The Future of Religion in Publically Funded and Private Schools from a Christian Point of View

By Joe Boot/ October 28, 2014

Context  Professional Development Seminars

Topic  Education

It’s inevitable that religious beliefs will be taught to children in public and private schools, for there is no such thing as a truly neutral education. The question is not whether, but which, religious ideas will be taught in our children’s classrooms

The Future of Religion in Publically Funded and Private Schools from a Christian Point of View

Introduction:

The fundamental difference in the goals of Christian education from contemporary progressive education is marked – there is no easy way for Christians to get around that, hence some of the difficulties for Christians today in public education. The great Puritan evangelical and author of the literary classic Paradise Lost, John Milton wrote of the purpose of education from the Christian point of view: “The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him.” I think we would all agree that there are few in public education today who would endorse this definition of the goal of learning.

We have heard already at this conference about the dominant Canadian view of education today amongst elites; it is the furtherance of a multi-cultural, pluralistic society that advances what it calls social justice in terms of modern liberal statism (state-controlled and managed, with the state as the final arbiter of truth). Religion in this view is essentially seen as a (minor) ‘component’ of a humanistic curriculum. World religions may be taught to inform students about various sociological realities, but one cannot privilege any of them as more significant than any other. What this misses, however, from the Christian point of view, is that religion is not a ‘component’ of education to be accorded a place in social studies, it is the foundation of all education.

Paul Tillich’s definition of religion is as good as any: “ultimate concern.” From the word ‘religio’ to ‘tie back,’ we have an agricultural metaphor that implies seeking to get things growing in the same direction. The Christian premise is that all of life is religious and our worldviews all deal with ultimate concerns (be it humanistic, pagan, Hindu, Islamic etc…), and education will be built around the dominant perspective in any culture. As T.S Elliot observed, we derive our theory of education from our philosophy of life. The problem turns out to be a religious problem.”[1]

The influential Christian philosopher Henry Van Til likewise noted that culture is the ‘public manifestation of religion’ or, in short, applied beliefs. That is to say that all we do, especially in law and education, is expressive of or manifests our religious convictions (that is our worldview; a good alternate word for religion). Go to Saudi Arabia or Pakistan where my family lived for fifteen years, and you experience Islamic culture. Come to Canada today and you experience a secular or some would say even an increasingly pagan culture. Today, multi-culturalism or philosophical pluralism is the religious ideology of state-controlled polytheism, not unlike the Roman Republic. So my simple answer to the question of the future of religion in publically-funded and private schools is that the future is very bright indeed because all education is inescapably religious and flourishes everywhere in every school. In this sense the debate is already framed in terms of polytheistic statism by most elites; the question they are asking is what to do about ‘other religions’ in the schools. Thus the question is not whether religion has a future in education – of course it does! The question that is so controversial in our time is what we do with educators and students who are Christians and the Christian private schools whose worldviews (or presuppositions) are different from the humanistic religious education of the state system – how much should Christian counter perspectives be tolerated? Should they be allowed taxpayer funding? Should such schools be allowed to exist? Or to take a current case at the university level, should Trinity Western University law students be allowed to practice law in Canada? According to some provincial bar associations, no! That is the source of tension that many people are feeling. From the Christian standpoint, humanistic elites (both pagan and secular) have ideologically subverted Christianity in our culture, primarily through the tool of state education. Their project, very active since the 1960s, has succeeded beyond some of their wildest dreams. The issue for some now is simply mopping up the vestiges of Christianity and what to do with Christian holdouts.

Educational foundations in the Commonwealth

Now in the West and especially the British Commonwealth, it is uncontroversial to say that the founding of schools and universities was one of the hallmarks of Protestant Christianity in particular. The schools and universities in Canada were Christian institutions usually tied to one Christian denomination or another. Back in England the story was the same, as was the case in the USA. Cambridge was an overtly Puritan/evangelical university, Harvard University in Boston was an evangelical institution, and Durham University in England was founded by Oliver Cromwell himself. Cromwell founded numerous elementary schools and sent commissioners throughout England to research the nation’s educational needs. At the time, most Christians saw all knowledge as an integrated whole under God, where everything was to be studied and understood in light of a Christian/biblical worldview. There was no sacred/ secular dichotomy. As one rule at the early Harvard College made plain:

Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.[2]

Ultimately, the goal of education for the Christian was to make a person a whole and mature individual who comes not only to share in the character of God ethically, but to share also his love of truth and beauty, thinking his thoughts after him. Influenced as they were by Luther and Calvin, the protestant Christian tradition in Europe and Britain advocated what we call the liberal arts curriculum (a classical educational model – grammar, logic, rhetoric). They advanced seven liberal arts that they characterized as a circle of seven sections with God as the centre. The very concept of the university was “unity in diversity” (and has been called the last medieval institution) with theology regarded as the ‘queen of the sciences.’ Today humanism has created, in keeping with pluralism and multi-culturalism, the multiversity that has no source of unity in God.

Education: a religious function

The Christian contention is that education is an inescapably religious task because it grows out of our philosophy of life and as such is implicitly grounded in religious assumptions which are evident in every school. Perhaps the most noted of all Canadian political philosophers, George Grant, highlighted the relationship between religion and education and noted that there is no escape from some form of religious assumption and indoctrination:

The origin of the word [religion] is, of course, shrouded in uncertainty, but the most likely account is that it arises from the Latin “to bind together.” It is in this sense that I intend to use it. That is, as that system of belief (whether true or false) which binds together the life of individuals and gives to those lives whatever consistency of purpose they may have. Such a use implies that I would describe liberal humanists or Marxists as religious people; indeed that I would say all persons (in so far as they are rational beings) are religious…. Indeed the present controversy is not concerned with whether religion should be taught in schools, but rather with what should be the content of the religion that is so taught. It is perfectly clear that in all North American state schools religion is already taught in the form of what may best be called “the religion of democracy.” That the teaching about the virtues of democracy is religion and not political philosophy is clearly seen from the fact that the young people are expected to accept this on faith and cannot possibly at their age be able to prove the superiority of democracy to other forms of government (if indeed this can be done). The fact that those liberals who most object to any teaching about the deity are generally most insistent that the virtues of democracy be taught, should make us aware that what is at issue is not religion in general, but the content of the religion to be taught.[3]

One Christian political philosopher of Armenian descent concurs with Grant in his analysis of the relationship of religion to education:

Education has always been a religious function of society and closely linked to its religion. When a state takes over the responsibilities for education from the church or from parents, the state has not thereby disowned all religions but simply disestablished Christianity in favour of its own statist religion, usually a form of humanism.[4]

At the heart of the religious nature of education is the question of the nature of the human person. The nature of the human person is a faith postulate and it shapes the character of society and thereby education generally. We condition children in terms of a view of their nature and the role in life that idea of nature gives them. So the question is: what is their nature and what is the goal of their conditioning? Today, the state-sanctioned view in the public schools and most private schools is that human beings are advanced animals, and along with pagans like Plato, affirms we are political animals. According to modern educational doctrine we have evolved by chance from the void and can ascertain no ultimate meaning or purpose beyond that which we can determine and decide for ourselves – meaning is ephemeral. This is essentially a return to an ancient pagan religious understanding of reality that seeks to disconnect knowledge from God:

[in ancient] Greek thought … [t]he human mind, freely and independently, was regarded as capable of knowing reality and understanding all the facts without reference to God…. [B]ecause Greek thought had no conception of an independent and self-sufficient God who is the source of all true authority, it could not develop the authority of this God-related reason. For the Greeks, authority came from the Polis [city state], not from God.[5]

Education and the social order have today returned to this essential point which is obviously in intractable opposition to the Christian view. As a religious faith humanism has no source of authority outside man’s own mind: a mind which participates in the becoming of cosmic evolution (being in general). In such a view, since people do not need God to interpret all the ‘facts’ (thus making God irrelevant to education), each person can independently interpret reality. But in such a contest of wits, no unity can be accomplished for the educational order without a replacement source of authority – the state. We thus return to the pagan Greek philosophers’ vision. The state becomes the basic institution and the essential educational institution. From the Christian vantage point, education then becomes the vehicle of state activism, by which the ‘political animal’ is moulded to adopt the state’s religious vision of the future. This naturally leads to the notion that since the state is the locus of authority, it must also be a saving institution; the classroom is the new pulpit, the humanists’ curriculum the new Bible, and the state educators the new priesthood. State education is laden with unrealistic expectations of solving the problems of sin, crime, emotional and mental health problems, social disintegration and economic disparity – in short the means of social salvation. On the Christian view, God in Christ saves and restores people, transforming them by His Spirit and word, and education is the art of freedom (liberal arts) in terms of absolute standards of truth and right.

In Western education today our concept of ourselves is decidedly self-centred rather than God-centred. Our allegiance having shifted from God to self, a tremendous and crushing burden is placed on each individual, to play God or delegate ultimate decisions about life and reality to others – the delegation to ‘the other’ in our time is apparently to the state and its schools. The Christian sees the result of such relativism as a growing social confusion and chaos. Inevitably in response to conflict and social breakdown, a growing regulatory state is seen as necessary to enforce a humanistic/polytheistic religious consensus, a ‘collective will’ through the control of the educational establishment.

For Christians there is no denying that education in general has moved decisively to embrace humanism in Canada (and the West) for decades since Egerton Ryerson, the chief superintendant of education for Ontario from 1844, described Christianity as the “all-pervading principle of Canadian life.” Political scientist Michael Wagner has convincingly shown that the decisive influence of Christianity on public education had waned by the 1960s and ‘70s, and was completely uprooted by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, applied as it was to education in a series of subsequent court rulings.[6] Having begun firmly upon Christian foundations – where teachers were expected until the late ‘60s (according to Ontario’s Mackay Committee in 1969) to “bring home to pupils, as far as their capacity allows, the fundamental truths of Christianity and their bearing on human life and thought”[7] – by the 1980s the Canadian courts’ guns were turned on what was left of Bible reading and prayer in public schools. The Christian faith was now banished. As Wagner notes, “On December 6, 1990, the Ontario Ministry of Education issued a memorandum ordering all public schools to end any indoctrination in a religious faith. Regulations governing education were changed accordingly. The era of Christianity in Ontario’s public schools was over.”[8] As I have argued, the meaning of the demand to end indoctrination in a religious faith was merely the repudiation of Christianity in favour of indoctrination in the religion of humanism and a particular interpretation of democracy.

The myth of neutrality: the purpose of education

On the Christian view, contemporary state education pretends to neutrality which is a myth, a by-product of humanistic thought, because humanistic thought pre-supposes a cosmos of autonomous, self-generated and therefore meaningless factuality, that is, meaningless ‘bits of reality’ coming up from the void. The facts are meaningless because, from atoms to antelopes there is no sovereign creator and providential God distinct from the universe, and therefore no overarching design-plan that precedes existence and history; there is no pre-established relationship between the properties of the universe. Reality is therefore impervious to interpretation, because what is, is not rationally related (except by man after the fact). With respect to humanity, the human person has no definitive essence that precedes experience in the world – there is no God-given definition of personhood. The ‘facts’ are therefore uncreated, undirected and thus ultimately unrelated to any other fact; all facts are consequently, for the humanistic, pagan mind, ‘neutral.’

The term neutral comes from the Latin ‘neuter,’ meaning ‘neither one nor the other.’ The term has since come to mean an unbiased position, or an unwillingness to take sides. Now it is quite clear from the very origin of the concept, that an allegedly ‘neutral’ position concerning education logically entails (whether appreciated or not) important beliefs about reality that are anything but religiously non-committed. For the Christian, reality cannot be ‘neither one thing nor another,’ if it is created and governed by God. Thus, an ostensibly ‘neutral’ or unbiased education is an illusion – albeit a useful one to the modern state. The reason that the modern state has insisted on the ‘neutrality’ of its education is because to admit that education is not neutral would be to concede that all education is inescapably religious and that the government has violated the politically correct sacred cow of the separation of faith (religion) from public institutions – itself another impossible myth. Since all education has a purpose in view, and purpose presupposes direction (teleology), it is again obvious that education, as a vision within society, cannot be to no purpose (neither one thing nor another). So, it will be helpful to explore further the religious purpose of education.

The terms ‘liberal’ and ‘liberty’ are both derived from the Latin liber (free). A liberal arts education in the West has ostensibly meant education for freedom. But what makes a person free and what is the ground of their freedom? Philosophical progressivism in education, with roots in figures like Horace Mann and John Dewey (which has shaped the whole course of public education in North America through much of the last century to the present), has held that true freedom is liberation from the past, from authority or revealed truth, and ultimately from God himself. Freedom in this view is not the result of salvation in Jesus Christ; freedom means instead liberation from previous constraints. To deny this approach to education has meant coming under censure as regressive and reactionary.[9] This utopian freedom, it has been held, will be realized by a universal system of state-sponsored schools, realizing ‘free expression’ for the individual.

Clearly then liberty is not self-explanatory. With the Christian consensus in the West presently lost, if the goal of education is liberty, then liberty must be defined. Is it freedom under God (as the British Commonwealth and USA held) or freedom from God? Clearly liberty cannot be identical with anarchy or license. If all people are free to do as they please, then no one is truly free, because freedom requires law by which our mutual freedoms are defined and circumscribed. For example, if I am free to steal, then other people are not free to possess their goods in peace or leave their property unattended at any time. Freedom must be from something, to something, in terms of an ultimate standard. This freedom will either be pragmatic and instrumental in terms of a shifting social contract, or it will have a transcendent source in God. In the former, education will cease to be the art of freedom in terms of transcendent, universal meaning and purpose, but will be redefined by a bureaucracy through its social planners as that which serves the collective will. State control then means little more than people-control as the new purpose of education – i.e. freedom is simply what the state says it is; there is no appeal beyond the state to God for freedom.

The massive emphasis on state education over the last century (despite declining standards and the growing illiteracy it has produced)[10] is an aspect of the belief that the human mind is a neutral consciousness or apparatus, a clean slate to be written on, rather than an aspect of a fallen or broken creation that is basic to the Christian worldview. The clean slate is an ideal; history can be wiped out and revolutionary education can change everything.[11] The human person is thus malleable and transformable in terms of a controlling environment. That environment, the modern state insists, must be the public school/curriculum that will facilitate the realization of a future manufactured in terms of the new religious purpose.

All education is developed and carried out in terms of a purpose and a program for freedom. The question is, who defines freedom and what is the end in view? For the Christian, educational programs will either be oriented in terms of the purposes of God and his creative and redemptive work in history, or they will be in terms of another religious purpose.

The battle for the mind and the future

Because education cannot be neutral, it is inescapably a field of conflict, a battle for the minds of the young and a dispute regarding the shape of the future; it is thus not likely that the future of education is one where all sit down to sing kum ba yah together. As George Grant pointed out, “The constitutional state has an interest in limiting pluralism of belief…. [W]hen the state has become secularized, it will quickly free itself of its use of the church. The religion of humanity and progress will reign monolithically in the schools.”[12] He prophetically added that, “assuming their religion to be self-evidently true to all men of good will, they are forceful in advocating that it should be the public religion.” He called this religion the religion of progress, mastery and power.[13] Mastery and power require, of necessity, the dominance of the new public polytheistic religion of philosophic and religious pluralism and this requires the indoctrination of children into the new faith if the religion of so-called progress is to define the future.

Christians today, as we look ahead to the future of religion in education, want to look back at our past for lessons, resources and inspiration for the future. Originally, education in Canada was in the hands of the family and the churches; the family was the primary educator supported by the church. It was far from perfect, but it set the West apart in literacy and development. From the mid-seventeenth century numerous church institutions for education sprang up. For example, one Jesuit College in Quebec made available classical studies, grammar and theology as early as 1635. In the 1660s Bishop Laval founded the Seminaire De Quebec which eventually became Université Laval. Steadily however, with modernity and progressivism eroding the centrality of the family and the church’s role in society, visions for state-controlled education developed. Christians like Egerton Ryerson in Ontario, with the noble intention of developing greater Christian character in the young, and broader Christian education free from Anglican Church monopoly, began visiting various developed nations in the 1840s to explore educational models as he researched and planned his public education proposals. Though the picture is complex across the Canadian provinces (since education is under provincial not federal control), within a few years, the civil government was steadily taking over education – tax-funded and state-controlled. Whatever its benefits, as soon as the state takes over, the element of coercion is inescapable and the reduction of freedom unavoidable. Whatever the merits of universal education (which Christians supported), the coercive element has inherent dangers. Ontario took the first step toward introducing compulsory school laws in 1871. Parents were then obliged by threat of fine to have children attend school – this required the use of state police to round up those in non-compliance even though many were apprenticed in their parents’ trades. Legislation in 1891 raised the compulsory limits to eight through fourteen. The new law was more definite in stipulating penalties for parents.

Today, the compulsory age in Ontario is 6 through 18 years which is radical, especially given the normal aspirations to pursue skilled labor careers among many young adults. Other Canadian provinces in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were more resistant, including the Maritimes and the mid-West; some politicians in Alberta for example, considered the compulsory proposals unconstitutional. One of the last areas of Western Europe to adopt a compulsory system was England and Wales, where the Elementary Education Act of 1870 paved the way by establishing regional school boards. Attendance was finally made compulsory from age ten in 1880. Presently, in some Western nations – Germany for example – home education is illegal, a crime for which you may be fined or imprisoned and your children taken from you, a law that Hitler established which has never been revoked. In the U.K., the state now demands the right to privately interview (without their parents) home school children to determine the ‘appropriateness’ of their education. Furthermore, when returned to their families from their state education experience, many Christian parents are shocked to find that their child has been alienated from the family and the faith, taught a radically different morality, and subsequently abandons the church. This landscape is a far cry from what the Methodist minister Ryerson had in mind when first proposing non-denominational Christian schools funded by the state for Protestants in Canada.

For the serious Christian, the idea of finding harmony with current educational proposals and paradigms is simply untenable. At root, Christianity holds that the uncreated being of God created the universe and all things in it, sustaining all things in terms of his law and purposes – we have an infinite God and a created, finite universe. Non-theists believe the exact opposite. For them the universe has created God (or gods). They have either a finite god as an aspect of an infinite or self-generated universe, or no god, dismissed as a concept generated by the mind of man (where man is god). Humanistic education is thus by definition, god-less education, whereas Christian education is God-centred education. Consequently, what is most central and important to the Christian is entirely left out by ‘neutral’ education. The immediate implications of this are unmistakable. Godless education denies that we are created in the image of God and are responsible to God, which entails the notion that human identity is a social construct and we cannot transgress God’s law. If man cannot transgress then he is not a sinner and if he is not a sinner he does not need Christ or the gospel. A child educated in such a view soon realizes he does not need to live and think in terms of the triune God of Scripture, but can think and live autonomously and for himself.[14]

Philosopher Roy Clouser’s detailed analysis of this antithesis between the Christian view and all others across the religious spectrum has led him to note a very important fact, the relevance of the concept of a divine per se.[15] Whatever gods, goddesses, or lack thereof may be posited in any system of thought, the religious kernel of all thought systems is found in their concept of the divine per se. The divine per se is “whatever is unconditionally, non-dependently real.”[16] With all the disagreements about the nature and character of the divine, all systems of thought, all worldviews, have in common the belief that the divine per se is that which is characterized by non-dependence. The status of the non-dependent entity varies (matter, energy, spirit, nature/universe, gods etc.) but the commonality is found in the belief in an unconditioned reality – a divine per se, that takes the place of the biblical God as the religious foundation of all worldviews. This doctrine of ‘god’ (divine per se) not only affects all other beliefs, and therefore all knowledge, but it shapes how we theorize and reason about the world.

It is true of course that in a certain sense cats are cats and dogs are dogs to the Christian believer and non-believer alike – we point to the same creature and call it a cat. But is this really agreement about the nature of cats in anything more than the most superficial sense? Let’s take another example to make the point clear. In the field of mathematics, we may have ‘formal’ or conventional agreement with a non-believer that 2 X 2 = 4, but that is as far as the agreement goes, and even this superficial agreement turns out to be essentially pragmatic and not substantive. As soon as you ask the most basic questions about this idea, the agreement vanishes. Christian philosopher Cornelius Van Til points out:

When you think of two times two as four, you connect this fact with numerical law. And when you connect this fact with numerical law, you must connect numerical law with all law. The question you face, then, is whether law exists in its own right or is an expression of the will and nature of God. Thus the fact that two times two equal four enables you to implicate yourself more deeply into the nature and will of God.[17]

So in the Christian perspective, the consistency, lawfulness, intelligibility, coherence and dependability of the created order, even at the abstract level of mathematics with its incredible explanatory power for the concrete world, is guaranteed by the religious presupposition that God is the author of all law and that in understanding and exploring these mathematical relationships we grow in our understanding of the wisdom of God in creation and our dependence upon him. However,

When an unbeliever says that two times two are four, he will also be led to connect this fact with the whole idea of law; but he will regard this law as independent of God. Thus the fact that two times two are four enables him, so he thinks, to get farther away from God. That fact will place the unbeliever before a whole sea of open possibilities in which he may seek to realise his life away from God.[18]

So we see that in the most elementary of ways, the doctrine of God will at the outset impact our view and use of mathematics; do mathematical relationships (laws) take us into the nature and purpose of God, or bring us before a sea of infinite possibility? Math is an important illustration because it is the hardest sphere (being the most ‘certain’ of sciences) in which to demonstrate the myth of neutrality. Yet, when we look at theories concerning mathematics it is interesting to note that there is not even a consensus around the basic sounding question of what numbers actually are! If numerical laws of math do not exist as abstract entities by the mind and will of God, then what are they? Clouser has shown, for example, that solutions to this question have been diverse; from the Number-World theory of the ancient Greeks and some Enlightenment rationalists, which held to the idea that numbers are eternal entities existing in another dimension upon which the visible world depends (the Pythagoreans sang hymns to the number ten and worshiped numeric law as the divine per secultural products which stand for nothing. For Dewey they are simply tools that help us do certain jobs and so mathematical equations are neither true nor false. Other popular theories include John Stuart Mill’s notion of numbers as generalizations about sensory perceptions, and Bertrand Russell’s view that they are actually logical classes – a shortcut to doing logic.[19]

It is in fact impossible to conceive of any subject area in an educational curriculum that is free from religious assumptions that might convey a religiously ‘neutral’ worldview or information – fact and value are inextricably related.[20] Consider the implications of this fact for every area of education. The typical reductionism that shapes all areas of humanistic education today is antithetical to the Christian approach. The Christian does not (indeed cannot) reduce history and social order to economics like the Marxists, or meaning and morality to linguistics like the deconstructionists, or science to the sensory like the materialists. Since God is the creative source and designer of the relationship between all the laws and properties of experience, there is a distinctly Christian way to approach history, economics, epistemology, linguistics, science and every other subject.

Conclusion

Christian education is thus God-centred in that it relates all knowledge back to God and His word. If Christian religious education is to have a future, it must be allowed to continue to develop it presuppositions in education that established the great institutions of learning in the West. It is true that all truth is indeed relative! It is either relative to man and his mind, or truth is relative (related back) to God. If truth and thereby education is not relative to God, it can only be relative to man as god which is humanism and paganism. So again we see the far-reaching implications of religious presuppositions (worldview) in education.

In such a context there is no ‘unifying’ progressivist state plan that will work to satisfy all parties. In a context where our historic Christian consensus has broken down, we will either have a genuine, competitive plurality of educational options, or there will be a coercion and tyranny in education. The Christian view is freedom – that was the meaning of the liberal arts in Christendom. Humanists and secularists should be free to pursue their educational choices for their children, as should Jews and Muslims and those of any other worldview for theirs, within the rule of law. But I don’t want to pay for it with my property taxes and be forced to pay twice for private Christian education; nor should they have to pay for my educational choices for my children.

Before education is forced to become totally private by the collapse of the welfare state (and that may not be far away) some form of voucher system that puts control back in the hands of parents and taxpayers is necessary to avoid a tyrannical coercion. Christian private schools (and others) and home schools should be left free of state interference if we claim to believe in freedom. My Christian view of the future of religion in education is that the Catholic system and public system (old protestant system) should be finally de-funded (or as an alternative measure a voucher system created) so that humanistic elites are no longer able, by their social planning, to coerce and manipulate the future away from freedom. A truly competitive environment would weed out waste and undermine union power and control and level the playing field so that the best and true education wins.

Right now we have system that simply regulates a monopoly provider. We have a monolithic structure that tends to stifle learning, discourages critical thinking, and is obsessed with standardized testing while real standards drop and illiteracy increases. Students are reduced to commodities in a culture of dependency and mediocrity where centralized and top down control rules spending and curriculum. This creates a culture of fear (especially of failure, with endless reporting and testing loaded on teachers) and does not stir passion for true learning and critical thinking.

The Christian view involves the development of a competitive marketplace of schools, to replace a bloated state system that stifles creativity and where the poorest families who can’t afford to live in the best school districts are penalized. One size does not fit all, and parents should be allowed to vote with their feet. Throwing endless taxpayer money at education hasn’t worked, because the system is broken. The Christian view of the future of religion in schools is that it is time to return to freedom – Christian liberal arts and freedom of learning. Let the religious worldviews compete in the public space and let the chips fall where they may.


[1] T.S. Eliot, cited in Leland Ryken, Worldly saints: The Puritans as they really were (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 157.

[2] Cited in Ryken, Worldly Saints, 161.

[3] George Grant, Technology and empire: Perspectives on North America (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1969), 46, 49.

[4] R. J. Rushdoony, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum (Vallecito, CA: Ross House, 1981), 3.

[5] R. J. Rushdoony, The Messianic character of American education (Vallecito, CA: Ross House, 1995), 14–15.

[6] See Michael Wagner, Leaving God behind: the Charter of Rights and Canada’s official rejection of Christianity (Russell, ON: Christian Governance, 2012), 47–83.

[7] ‘Committee on Religious Education in the Public Schools of the Province of Ontario’ (1969), cited by Michael Wagner, Leaving God behind, 60.

[8] Wagner, Leaving God behind, 73.

[9] Rushdoony, The Messianic Character, 20, 151ff.

[10] According to The National Post, May 24th 2006, with reporter Dan Bjarnason, Scott Murray crunched numbers on illiteracy and administered two major international surveys at Statistics Canada. And what his numbers say is that Canada’s situation is particularly shameful when you look at the two worst categories: Nearly fifteen per cent of Canadians can’t understand the writing on simple medicine labels such as on an Aspirin bottle, a failing that could seriously limit the ability of a parent, for example, to determine the dangers for a child. An additional twenty-seven per cent can’t figure out simple information like the warnings on a hazardous materials sheet, the kinds of warning that set out workplace dangers such as risks to the eyes and skin. In total, forty-two per cent of Canadians are semi-illiterate. The proportion is even worse for those in middle age. And even when new immigrants are excluded, the numbers remains pretty much the same.

[11] Rousas John Rushdoony, Intellectual schizophrenia: culture, crisis and education (Vallecito, CA: Ross House, 2008), 3.

[12] Grant, Technology and empire, 57.

[13] Ibid.

[14] R. J. Rushdoony, The philosophy of the Christian curriculum (Vallecito, CA: Ross House, 2001), 17.

[15] Roy A. Clouser, The myth of religious neutrality: an essay on the hidden role of religious belief in theories (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005), 19.

[16] Clouser, The Myth, 19.

[17] Louis Berkhof and Cornelius Van Til, Foundations of Christian education (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1990), 7.

[18] Berkhof and Van Til, Foundations, 7–8.

[19] Clouser, The Myth 131–146.

[20] Rushdoony, The Philosophy, 11.