The Battle for the Minds of Children: American Education at the Crossroads

[This article is an excerpted chapter from the timely and critically important book on America’s Christian heritage and the materialist effort to destroy it—Land that I Love: Restoring Our Christian Heritage. — ed.) 

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

This battlefield hosts not guns and swords, but spiritual warfare for the minds and hearts of children. The battle centers on the definition and purposes, methods, and content of education in America today. Sincere people, passionate about their own views of traditional education and of life, wage a bloodless war restoring the traditional American Christian heritage and therefore re-empowering education. Each group, and its several sub-groups, has a mission with dedication to fulfilling it.

Traditionalists embrace the Biblical Hebrew-Christian worldview. They inherited it via providential Western civilization, and in America particularly through the Protestant Reformation legacy. This educational philosophy sees children as created and owned by God, their Creator, and children as a holy stewardship of parents. Each child is born with a providential plan for his or her life, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NASB). The Creator of life has entrusted the child and responsibility for him with the parents through a covenant relationship described in the Scriptures. God obligates parents with responsibility for educating the child His way. Achieving the goals of this traditional education will transform lives into a Biblical worldview, enrich the life of a family, and be a wholesome influence in the community and beyond, even a testimony to the nations as numbers of traditionalists grow. A well-educated productive citizen has an assured outcome.

This group of citizens can be found in Christian and home schools, and some in traditional public schools. A majority of these families will have church affiliation, though not all. They will universally affirm the moral law and moral standards for individuals and civil society. They expect these moral standards affirmed in the schools. This fairly describes the traditionalist.

Another group, in stark contrast to the traditionalists, are the progressives. These too are very idealistic and sincere and have the good of students in mind as they earnestly have brought about stark changes in American education through their secular, humanistic worldview. If one wonders how so many people have aligned themselves with this progressive group, and abandoned the traditional Hebrew-Christian worldview, it really requires a study of the last century and a half in American education. It is a sinful progression in its rejection of God and its ways, yet it has required a devoted effort of two centuries to efface the powerful Christian heritage of the American founding.

It started when European humanist intellectuals, especially from Germany, came to our shores to join and expand the programs of America’s universities in the first half of the nineteenth century. They have had a tremendous influence to this very day. Remember that the vast majority of colleges and universities in America were founded by orthodox Christian churches and early denominations to educate preachers.

Community classroom teachers never really championed in large numbers replacing the teaching of orthodox Christianity in American school classrooms. Rather, for centuries they chose their profession out of love and dedication to children and families, and they knew true education could only come with the help of the Holy Spirit in Christ. They delighted in God to teach in such a way as to “enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, form the habits and manners of youth, and fit them for their future stations” (1828 Dictionary). In all the years I have interviewed teachers, I have never known one who did not love children, and desire to teach, really teach, and mentor students on an individual basis, appreciating the individuality of each student. Teaching is a unique calling, and to me, it has been a sacred one.

We recognize the influence of the progressive outsiders, indeed radicals, via the transformation in education they created. Influential non-Christian philosophers such as Spinoza, Rousseau, Darwin, Huxley, Marx, and others eventually made headway, particularly through the colleges. But a key person for dramatic change in the twentieth century was our own John Dewey. Born in Vermont in 1859, he lived ninety-three years, dying in New York in 1952. He opposed any system of fixed values in any human arena. This position really created a problem for him regarding truth. His philosophy has been called numerous things, but is best known as instrumentalism. His theory of human nature and ideals of social change, etc., clashed with the Scriptures, and his view of the child and education initiated what we recognize as the progressive movement in America. With generations of Americans now schooled in this view, its influence has expanded far beyond the classroom. Imagine Christian pastors schooled from early childhood by parents who learned likewise. Under Dewey’s influence, the effect has been to undermine even the pulpit over generations, weakening the entire Church.

Thus, rejecting Christianity, the state competes for its place, desiring to become god. Deism, a mere excuse for doing what is right in our own eyes, has become acceptable. Now, any nominal god will do, except for the God of Christianity, which must oppose the god-state.

This group, intent on removing moral absolutes from curriculum standards, maintains that religion is private and has no place in today’s classroom. To remove religion from the classroom, they have reinterpreted the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to say that congress must inhibit Christian religion in the public sphere. All education is religious. The progressives replace one religion—Biblical faith—with the religion of materialism. Their goal for education is an economic goal, to equip the student for mere vocational readiness for a highly technical society, where our nation competes with other nations in the global economy. Less productive people become discarded serfs. The progressives have prepared their plans and possess the money to carry out the progressive ideals at the heart of the plan. They have already won the educational institutions, the media, and much of civil government. They propose an assembly-line approach of educators, principals, and teachers—a concept at least as old as Horace Mann. They have stripped classroom teachers of gifted individuality in their teaching. They likewise have stripped the content of recognized historic truth in solid-subject contents. They have cast out the moral law with its concordant character training of the child. The child is now little more than a soulless machine used to compete with the machines of other countries. Of course, as history reveals, these materialists always destroy the societies they intend to use. Where are Babylon, Rome, Hitler, the USSR?

One would think that American parents would not have been so easily deceived by bureaucrats empowered to enforce Obamacare, which literally redefined health in an authoritarian-government way, mandating that all employers support their view and program. It even forced services in clear violation of the First Amendment and right of conscience in choice. As if that were not enough, it assaulted Christian sexual morality in America’s classrooms with sex-education classes that provide contraceptives and redefine human sexuality.

Everyone with children in schools today should become informed about the current battle for the minds and the hearts of the children. The propaganda of the progressives tells us over and over that we have an “eighteenth-century model to reach a twenty-first-century workforce.”

My husband inherited the old Ames Bag Manufacturing Company in Selma, Alabama, at the end of World War II. It was the largest manufacturing plant in the area and had hundreds of employees who worked there for many decades. It had awards for the efficiency of the operation and for race relations, remarkable in those years. Not every business was mindful of race relations back then. The demand for cotton and burlap bags dwindled, forcing the company to close or to make a transition to other products. Space does not permit me to expound on this remarkable story related among corporate boards over the nation as an inspiration. Just let me say this: Our Selma and Blackbelt employees unanimously and with a good will desired to learn new and better methods of manufacturing. They remained true to my husband’s business, as they learned new skills of making fiber and plastic containers of every kind imaginable. They made the first miniature Morton Salt and Accent cans, for one example. Jack Green, our on-sight engineer, designed in part the very first Wet Ones®. I never knew if he had his professional engineering credentials or not, but he certainly was a genius. This workforce made up of many without a complete college education learned fast-changing and demanding skills. They possessed a love of learning new things. They shared inspiring prayer and Scripture over the loudspeaker. They had an open door any time day or night to the boss’s office. We all shared moral absolutes and family values. I prayed with many individual mothers who worked there. No racial concerns divided our company team.

I don’t know one elementary teacher who would not welcome the Ten Commandments on the wall of his or her classroom. I don’t know one who would not welcome a prayer at the beginning of the day. It would settle down the children and set the tone for the students to begin to learn that day.

Allow me to exhort you to embrace and self-consciously live out the Biblical worldview with a generational mindset, avail yourself of the resources we identify in this book, and join the battle for the minds and hearts of the children. May the Lord lead us all

This article, first appearing in the Alabama Gazette, Montgomery, Alabama, is now available as a chapter in the Nordskog Publishing book by Bobbie Ames—Land that I Love: Restoring Our Christian Heritage

© 2020 

Nordskog Publishing (NPI) provides articles and essays by select guest authors which we believe have much to offer the Christian community—to motivate Biblical thinking and action. We believe in the market place of ideas within the context of God’s Word. However, we may disagree at points.  Publishing an article does not mean absolute agreement. Therefore, please understand that opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of NPI, nor of its editorial staff.

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