A summary of Gordon Clark's book, A Christian Philosophy of Education by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon on A Puritan's Mind
Those who can, do; those who cannot, teach; those who cannot teach, teach Education. This kind of statement describes the American educational system in more ways than one. Education is too important to neglect it or hand it over to those who cannot or do not know how to educate children and young adults. Most American colleges have no philosophy of education at all. They may have some vague ideals or aims. But no concrete philosophy that has any value. Though American colleges do not have a philosophy of education that can be called unified, or have an elaborate world-view set for their students, instead, they cater to having a unity in opposition to Christianity.
If education is to produce something good, then there must be an inclusion of morality (which good emerges from) into that system. If that system of education desires to reject morals or religion, then that educational system will have no possibility of creating a productive moral system whatsoever. Modern education today has become unified on morals by adopting Anti-Christian philosophy as a basis for its education. Humanistic and communistic hatred of Christianity will be the prevailing notion as it already is. Dictators are not stupid. They have used education throughout the centuries to press political ideas and their own agendas. Today’s’ media is not stupid. It also has harnessed education through celebrity popularity and Hollywood influence within the schools. Ads on TV promote celebrities giving ethical advice to young people, and to parents, in a non-religious but subtly guised “ethical” manner. Hollywood cares about the children of the country and so do dictators. The defect of all this is that it has no purpose or direction to accomplishing that purpose efficiently.
Philosophy in general is to study the whole of something, not the parts of something. And for a lack of series study as a whole, American education has lowered its standards, compromised with commercialism, and distinguished itself by mediocrity. There are, as a result, two trends going on in American education: government-propagandized vocational training which aims to crush private institutions by high taxes as well as omitting home schooling; and second, the large majority of university men desire free schools committed to the “wisdom” of the liberal arts. But this is not philosophy, or a philosophy of education that could be helpful to America as a whole. There is only one philosophy that can unify education and life, and that is the philosophy of Christian theism.
Humanists deny the Christian God and think they can shape young minds of the future for the better. Christianity is a supernatural religion that says no one is good, no not one, and that God is the only savior through His Son Jesus Christ. Men would rather not think about this and would rather think about the universe as a self-contained world with no possibility of the supernatural. If there is no supernatural, then there is no imputation of sin from Adam to the rest of the human race, and thus, everyone is just OK trying to get along. Well, sort of. Men must begin to assume there is no God and then decide whether they think Jesus Christ is right, or Plato was right, or any other philosopher who came up with a philosophy of education. For humanism, things just are. Historical events are all just a bunch of brute facts that men should just accept with no cohesion at all. But who will prove that life has any meaning if history has no meaning? If history has no meaning, and world-views are irrelevant, then Jesus Christ is irrelevant and so are all the secular humanists and the books they have written about philosophies of education. As a matter of fact, if the secular humanist is right, then the reader is wasting his time with this paper as well. What worldview will people choose that will promote a solid philosophy of education? Skepticism cannot be chosen as a philosophy of education. Skepticism is not a worldview. It is a denial of everything. Skepticism must live according to some rule not by no rule. They must choose that God is God or there is no God. That makes them atheists not skeptics. Skepticism just leads them to their worldview. Atheists, in general assert there is no god, but to do this, they must themselves become omniscient to know this. They become God by denying God. The pantheist must do the same or their systems collapse. But either way, they still collapse for no one worshipped Bertrand Russell and paid him homage. Atheism can produce no evidence in its favor. None of the events of things in the world can validly support the conclusion that no God exists. Atheists try to set themselves on the scientific method of verification. But again, they cannot set themselves to this because the scientific method cannot prove that the past was like the present or that the future will even be; nor can it prove that the present is like the present. The truth of the Bible is the basic axiom of Christian theism which destroys a non-omniscient atheist making omniscient claims because it alone holds the theistic worldview of a God who not only has given men morals and a purpose for life, but demonstrates by divine revelation that every other religious or philosophical view is impossible to hold consistently.
What alternative is there to Christian theism? Whatever philosophy is chosen, the first principles of that philosophy will control the general tenor of a person’s life. Some people (like Spencer and Alfred Lord Tennyson) grasped an evolutionary idea and mindset to begin their philosophy. This simply creates a pluralistic universe where good and evil (whatever those are or mean) struggle for domination. History is unknown, and value is unknown. Direction and purpose of life is unknown. Evolution’s poster boy is Hitler for whom all must bow down. Who knows if Hitler was good and the extermination of the millions of people is good? Is not evolution simply the survival of the fittest? What atheist or evolutionist will deny Hitler the right of supremacy? Or, maybe supremacy should be handed over to the Supreme court of the US, the nine men and women who asserted abortion as legalized murder. Since that time over forty million children have been killed. But it’s OK. It’s all survival of the fittest! No one, in his or her right mind (which excludes all of humanity), would live in such a worldview. But they do – and in happy inconsistencies (whatever “happy” means). Humanism cannot work and does not work. No incident, of any kind, can have a moral theory behind it in that worldview. Even art, just an eloquent pencil sketch of a hand, is only given value and means something in a theistic worldview.
Maybe philosophers are thinking about education in a new way. Maybe they are going to leave behind the nonsense of a naturalistic worldview and try something better? Optimism, though, is no remedy for bad education. Hoping things will get better will not work. Maybe everyone will die of AIDS in the coming year, or through some new mass plague. What is the value of life and why should life go on? Is optimism in hoping things will be better work? But if naturalism is allowed to go on, in spite of what Sartre or Heidigger thinks, suicide may be a great option. Suicide is absurd and meaningless to a naturalist. It is a vain and empty gesture. Nevertheless, upon reflection, education may simply take up the best ways to attempt suicide and leave it at that, hoping, that after the masses are taught a valueless system, they will answer Hamlet’s question (to be or not to be) in the negative – not to be! At least this would be logical to the rest of the theistic world. Non-theistic justification of any kind for any type of education is a failure. Even non-theistic math is a failure because arithmetic then means nothing. Nothing would have any value at all.
Some people like to become neutral about education. No religious propagation of any kind. However, this excludes naturalism and atheism of course, because the moment someone takes theism out of the picture a new worldview comes into play. Christians, though, should never be neutral about anything. They should speak about the absence of prayer in the schools. They should speak against promiscuous sex in school. They should speak out against handing out condoms to middle school children. There is nothing neutral about a Christian and Christian theism. Christians know that all men are conceived in sin. They are wicked and depraved and need to be redeemed. How then, knowing full well that the school systems are basically run by governmental agencies, can they be silent about theistic issues? If Christians worship God instead of society (going along with societies trends for convenience), then no sin is unimportant.
Some schools want to give students control over the curriculum in order to find out what their needs are and how they feel about such things. This is ludicrous. They come to learn not to control. How much does the student know about what he has come to learn? And should students be the ones controlling the information? Children need self-control by people who are not afraid to assert that control over them. Anyone can watch a secret camera from 60 Minutes over a 5th grade classroom in an Indiana elementary school demonstrating that the teacher has no control over the class. Really she has become the referee in a bar fight, and hopes she can intervene in enough time before someone gets hurt. This is all to say that education policies of any educator or school system derive their character from an underlying philosophy.
Christianity is always attacked on educational fronts because Christianity is exclusivistic and has all the answers everyone needs, and people hate that. Today, Christianity is attacked all through the public school system. Textbooks attacking Christianity in the school system are not illegal, but books on creationism are illegal. Teacher can deny creation and the Ten Commandments, but hey cannot recommend to the student Christianity or Christian values. The school system that ignores God teaches their students to ignore God. This demonstrates that the public school system hates God, does not want their students to learning about God, and has openly legalized atheism.
These attacks against Christianity are not merely misrepresentations of Christianity (and there is enough of that) but simply a subtle plausible misrepresentation or misinterpretation. It is not set on hard facts that Christianity is wrong, but on plausibility that it might be wrong, and so the school system does not need any of that. It would rather set its standards on hard, cold facts that it can scientifically verify. Christian faith is not injured so much by clear denials of it as by the methods of persuasion used in bringing others to deny it. Dewey, for example, attempts to instill an instrumentalism that rests on scientific facts. Morality is simply conventional. There is no criteria in which to judge change, nor is there a goal in progress. Things just are as they are. Does this sound rational? The Christian with his belief in the Law of God, and divine rewards and punishments has a reason for regarding suicide as immoral. Dewey has none at all. If morality is convention, then life is devoid of meaning and purpose. Dewey’s book on the Philosophy of Education has had a huge influence on the American School system. Should one be surprised? Educators are out to destroy the Bible and to destroy Christian theism. And here there are Christian parents sending their children to public school justifying atheism by saying, “I went to public school and I came out okay.” But, if their are children are going to public school when they make this statement, then this writer must say, “apparently not.”
Ethics are also on the list of extermination in public schools. Education is an ethical undertaking and it is impossible to not affect students in some ethical manner – whether with Atheism, agnosticism, the scientific method, or whatever. Schools teach sex education, where parents should be doing this with their bibles in their hands. But, to tell studetns that God condemns all sin is illegal. So the schools hand out condoms to fourteen year olds instead. The Gospel is that which restrains sin. When the gospel is removed, then all manner of brutality, corruption and crime should be expected.
The Bible allows for no morality to take place outside the Bible. This is clear through both the Old Testament and the New Testament and the laws which God enacts and upholds for all men for all time. Revelation, then, is necessary to teach Christian ethics. Aristotle thought that virtue could be practiced and honed. But without revelation, there is no virtue to practice. And real virtue is only enacted by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is a greater problem, though, at stake. The greater Christian community in the 21st century is simply not Christian. Will one justifiably say there are more than 20,000 Christian denominations in the US alone and then say, at the same time, there is nothing to be done about the Ten Commandments being taken out of the school or that prayer is abolished from it? Mysticism has replaced Christianity in most churches today. Mysticism is easier to deal with than standing up for ethical rights in schools – that takes brainpower. But most go to church on Sundays looking to “meet” God by way of some experience. That is just easier to cope with than having to formulate a system of ethics that pervades every sphere of life.
In creating, then a Christian philosophy of education, one starts with biblical revelation. The Bible is authoritative on its own, and Christians are to know what it says and draw authoritative directives from it to constitute a philosophy of education. Christianity should view itself, and does view itself when viewed rightly, that there is no other compatible system of thought besides it. It stands alone. Christianity is Jeremiah’s lonely ministry among professing believers. Christianity is when one voice speaks up, but speaks the word of God. If moral principles are enacted, then the reason they are enacted is because God gave image bearers His likeness to rationally think and dominate every sphere of life for His glory. This is clearly seen in passages dealing with the image of God in men. Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." Genesis 5:1, “This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.” Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.” 1 Corinthians 11:7, “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.” Colossians 3:10, “and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…” James 3:9, “With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.” Morality constitutes reflecting the image of God, and this is something the wicked cannot do unless they are first changed (John 3:3). The image of God is there for a reason, and the Christian should understand what that reason is – the glory of God. Naturalism of all kinds rejects the image of God and thinks that man evolved from an evolutionary cycle. But then, one must return to purposelessness and suicide as the only logical option.
The object of education is truth. God is truth. Truth should be transmitted to the younger pupils and the discovery of new truth by more advanced students. All our dignity consists in thinking about truth. For example, the intellectual standing of art, its function in society, of its relation to religion and morality is a precious gift of God to men. This is the subject of education. Humanists cannot give adequate recognition to this wonderful power of thought. A man is a single person that is able, because of the image of God, to think rationally. He is not made of up parts and did not evolve from one part to another. Humanism has no final truth to offer at all, but theism does. Through the intellect man is able to come into contact with reality, and ultimate reality at that. Reason should never be set above emotion, and emotion (as Schleiermacher would have desired) cannot rule the intellect. The intellect reigns supreme in the constitution of man and his intellect should bring all his affections into obedience before God in submission to God’s will.
A philosophy of education is relatively simple to set up, but it is the particulars of that philosophy that are complex. The sound principles governing any curriculum for the student should stress those subjects that will prove useful to the student no matter how he may choose to live his life later on. Should one give their tax money to baby-sit children for 120 years while they coast through school, or should schools develop a curriculum that would actually benefit the student? Government high school education in this regard is deplorable. Christian high schools always do better. Since governmental school cannot tell students to serve God with their mind, only Christian schools can fulfill the intellectual needs of the students. Schools of education with their uneducated faculties should be abolished. It is amazing that so many school have inept teachers and inept leaders running them, (Read the first line of this paper again.)
Gordon Clark rightly says, “The preservation of law and order, without which school and civilization cannot exist, is aided more by Christian schools than by public education (Philosophy of Education, Page 119).” Through certain governmental structures Christian Schools thrive better. Here, Protestants should be supporting a Christian governmental structure and not a pagan governmental structure. Christianity must affirm the divinely given powers of the state and also its God-imposed limitations to have a foundation by which Christian schools can thrive. Education should start in the home, move to the church and finally use the tools of the State for the glory of God. It is important to have Christian education from Kindergarten to the University level. This does not mean every person should be trained as a minister of the Gospel or theologian, but that every sphere of life is arrested by the teaching of the Bible, from the earliest years to the latter.
Family consists as an important part of education of the country. Without parents taking responsibility for their children, and teaching them values from the Bible, they are left with no weapons to deal with the outside world. Whenever a boy or girl is properly instructed by parents and forewarned of the existence of enemies, the enemies do little damage. Education, properly understood, is not about preparing a youth for this or that specific type of vocation, but for preparing them to be men. He should not be thrown into a pagan school system to learn how to be a man. They do not teach that there. They teach them how to be animals. Just because a young man survives pagan instruction is no reason for subjecting him to it. Children sometimes survive pneumonia, or the bubonic plague, but what parent would want to give it to his child? Single families may say, “We just cannot teach our child any other way – we do not have the fiancés to send them to private schools and cannot home school.” This may be true, but a church community could do this very easily. That is why the State hates home schooling because atheistic education is taken out of their hands and placed in the theistic education of the parents. It is the quality of the education that is needful in a Protestant worldview setting.
How do we learn? Many people think learning is done by sense experience. They deny a priori forms in the mind and believe that life is seen through the empiricist’s glasses. The problem here lies in the inability of the scientists and the scientific method, to come to a fact on anything. They are not omniscient so everything they test is a guess, and it is not a perfect guess. They have no perfect formulas that never derivate – they always deviate because they are never perfect. Their measurements are close, but not perfect. Every law they have are partial formulations based on some data which means they have nothing to say about anything concretely. Empiricism cannot work. Even in Christian circles some people think that Adam was an empiricist. Adam knew what commands God gave, and he understand that god gave them. Are we then suppose to believe that he laboriously worked out the cosmological argument, including the physics that underlined it? Empiricism cannot produce moral facts from scientific findings. It is impossible to trust in Empiricism. It furnishes no necessity, no universality, no “all”, no “none.” It cannot because no scientist is omniscient.
Can moral education be grounded in naturalism then? No. Empirical philosophy that repudiates revelation cannot provide any morals for anything whatsoever. So a Christian philosophy of education is grounded in the image of God, the God who gave that image, and the Bible which explains the revelation of God to men. Really, if God is banished from the education system, from society itself, how can society ask anyone to keep on living?