When I talked about the dangers of government-controlled education last week at a 9/12 Project meeting, I shared with the group one of the truisms I use in my American history survey courses. It goes like this:
Value-neutral education is a myth; everyone teaches from a distinctive worldview.
When certain groups wanted to change education in the nineteenth century, one of the goals was to take education away from the influence of the churches. They said it was wrong to have what they called “sectarian” education. Instead, they promoted a more general approach that everyone could agree with, leaving out the distinctives of Biblical principles.
Later on, as the government education system gained greater favor and spread to every state, an even bolder demand was made: all education should be devoid of values; it should have no reference to religious beliefs; students can get what they need without the intrusion of the Biblical worldview.
That demand wasn’t entirely honest. The desire to remove Christianity from a student’s education was real enough, but it wasn’t going to be replaced by anything value-neutral. The agenda was to replace it with various brands of secular humanism.
A value is always being promoted. If one says education should be separate from religion, one is promoting the “value” that education is a completely secular endeavor and that religion has no role to play. That’s hardly neutral. In fact, neutrality is a value in itself—an unattainable one, but a value nonetheless. No one teaches in a vacuum; all educators, even if they don’t realize it, teach from a worldview of some kind.
Instead of masquerading agendas behind spurious claims of value neutrality, let’s be open and above board. What we really need in this nation is a competition of ideas. Allow the free flow of teaching from whatever worldview one possesses. Let the market determine who is doing the best job of explaining how their worldview best fits the reality of the disciplines we teach.
That is one of my dreams: a nation in which we divest ourselves of the false concept that government is the arbiter of education and we put all education on the same playing field. Stop taking taxes from those who don’t believe in using the government system and let them use their money to buy the type of education they seek for their children. The education establishment would be aghast at the suggestion; the National Education Association would fight it to its last breath. I know that. But I would relish the opportunity to tackle and eventually topple the failing system to which we are currently chained.