In Australia (and the principles herein apply to other countries also) politicians and educators are dealing with our most precious commodities—our children and young people. To do it, they are spending a lot. The nation plans to commit a total of $A250 billion on education in the next 10 years—commencing at $17.5 billion in 2017 and increasing to $31 billion in 2027. Why do I refer to it as an educational experiment, albeit a lavish one for such a small population (22 million)?
To understand this, note first that the underlying ideology of Australian public (government) education is secularism. As far back as 1872 the Victorian Secular Education Act was passed (Victoria is one of the states of Australian federation). This was designed to provide “Free, Compulsory and Secular” education to all students. The results are becoming increasingly evident today; education is both compulsory and ‘free’, but parents of students in government schools may seriously question the intended benefits and results of its ‘secular’ nature. The secularization of education was a stated attempt at unity and fairness to all students of all religious persuasions. The word ‘secular’ is defined as relating to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred. So, education was to be without religious input.
Immediately a conundrum became evident. Since a percentage of the students and their families are ‘religious’ and believe in God, albeit from different perspectives, and have a worldview as part of their faith—how can a secular non-religious, no-God education be fair to them? Doesn’t this secular position actually discriminate against those who have a faith?
Students in government schools are said to be free to have their own views or the views of their families on spiritual matters; they can follow any religion and worship any god without discrimination. Of course, this presents problems. How can so many differing views be accommodated? How can so many different faiths be allowed, without discrimination?
The answer that forces opposed to religion—Christianity in particular—seem to have gleefully adopted within schools is to progressively shut religion down entirely.
Until recently, students of each religion were free to be addressed for a lesson each week in the tenets of that religion by a volunteer religious teacher. The situation now is exemplified by the School Education Act 1999 (The Act), sections 66–71, which states that the curriculum and teaching in Western Australian public schools is not to promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect. Religious instruction will be scrapped from the curriculum of schools in the Australian state of Victoria from next year and replaced with teaching about building “respectful relationships”. Victoria announced earlier this year it would remove Scripture teaching from the curriculum during school times.
Australia’s National School Chaplaincy Program1, though valued by many, including many non-Christians, is also fighting for its existence against great opposition.
In general, the feeling throughout secular education is that religious instruction in all Australian state public schools should be removed and replaced by classes in ethics, morals, values, life skills and general education about religion. This would be taught by a class teacher, aiming to promote ‘diversity’ and ‘respect’ for diverse faiths. Coupled with the effect of evolutionary teaching in science classes, the overall message seems to be: All faiths (which, with their competing claims, cannot be equally true) need to be equally respected, since they are all equally false—simply cultural ‘comfort myths’.
All this presents a huge shift in ideological orientation, and the question, ‘How will this affect our students?’ must be asked. After spending a deal of time researching this question and recording results, I have come to some relatively contentious conclusions.
Firstly, the very words ‘secular education’ are exclusive and divisive. Rather than being generous and accepting to all, they refer to an attitude or worldview of non-religion; ‘no God’. This immediately favours an in-group, a group who are happy to be educated without any leanings toward a faith, or who are atheists.
All school books and materials must fulfil this goal. Every curriculum and every school lesson must lean in this direction. Every history lesson must trace man’s past as a purposeless progression without any spiritual involvement or plan. Literature must be read from a godless humanistic perspective. Biology is taught as if all living things are merely the random result of chance possibilities. Science is seen as the study of matter without reason, and of laws without a Lawgiver. Creation is seen as myth and all scientific evidence for it is ignored.
Secondly, what role is there for a Christian teacher? That teacher is requested to muzzle any religious views. What role is there for a Christian student? That student will not be provided with godly answers to big spiritual questions that arise in the context of real-world issues. What role is there for a Christian family? They must watch while their children are taught lifestyles within such ethics curricula as Victoria’s notorious and highly controversial ‘Safe Schools’ program (supposedly about bullying, but heavily focused on issues of homosexuality and transgenderism), which are clearly opposed to the morality and principles in the Bible.
Thirdly, secularism provides no foundation upon which students may build their lives. What intrinsic worth can a student ‘take home’ from teaching that claims that he/she is the result of pure chance, a lucky break in a blind, pitiless, indifferent universe? What ultimate purpose for a life does this present? How can ethics have validity or justification when there is no absolute standard undergirding morality? What actual result does such teaching about ‘ethical freedom’ have on the individual lives of students?
These questions and many more may seem fuzzy and far removed from day-to-day living; but where does a student go who has no reason for morality, no reason for their existence, and no assurance of personal worth, value, and purpose? Many such students see no purpose in studying and pursuing educational goals, fitting in with school and family structures, or having plans for the future. Why would they strain and suffer to achieve?
To meet this mandate of compulsory secularism, the content of lessons must be aligned to strenuously avoid faith foundations, and guided strongly so that huge chunks of history, biology, science, and literature are excluded. We only need look at the question of beginnings. A secular education refuses to condone the concept of creation or a Creator; any arguments from a Christian source would be labelled ‘myth’, while only those from a secular source would be acknowledged as ‘science’.
Students are left with a vague notion of ‘secular morality’, in which codes of acceptable behaviour can vary considerably between populations. In secular schools, freedom of choice is presented as a ‘major value’; can students in such a school possibly be fairly presented with the Christian positions on morality and sexual issues without innuendos and suggestions of these being ‘old-fashioned’ or even bigoted? In practise, the only choices that will be celebrated are those that are not Christian.
Can a curriculum founded on humanistic relativism tolerate or even comprehend a proper Christian worldview based on foundational biblical parameters?
Overall, then, can such a secular educational position ever be fair to any students and families who are not atheistic? Can such educational programs do anything but ignore huge chunks of wonderfully established science, history, and literature that show a Christian bias or foundation?
Whatever the answers to these questions are (and they seem obvious to me and I suspect many readers) our Australian governments, like so many others, have increasingly committed government schools to a pathway of rank secularism (that is, atheism). In this educational experiment, our children are the subjects (guinea pigs), whether they or we wish it or not. Our society will increasingly reflect the atheistic answers to the questions posed. Indeed, social surveys in Australia show that about half of year 10 students already identify as atheist, compared with almost none 50 years ago.
Dr Don Batten, CEO of CMI-Australia, writes:
When I first read this, I thought that any Christian parent reading this, in whatever country, would be yearning for some way to do something about this situation. One way is to prayerfully ‘immunise’ our own children. Bring them up soaked in creation information. Get quality resources like Creation magazine, and creation books and DVDs, and articles and videos from creation.com, and actively share these with them from an early age. Don’t shield them from evolution, but rather make sure they understand it ‘warts and all’, and can distinguish the ‘facts’ from the ‘spin’. Be ready and equipped to regularly discuss with them the facts and discoveries of the real world, how these are not a threat to biblical creation but make more sense in its light.
Also, help them face head-on the things they are learning at school and being bombarded with from the media. This made a huge difference to my own offspring, who are now adult believers with high qualifications, including in science areas. And for the sake of equipping others to do the same with their own children, do whatever you can to spread the truth of the message that God is Creator, and the Bible is reliable, and true science only helps confirm that. You can lovingly help others in your church to know how relevant and crucial Genesis history is to the integrity of the Gospel message—and that the Bible’s ‘big picture’ that makes it all hang together is acknowledged and proclaimed as factual and reliable. That means a real creation of a once-perfect world, followed by a real Fall into sin of a real Adam and Eve, with a real corruption of creation. Which is why Jesus came to die, so that believers (and the creation itself) will really be redeemed for eternity.
There are also the options of home-schooling and Christian schooling in many countries. With the latter, you still need to be strongly involved with educating your children. Creation.com has lots of resources to help with home-schooling, and there are Christian home-schooling organisations that can help.
Thank you also for getting behind our efforts, wherever you are in the world, to help us provide you with the needed resources, helping you get the word out!