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Andrew Nichols

I was recently browsing through Wikipedia when I came across their article on Neutral Point of View, a mandatory guideline for all articles written there.

If secular education were to take this road---to present all major viewpoints on a subject, replete with the best arguments for each viewpoints and the best arguments against each viewpoint---I think I would call it religiously neutral, or at the very least, the closest to neutrality that is it possible to reach.

Hooser

I tend to lean more towards the universal 'no' answer for a number of reasons. The first is because I am skeptical of whether any sort of teaching is truly neutral. Education isn't taught by inhuman machines that print out homework and somehow present every perspective. To pretend that the world works this way is, in my opinion, either naive or intellectually dishonest. Take history for example. Historians often take the narrative style of the disconnected, matter of fact author. But are they really disconnected? We exist in a living world where living people have written history. If you and I were discussing the same event we might emphasize different elements or present one side of a debate as the more natural one. Humans are complicated beings, and so I think that 'facts' are often complicated as well. This means that even if you are communicating all points of view, you are probably giving emphasis or favoratism to at least one of them. Everyone assumes certain things. Most secular schools assume for example that evolution should be taught as fact while creation can only be taught as a belief. But as time has been showing us lately, evolution is looking more and more like a belief, and less and less like a 'fact'. The point is, this is just one of a plethora of examples I could give of why education cannot be neutral. I would much rather people owned up to the beliefs they are teaching and name themselves accordingly. Andrew stated 'to present all major viewpoints on a subject, replete with the best arguments for each viewpoints and the best arguments against each viewpoint---I think I would call it religiously neutral, or at the very least, the closest to neutrality that is it possible to reach'. While I would like to think this is possible, I don't think it is while government schools are still pretending to be objective. It's like a game of poker. You are far less neutral giving advice to another player when you still haven't shown your own cards. Admitting your own bias before presenting the other sides at the very least allows the hearer to make a better judgement and is much more neutral than it would seem.

cwv warrior

What a lovely thought, all viewpoints offered perfectly balanced...by the author, publisher, and finally the teacher. Dream on. The longer I live, the more clear it becomes, a worldview cannot be neutral. We are even proving this in ths courts. Judges cannot run on both party lines because judges are ruling according to their own worldview. ALL things, faith, arts, sciences, are affected by our view of human origin, purpose, and death. To be objective would be to lose our humanity. Robotic comes to mind. Programmed. No, and my solution is briefly mentioned in the comment on the "Crime and Limits on Civil Gov." debate. Judeo-Christian worldview is how this free republic was founded and it is how people would govern it best. So teach it.

jpe

The longer I live, the more clear it becomes, a worldview cannot be neutral.

Of course not. But, there is significant overlap between most WVs that we would consider reasonable. For example, most of us would concur that, say, the American Revolution actually happened. Ergo, we can teach the American Revolution as something that really happened. Note that this isn't WV-neutral: we're necessarily excluding Illuminati conspiracy-theorists that think the revolution was a farce.

I suppose we could begin each class with the general caveat "this is the way most people think it happened," but as a practical matter that seems kind of...silly. The fact that it seems silly to do so with something like history suggests that our schools ought to exclude unreasonable WVs. That's all for now.

By the way, I love the "there's no such thing as a WV neutral way to teach." Marxists, postmoderns and Christians are starting to agree on a lot. It's an interesting moment.

jpe

Sorry, I forgot to mention something: neutrality emerges through consensus among WVs. Since we all generally agree on the reality of history, there's consensus and teaching history seems like a neutral endeavor.

As a practical matter, I take it that neutrality-as-consensus is readily achievable in most subjects. So, really, the question of non-neturality will only be a problem for the subjects on which there's significant disagreement: notably, evolution, and maybe the intellectual backdrop for particular junctures in American history (the Enlightenment v Christianity as primary influence on the Founding Fathers, for example).

Jeff the Baptist

"Since we all generally agree on the reality of history, there's consensus and teaching history seems like a neutral endeavor."

There is only consensus on the what's not on the why's. So while you can teach facts, any sort of historical analysis tends to bring out the divergence in WV. History is actually a very charged area when you get down to it.

cwv warrior

"History is actually a very charged area when you get down to it."
Is it ever! Since jpe brought up the Am. revolution, here are two approaches which only differ because of the choices we make in what facts we will reveal. First, being taught at my son's Christian college humanities course, is John Locke's heavy influence on our need to fight England. According to this enlightenment angle, we probably should not have resisted. At least, the reason is not clear because it is driven by humanist ideals.
The second view involves Calvin and Luther's "right to resist" because the governing authority goes against God...Anglican bishops were being sent to the colonies to enforce churches to submit to the Church of England. They also wanted to gain control of Princeton, thus stifling rebellious ideas. Some revivalist pastors were Jonathan Mayhew, Witherspoon, Samuel Adams (seminarian turned politician), and Samuel Davies who influenced Patrick Henry.
I learned plenty about the Stamp Act, but don't remember a thing about Anglican bishops, much less revivalist pastors!! Both influences are 100% true, yet the Christian impact is conspicuous in its absence. People are just too human to dismiss the room for error. Yes, someone could teach it in a perfect, balanced way...Jesus. Everyone else would have to be watched like a flea on a dog's tail!

Phil Dillon

I tried my best to get a "secular" education back in the late 60's and early seventies. I'd just gotten out of the military and really wanted to learn. Friends recommended a Christian school, but I told them that I was going to Ohio State because I felt that my faith needed to be strong enough to hold up to the glare and fire of the "world."

I took a class in English composition. Required reading included portions of "Mein Kampf," purely as a means to dissect worldview. Then there was Marx, purely as a means to dissect worldview. And so it went. I suggested at one point that we needed to dissect the Sermon on the Mount, for worldview purposes. My suggestion was rejected out of hand. Why? Religion.

In my second semester I enrolled in a Chinese literature class. On the first day the professor told us that we were going to look at Chinese pornography, purely as an art form. I talked to the professor about it and expressed my reservations. I was told that my evangelical Christianity was getting in the way of the potential to open my mind.

I took another literature class. First reading was Eldridge Cleaver's "Soul on Ince." I couldn't see the literary value of someone saying that raping white women was a cathartic exercise, a way of cleansing past wrongs inflicted on one part of the American family. I was told by the class, and the professor, that I'd come from a generation that didn't understand, and that I, as a Christian, was a racist. Why was I told this? Because I obejcted to the literary value of Cleaver's work.

I tried geology as a required science. Now I'm not a scientist, but I had questions. When asked why I was asking them I told them, as a student, that I wanted to know. I was told that my questions smacked of religious fundamentalism and could not be tolerated.

In my second literature class we were assigned to write a three page essay on the theme "Christ on the Cross." I wrote an evangelical piece and was told it would not pass muster. Why? The theme, according to the professor, was really trying to get at the political and social implications of Jesus' death on the cross.

It took me a while, but I got the message. Christian faith is not really wanted in the secular classroom.

I transferred to a Christian school. I can assure you, most solemnly, that there was much more openness in the classrooms there than at Ohio State.

I've long since finished my undergraduate and graduate work. About a year ago I decided to take a class in international relations at Emporia State University here in town.

I'd like to say that the climate has changed for the better, but it's only gotten worse.

So, take it from a guy who made an honest try at putting my faith in the secular laboratory. What I learned from my experience was that the point of the exercise was not to test my faith, it was a place where it was stripped of all meaning, deemed irrelevant.

One other thing. The large institutions are, it seems to me, nothing more than factories rather than repositories of learning. The quality of instruction if marginal at best. I can't speak for all religiously based schools, but the one I went to (Judson College in Elgin, Ill.) provided me a much higher quality of edcuation than I ever would have gotten at Ohio State or Emporia State.

Michael Craven

Neutrality is an illusion. Present government can only act in accordance with its secular worldview, which is by neccessity opposed to the biblical worldview.

As Martin Luther so aptly put it, "I am much afraid that schools will prove to be great gates of Hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt."

cwv warrior

Phil,
What a dark hole your education has been. Praise God you survived. I'm glad JC (no pun there!)was there for you.
Michael,
Thank you for the Luther quote. Awesome. It is on the outer edges to proclaim this truth, verging on "lunacy". Call me crazy. I see it as the ONLY answer.

Wayne M

Let's stay in the theoretical for just a moment yet as this conversation is starting. In the Theoretical I would have to say yes a government education could be neutral.

But, it is very easy to get pulled into the discussion of what is actually happening in education today. The current government schools and I should also say the overarching theory of education is not even to educate students; it is to create little leftists and egalitarians.

So, the question becomes can the current system be reformed to work closer to the ideal? The answer to that question is answered by another question? How hard are Christians willing to fight to take control of the schools back? My suspicion is, they are not willing to fight at all.

Dory

This is a great discussion, folks!

Let me stir things up a little bit with this, continuing with the history example. If you teach history without any reference to the will of God being worked out in history, is the curriculum religiously neutral or does it, in fact, teach that God's will is irrelevant to history and that history can be properly understood without regarding Him?

Also, Wayne makes an important point that I'd like to see more discussion on. He said the current system has as its goal making "little egalitarians and leftists." The goal of education according to humanist philosophy is to produce citizens that will be good for (their veiw of) society. Is this the goal of education according to Christian principles? Compare that to Deuteronomy 4 or Psalm 119, for example. If we disagree even on the purpose for education, can any educational system respect one goal without doing violence to the other?

Kevin

Wayne kinda stole my point. Public Education as it is today was started to raise good citizens. Now it makes bad ones... Good citizens generally come from small towns and private schools. Part of being a good citizen is public morals. Since we can't have any (religious donna ya know), oops... Maybe public education is past its point.

We made some hard choices to get the kids in a private Christian school. Now they are mainly evangical while we are Orthodox, so sometimes I bang my head on a hard object (I'm sure they did the same over the pagan easter comment from the youngest...the oldest says he thinks they think he's a jew that believes in Christ) BUT it is so much better than public school.

cwv warrior

Dory,
History can ba taught with God's providence being evident without ever saying, "look how God's will was being worked out here." God is evident, particularly in this country's beginnings, through His children. Teach what really happened and who people really were with original documents and quotes, and bingo! There are clouds of witnesses...
If Christians knew HOW to fight, or even if Christians knew the facts, they might stand up for the witnesses of truth that are being ignored. Blogging is not a bad start ;)

Ed Darrell

One great difficulty is when Christians assume they have the facts when in fact what they have is one spin on a topic.

The question is incorrectly phrased. There cannot be a neutral education. One needs to get a good education, and a good education will require challenging many old ideas and assumptions. It's possible to get a neutered education, and that's bad, too.

A good education gets a person familiar with major ideas in our culture, and what may be wrong about them. I depart from those who urge a "Christian" education when they advocate ignoring major ideas as if that somehow makes the ideas go away. Communism wasn't brought down by people who never read Marx. Creationism wasn't falsified by people who were not intimately familiar with the Bible. Free market economics wasn't developed by people who'd never studied command markets. Einstein didn't arrive and his theories by failing to study Newton.

In a world where it was okay and de facto legal for white men to rape black women, why shouldn't one read Eldredge Cleaver's Soul on Ice? If one cannot develop a sense of where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., got his habit of quoting Amos about justice from reading Cleaver, perhaps one needs to study Christianity a lot more, and go live in the world for a while.

Charley

Can an educational system be religiously neutral? Absolutely. It can studiously avoid a preference for any religion in its teaching, and it should.

However, that doesn't mean that schools should fail to teach scientific facts that some religions refuse to believe but which are established fundamentals of science. When schools teach history, they should stick to facts established through scholarship and present the effects of historical actions upon both winners and losers. Schools also have no obligation to present literature that does not offend any religious groups, but to present literature that is recognized as being of high quality or being important for understanding a culture or historical trend.

The problem is usually not one of schools intentionally being anti-religious, but of religious groups who want to prevent their young people from being exposed to ideas that might undermine their belief in the faith of their parents. That is not an obligation of the schools and should not be. If a religious belief requires its adherents to renounce science, history or literature, then maybe it is better that students have sufficient factual information to make a conscious decision about that belief.

Cave Johnson

So here's this crazy idea:
Don't teach religion. Nuetraility is much easier than everyone seems to make it out to be. Just don't mention religion anywhere in the curriculum, and prevent teachers from trying to sneak it in in subtle ways. As for whether or not it's a good plan...
I think I don't even need to point out that not everyone is part of the evangelical church. Please people, just because your religion agrees or doesn't agree with something, don't try to influence everyone else. Children are way to impressionable to be indoctrinated into a religion before logically making the choice ON THEIR OWN. Let kids come up with their respective solutions on there own, without any education on the matter. This way children will pick what belief makes the most sense to them, and it will have been completely free from teacher related influence.

Dory

Cave, you say neutrality is easy, just don't mention religion. How is that neutral? That teaches that religion or God is irrelevant to everything else. Yet an historic Christian worldview would insist that God is relevant to absolutely everything and nothing can be fully understood without reference to Him. To teach children without reference to God is assuming (and teaching) a non-Christian epistemology, that is, that we can have knowledge without God. To teach the Arts without reference to religion is to teach that beauty is merely the judgment or taste of individuals. Again, this is in line with secular humanism, but antithetical to a Christian aesthetic that teaches that beauty conforms to a transcendent standard--the beauty of God.

All education is indoctrination. What you suggest would indoctrinate children into a secular humanist worldview. Go for it with your children if that is what you believe, but don't call it neutral.

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