by Ray Hendrickson

“It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”

This quote by Will Rogers can certainly sum up education today. When I was raising my children I certainly thought that I knew what was being taught and why. However, much of my thinking was based upon traditions, assumptions and incomplete thought processes. Over the next few blogs I hope to address some misconceptions about education that seem to permeate our society.

What do you believe is the purpose of education?

Most parents would say the purpose of sending their children to school is so they can get a “good education,” so they can go to a “good college,” so they can get a well paying job, so they will be able to support themselves and their family. What they mean by this is that they want their child to have high enough grades to be able to attend a prestigious college (ideally with an academic scholarship), so he could become a doctor, lawyer, or business tycoon. There is much faulty reasoning in this statement, but even so, this is not the stated purpose of public education.

So, what is the purpose of modern public education?

At the beginning of last century, John Dewy (the Father of Modern Education), was instrumental in critically changing the American school system.  While hailed a hero by modern progressives, he was a deeply committed humanist and socialist.  Before the 20th Century the aim of formal education was to teach Christian morality, personal discipline, and essential scholastic skills needed to become a good citizen.  Dewey discarded all these aims and saw school as the “most effec­tive instrument for social reform and prog­ress, teaching [as] the art of shaping human powers and, when done for social service, [was] the supreme art.”  It has taken a century for  Dewey’s philosophy to become mainstream and it goes a long way to explains the growing trend of educators overriding parental concerns as they implement “social reform.”

What does the Bible instruct?

If we turn to the Bible, the pre – Dewey education system seems to have it about right.  The Bible has many passages that tell fathers what should be taught children. Certainly a high priority is placed on developing a godly moral center.  Deuteronomy 6, the first written requirement for teaching children, requires fathers to teach the moral law “diligently.” Secondly, the child must be taught godly wisdom. This is different from the moral law in that it deals with motives and attitudes towards God and others.  For instance, the book of Proverbs advises that a child be taught to seek wisdom, truth, prudence, and knowledge and to avoid naivety, laziness, foolishness or arrogance. Ultimately God commands that we love Him “with all your mind” (Matt 22:37).  This is in stark contrast to Dewey.  He believed that a child’s education should be limited to what is useful at the moment or near future.  Children taught this way loose connection to the past and their culture. To “love with all your mind” is to develop a love of learning.  Learning to love what is useful, as well as, things not so useful at the moment.  Learning so you can think well, think deep, think broad, and see the hand of God that moves in the shadows.

American Education: the land of cross-purposes.

While everyone wants the next generation prepared for the future, there is serious disagreement on how and what that is to look like.  The results of modern academia are fair at best.  According to Pearson Research, America’s secondary education system is now ranked 14th of 40 developed countries in the world and continuing to drop.   It is Renaissance’s position that the best academic environment is one where godly character is taught and reinforced.  Within the comfort of a disciplined environment, children need to learn about God, the nature of man, and the overriding need of truth in all areas of study.    

A final thought.

The question of why you should send your child to school and what he or she is taught is not merely academic; it cuts to the very core of your responsibility as a parent.  Schools in the past took seriously the Latin phrase “in loco parentis” which means in the place of the parent.  They existed to teach academic skills that parents were either not proficient at or did not have the time to do at home.  A hundred years ago, the local schools reflected the values and worldview of the parents so there were no cross-purposes.  Today parents must ask themselves: What do you think you know about your child’s education, “that ain’t so”?


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