Christian Education: My Conclusions  

Monday, January 21, 2008

This is a continuing series on Christian Education. If you missed my first post on History or want to know the background behind these post you can find more information at Christian Education: History.

So, what are we to conclude about Christian education? Before I end the series I want to give a little background on my personal history with the A Beka Book curriculum.

I attended two private Christian schools from third until eighth grades that used the A Beka Book curriculum. I thought at the time I was getting a very good education and I did in the basics of math, science, history, reading, and writing. But as my analysis has shown much of the curriculum also lacked the teaching of controversial5 subjects or, in some cases, was taught with bias against ideas and concepts that are found to be in conflict with conservative Biblical doctrine.

Every morning we said a pledge to the American flag6, the Christian flag7, and the Bible8. Religion and patriotism were the major themes addressed throughout the day whatever subject we studied.

I remember one example of extreme jingoism in a story that I read in fourth grade. It was about an immigrant attending an American school. During her first week of class she became fascinated with the American flag due to all of the wonderful things that she learned about being an American. When the school caught on fire and the children were evacuated, she realized the flag was still in the building. She rushed back into the building to rescue the flag. After she dropped the flag from an upper story window, she fainted from smoke inhalation. She was rescued by firefighters and became a hero at the school.

Now I realize that stories are often fanciful at that age and I don't expect realism, but I think stories like this are dangerous. To encourage any child to enter a burning building to rescue a flag or to imply that an immigrant can gain acceptance through putting his or her life in extreme danger isn't a advisable.

But just how many schools actually use A Beka Book or other similar curriculum? The stats for A Beka Books website registers as few as 65,000 to more than 200,000 unique visitors per month.9 One study estimated there are as many as 10,000 evangelical and fundamentalist Christian schools in America.10 A simple search of "school uses A Beka Book Curriculum" on Google returns numerous results of school homepages.

And A Beka Books isn't the only fundamentalist curriculum. Two other major presses include Bob Jones University Press and School of Tomorrow/Accelerated Christian Education10. My older brother and sister studied under ACE, which was a "go at your own pace" type of structure where the students sat in small cubicles and taught themselves, putting a flag up when they needed help. ACE was eventually changed to School of Tomorrow when it needed a face lift.11

I do not believe my Christian education prepared me adequately for college, but it didn't hinder me in such a way that I wasn't able to get a degree either. I didn't pursue a degree in subjects that would have conflicted directly with what I had been taught, such as Biology, so maybe in that way I was lucky. I think part of the reason my interest didn't lie in science was due to the lackluster emphasis on facts and memorization from my elementary and middle school classes (although I did take two years of science during high school at a public school, so I can't completely blame my primary education).

Exposure to the world outside of the strict Christian confines allowed me to learn the subjects that were not broached or were not debated during my Christian education. So, although I do feel some anger about the education I received and the ignorance that was perpetuated, I was able to put it behind me and take the opportunity to learn. I made my own choice, the choice my educators wouldn't have wanted me to make, which is why they never gave me that choice.

I think many children find their way out of ignorance and the confines of religious dogma in the same way I did, but some are insulated their entire lives. I value free inquiry more because it wasn't always an option for me. I find it not just distasteful, but neglectful and hurtful for children to be kept in ignorance. It's important that all children are taught accepted academic practices. I'm not taking about "teaching the controversy", I'm talking about teaching the truth. And no, I don't believe truth is relative.

1. The Outline of History. Retrieved on 2008-01-11.
2. Theologic (February 27, 2007). "Spirit" -> The Paradox Of Free Will. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.
3. Plantinga, Alvin (July 14, 2002). Advice to Christian Philosophers. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.
4. Brabenec, Robert L. (1975). The Impact of Three Mathematical Discoveries on Human Knowledge. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.
5. (October 10, 2006). Creationist lawsuit against UC system to proceed. Retrieved on 2008-01-20.
6. (January 2, 2006). Creationist lawsuit against UC system to proceed. Retrieved on 2008-01-20.
7. Christian Flag. Retrieved on 2008-01-11.
8. Furnare, Cindy (June 14, 2001). What the Pledge Means on Flag Day 2001. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.
9. (rank 33,608). Retrieved on 2008-01-20.
10. Patterson, Frances (Winter 2001 / 2002). With God On Their Side.... Retrieved on 2008-01-14.*
11. Horner, Murphy (July 5, 2002). PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.

*For a more detailed analysis with specific texts cited read Frances Patterson's article.

Related Posts
Christian Education: History
Christian Education: Mathematics
Christian Education: Science
Christian Education: English

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

13 comments: to “ Christian Education: My Conclusions

  • Billy
    Monday, January 21, 2008 at 6:57:00 AM CST  

    Wonderful series of posts. I have had encounters (through educational programs at the historic site at which I work, and through non-professional contacts) over the years with christian-school and christian home school educated children. I much prefer public school groups as the ones from religious schools (and I know I am making an egregious generalization here) seem to lack the ability to make connections. I had wondered about this. Having read your posts here (and checking out some of the websites) I am beginning to understand.

    I have always thought that the most important thing school can do is teach an individual how to think. How to compare evidence and arrive at a conclusion. These books seem to come at it backwards: here is the conclusion, find the evidence to support it. If the conclusion is biblical innerency or biblical supremacy, the evidence must be presented in (as we see in the history courses you so eloquently described) a very limited and select format.

    Again, wonderful set of posts.

  • ordinary girl
    Monday, January 21, 2008 at 7:54:00 AM CST  

    Thanks, Billy. You summed up what I was trying to say very well and explain why "scientists" at such places as the Discovery Institute aren't scientists at all.

    For further reading I'd recommend everyone read Frances Patterson's article linked in the post. It's much more detailed, with examples from specific texts.

  • Billy
    Monday, January 21, 2008 at 8:08:00 AM CST  

    I freely admit that I don't know all the unwritten rules regarding blogging and commenting on threads. If this is out of line, please let me know.

    I currently have a guest post up over at Atheist Revolution ( regarding my take on the potential harm of religion-based education (I also have another guest post up at Spanish Inquisitor on religious abuse).

    (If this is out of line, please delete it)

  • ordinary girl
    Monday, January 21, 2008 at 8:14:00 AM CST  

    I admit I've never see a post on the proper blogging etiquette, but I think it's mostly acting as you would if you were visiting someone's home.

    And you're not out of line at all. Thanks for linking me to the post at Atheist Revolution. I don't think I've read it yet, but I would have made it to there eventually.

    I'll put links to both in my roundup on Saturday.

  • Mamacita Chilena
    Monday, January 21, 2008 at 10:47:00 AM CST  

    After reading your whole series of posts, I feel lucky. I was always annoyed by how much my education was influenced by the Christian religion. But what I had to go through pales in comparison to your education!

    I went to a public school so the teachers technically couldn't just go ahead and teach whatever they wanted to. But that didn't stop them all from pushing their beliefs upon us and making damn sure we knew that evolution is something that those "without faith" believe, or in debate class, letting us know that we can choose to debate for or against abortion, but if you're debating for it...well, that's wrong. Christian beliefs were peppered amongst all my classes even though my classes supposedly were not based on the foundation of Christian religion.

  • bbk
    Monday, January 21, 2008 at 12:29:00 PM CST  

    If you're still interested in the world of grade-school textbooks in America, you should read Lies My
    Teacher Told Me by James A. Loewen.

  • Anonymous
    Monday, January 21, 2008 at 12:41:00 PM CST  

    This has been a great series. Thanks for all the work you put into it. Lies My Teacher Told Me is slightly dated, but it captures accurately a lot of what was wrong with American public education in the 20th century.

    My children's public school education has been far superior to mine, as they've grown up in areas with good, progressive school systems. My PS education in northeastern PA sucked big time. I'm amazed that I even made into, let alone through, college with that foundation. It still makes me angry to think about how my youth was wasted in the PA schools.

  • The Exterminator
    Monday, January 21, 2008 at 1:23:00 PM CST  

    This was a fantastic series of posts, OG with an eloquent conclusion. I'd love to read a little about your personal awakening to the fact that there were "holes" in your education. Did you have small specific realizations that accumulated little by little, or did a floodgate open all at once?

    I will say, though, that Christian schools are most definitely NOT the only ones guilty of passing along biased material. As I mentioned before, my public school education in New York City during the 50s and 60s was pretty consistent in its liberal populist propagandizing. I remember, back in my (thankfully brief) Ayn Rand mania phase, losing five points on a social studies essay question by challenging my teacher's assumptions.
    Q: Name five great things Franklin D. Roosevelt did for all Americans during the 1930s.
    A: Franklin D. Roosevelt didn't do anything great for all Americans in the 1930s, but five things you'd like me to mention are...

    Those five points came off because, according to the teacher, I hadn't been asked to state my opinion. They stayed "lost" because neither the educational powers-that-be nor my parents would argue in my favor. Apparently, I had gone against dogma, and was clearly in error.

  • John Evo
    Monday, January 21, 2008 at 2:46:00 PM CST  

    I agree with Ex, that it's not only Parochial schools. Here in L.A. we had a strange mixture. On the one hand, we had things like Latino studies and Black history. On the other hand, I learned about evolution because it sounded interesting to me, seemed like no one was teaching it, and I went out and read a book about it!

    In 2008, I'm guessing that you don't have the same lack of education about things like evolution (here in L.A.). But I'll bet that the Politically Correct crowd have the kids learning a lot about cultural equivalency and the notion that "right/wrong answers" are subjective.

    So don't feel too bad about your education OG. I think most students get as much out of it as they are interested in learning. You did a good job of self-educating in some areas. I certainly learned much more in the years following high school than during them.

  • Spanish Inquisitor
    Monday, January 21, 2008 at 8:40:00 PM CST  

    OG, I agree with Evo's last sentiment. I've always said that to my kids (and wished they actually listened to me for a change) that it didn't matter what school you went to, if you are really interested in learning, you will get out of the class exactly what you put into it, and then some. So, even in a private Christian Academy, there is knowledge for the taking.

    I went to Catholic schools (as you know) and while I had to spend a considerable portion of my education taking religion classes, on the whole I felt like my education was very good, especially in High School. We had enough lay and religious teachers who valued knowledge for its own sake, and a lot of that rubbed off on me.

    I will say, however, that I consider myself a partial autodidact, because I feel that much of what I know I sought out and discovered on my own. A thirst for knowledge really helps, especially if you are in an environment that simply wants to dictate knowledge, rather than teaching you how to discover it on your own.

  • Babs
    Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 11:43:00 PM CST  

    Oh my. The flashbacks I'm having. I had forgotten all about pledging the bible, but we did. As well as the flags. I also went through the ACE program through fourth grade. We had two flags. One was for questions, and I think the other one may have been if you needed to get up to grade your work. Maybe if it was if you were ready for the test. It's all fuzzy, thankfully, very fuzzy.

  • Vistaluna
    Friday, January 25, 2008 at 10:02:00 AM CST  

    Wow. Excellent series of posts OG! I had heard of this kind of indoctrination, but never knew the details.

    I received a completely different form of indoctrination. I got mine "Southern Bible Belt" style. I went to public schools, so the text books were neutral, but the people were not. Every student and every teacher was devout Christian, and many were militant Christian.

    If you questioned the Bible, you risked serious physical harm to you or your family or your pets. yourself. I am not exaggerating. And when it happens there is NOBODY you can go to for help.

    But, in a way, physical intimidation is easier to resist than mental intimidation. "Believe what we believe or we'll hurt you" is not as intellectually persuasive as "Here are conclusive arguments from the experts, and here is what we believe, so if you don't believe this there must be something wrong with you."

    I would find it harder to resist the latter. The latter is far more subtle and insidious. If you are in school, how can you argue with the textbook? What makes you think you are smarter than all the adults?

    But when someone's only answer to your arguments is to swing at you with a baseball clearly have the intellectual high ground...even though that does nothing to protect you from a bat. :)

  • ordinary girl
    Friday, January 25, 2008 at 10:16:00 AM CST  

    Vistaluna, that's terrible! It might be more subtle and persuasive to teach a child through authority, but it certainly sounds less dangerous than what you went through.

    I'm glad you got out of good ol' Kentucky!


Design by Amanda @ Blogger Buster