistemic Neutrality

    Scripture teaches much about knowledge, our minds, and therefore the educational enterprise.  First, Jesus is Lord, including being Lord of our intellect and therefore, we cannot be neutral toward Him at any level. Second, respecting the Creator God leads to knowledge.  Third, the Fall impacts our thinking and reasoning thereby necessitating God’s corrective revelation, and therefore, reasoning itself comprises an ethical endeavor.  The following will – with intended brevity – outline each of these points.

    First, Paul makes a comprehensive claim concerning the intersection of Christ and knowledge.  He tells us that it is Christ:

    in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.[26]

    Paul makes this claim to derail delusion in the disciples:

    I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.[27]

    Accordingly, we are therefore commanded – in the life of our minds – to “See to it”

    …that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.[28]

    Rather, Paul calls us to affirmatively take even our thoughts prisoner to Christ:

    For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.[29]

    Plainly, no neutrality exists between a Christian view of man and things and a non-Christian account of them.  

    Why does this matter?  Because, secondly, Christ is the Truth[30] and because the “fear of the Lord” – who is Christ – is the “beginning of knowledge” itself.[31]  To the extent we fail to possess Christ as the foundation of knowledge, we risk being deceived, deluded, and detained by deceit.

    Thirdly, fallen man certainly knows some things, even God, however sin impacts their minds.  As Paul describes it:

    For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.[32]

    And, this mental futility is not ethically neutral – in other words fallen man’s reasoning is not simply deficient in some way, but in fact actively opposes God:

    And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.[33]

    Consequently, neutrality and the modernist notion of “brute factuality”[34] comprise a myth.  One cannot, as a fallen creature, be “neutral” toward creation let alone Christ.  As Dr. Clark noted:

    [T]here 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.[35]

    Jesus, the mediator of Creation, makes this point bluntly:

    Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.[36] 

    This means that all of life, including our educational life, must be “set apart” or sanctified unto Christ as we are called to be holy in all our conduct:

    As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.[37]

    Parental Educational Responsibilities:  Delegable but Not Disposable

    Children as Gifts to Steward and Educate

    Children are gifts through us, not to us.  They are blessings from the Lord.[38]  They comprise “arrows” in the parents’ quiver and thus, children are gifts designed for a purpose.[39]  Parents are therefore responsible to the Lord, the Giver of Life, to nurture and rear their children in the Lord:

    Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.[40]

    Teaching our children is to be done diligently and as part of our daily lives, not simply by checking some academic boxes or so that they’re ready to crush standardized tests.[41] And, since the Lord is Creator of all, this includes educating children in all facets of living the Christian life.  So, we see, for example, Solomon possessing comprehensive knowledge about God’s creation, in addition to speaking 3000 proverbs and composing over 1000 songs:

    He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish.[42]

    And, even in captivity in a hostile environment, Daniel and his companions learned broadly – even from the pagans:

    [They learned] the literature and language of the Chaldeans. . . . They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.[43]

    The Special Place of Children

    Jesus includes and makes way for children, showing that the Faith applies to more than “grownups”:

    Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.[44]

    In fact, God chose to hide “things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.[45]  Consistent with this, the apostles by the Holy Spirit directly address children.[46] Clearly, children are important to God and thus, so is how they are educated.  

    These truths coupled with the special position that children occupy in the eyes of Jesus underscore that defective education, or worse, education which undermines parental authority, God, and/or, God’s creation, should play no role in tutoring the next generation.  

    Any program, like Montgonery County’s, that undermines creational sexual norms comprises anti-education.  At the very least, parents should be able to shield their young children from this pagan-infused LGBTQ propaganda.

    Contrast these truths and responsibilities with the Maryland school district’s message to parents: “Pay up but butt out!”  This posture illustrates the antithesis, the ever-present – and irreconcilable – battle between the Truth and the Lie.  Truth will prevail, however, and crush the Father of lies.[47]  We therefore, including in our educational pursuits, are to be “fellow workers for the truth,”[48] which we are to know,[49] believe,[50] love,[51]speak,[52] and obey,[53] leading to our being established with it.[54]  Those promoting the lie earn a radically different destiny.[55]  

    The way forward educationally rests on Christ as He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.[56]  There can be no fellowship between light and darkness, even while learning the ABC’s in kindergarten.[57]

    To explore how the Faith more deeply applies to Education – as well as to Politics, Law, Sexuality, and Economics – please join TxC for its annual Symposium in Pasadena, CA at Providence Christian College – August 30 and 31. 

    For Further Study[58]:

    • John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God(1987)
    • J. Gresham Machen, Education, Christianity, and the State(1987)
    • R.J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education (1963)
    • Gordan H. Clark, A Christian Philosophy of Education (1946)
    • Louis Berkhof & Cornelius Van Til, Foundations of Christian Education (1953)

    [1] Hillary Rodham Clinton, It Takes a Village (1996)

    [2] NYC Drag March chant, June 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/nbc-out-proud/re-coming-children-chant-nyc-drag-march-elicits-outrage-activists-say-rcna91341

    [3] Jesus, Lk. 17:2

    [4] https://fee.org/articles/us-census-homeschooling-triples-diversifies-during-pandemic-response/?gad_source=1&gclid=Cj0KCQjw6auyBhDzARIsALIo6v8FzbI0RMbZ8CUwSSQSPQWvBN789ZWuqIrE21Esbii3rvh-9CTqetoaAoYIEALw_wcB; see also, Home schooling’s rise from fringe to fastest-growing form of education,https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/interactive/2023/homeschooling-growth-data-by-district/

    [5] A Warning on home schooling, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/05/law-school-professor-says-there-may-be-a-dark-side-of-homeschooling/

    [6] https://dailycaller.com/2020/04/19/harvard-magazine-misspells-arithmetic-ban-homeschooling/

    [7] See, e.g., https://www.wuft.org/education/2024-02-08/homeschooler-wins-alachua-county-school-districts-spelling-bee

    [8] Forbes calls Harvard’s crusade “lazy” – https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemcshane/2020/04/21/harvards-lazy-attack-on-homeschooling/?sh=440670392473

    [9] Romans 1:25

    [10] Romans 1:26, 27

    [11] Romans 1:32

    [12] Mahoud v. McKnight, May 15, 2024 https://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinions/231890.P.pdf; the matter is not yet fully concluded, but legally, the parents are currently losing their bid to protect their children from this curriculum.  

    [13] Cf., 2 Cor 11:14: “[E]ven Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

    [14] Mahoud, at 7

    [15] Mahoud, at 9.  Notice the attack on the sexual binary.

    [16] The parents practiced Christian (Roman Catholic and Orthodox) and Muslim faith traditions.

    [17] Gen. 1:1

    [18] See, e.g., “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth” (Apostles Creed – https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/apostles-creed); “We believe in one God, the Father, the almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.” (Nicene Creed – https://www.anglicancommunion.org/media/109020/Nicene-Creed.pdf)

    [19] See, e.g., this non-exhaustive compilation:  https://www.openbible.info/topics/god_is_the_creator_of_everything_that_exists

    [20] Gen. 1:26-28

    [21] Berkhof & Van Til, Foundations of Christian Education, (1953), 43

    [22] And, the Cultural Mandate remains binding even post-Fall.  Gen. 9:1, 2

    [23] As one of my mentors quipped, tongue in cheek: “Avoid alliteration always.”

    [24] As to a young child’s religious sentiments, the curriculum’s “teacher helps” direct the instructor to in effect  subtly undermine the young student’s religious convictions:  For example, if a student says “Being _____ (gay, lesbian, queer, etc) is wrong and not allowed in my religion,” teachers “can respond,” “I understand that is what you believe, but not everyone believes that. We don’t have to understand or support a person’s identity to treat them with respect and kindness.” J.A. 595, Mahoud, at 8,9

    [25] Romans 1:18

    [26] Col. 2:3

    [27] Col. 2:4

    [28] Col. 2:8

    [29] 2 Cor. 10:3-5

    [30] Jn. 14:6

    [31] Pr. 1:7

    [32] Romans 1:21, 22 – the Greek used here informs us that man does not simply have some “sense of some vague divinity,” but rather indeed “knows the God,” the creator – gnostes ton theon.

    [33] Col. 1:21

    [34] “Facts” are interpreted through a philosophy of fact – the facts “don’t speak for themselves” because God as the Redeemer tells us that “of Him, through Him, and unto Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36) – including educational endeavors.  

    [35] Gordan H. Clark, A Christian Philosophy of Education (1946), 60

    [36] Matt. 12:30

    [37] 1 Peter 1:14, 15

    [38] Ps. 127:3

    [39] Ps. 127:5

    [40] Eph. 6:4; and note, this is not license for tyrannical “lord it over” fathering, but rather, one of compassion – see, Ps. 103:13

    [41] Deut. 6:7

    [42] 1 Kings 4:33

    [43] Dan. 1:4, 5

    [44] Matt. 19:13-15

    [45] Matt. 11:25

    [46] Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20           

    [47] Gen. 3:15; cf., Romans 16:20

    [48] 3 John 8

    [49] 1 Tim. 4:3

    [50] 2 Thess 2:13

    [51] 2 Thess 2:10

    [52] Eph. 4:15

    [53] 1 Peter 1:22

    [54] 2 Peter 1:12       

    [55] Rev. 21:8

    [56] John 14:6

    [57] 2 Cor. 6:14

    [58] TruthxChange notes these resources to assist readers to grow as to the issues raised by this Dicta.  However, TxC does not necessarily endorse all the points made in these materials, nor does TxC fully concur with the authors’ broader bodies of work.