Let me ask you a question. Which is worse: The drugs your children might pick up in public school, or the ideas? It’s a serious question, asked mainly because parents seem inordinately fearful of substances and much less so about thoughts. But thoughts can be dangerous things.

“The mischief done by bad ideologies, surely, is much more pernicious, both for the individual and for the whole society, than that done by narcotic drugs,” said Ludwig von Mises. It’s not far-fetched. Really, which was worse: Crack or Marxism?

Schools exist to dispense thoughts, to train the minds of children and provide them with the information and theoretical wherewithal to make sense out of the world. If that sounds like too lofty a job description, certainly some public school teachers would say I was actually downplaying their importance.

In his book, “My Pedagogic Creed,” education theorist John Dewey went so far as to say, “The teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God.”

Lofty indeed. Sounds like Muhammad with a chalkboard.

Dewey said also, “The teacher is engaged, not simply in the training of individuals, but in the formation of the proper social life.” Make sure you stumble a bit on “proper.” Trip over it again if you need the import of that little word to really sink in: “formation of the proper social life.”

What is proper is, of course, something humans have only been debating about since the Fall. The reason we have disagreements on religion, philosophy, policy and whether it’s OK to wear Bermuda shorts to church boils down simply to the fact that what is proper – socially, ideologically, etc. – is not an easily decided thing.

If you’re a Christian, you have the Bible, which – despite the fact that Christians have a hard time agreeing on what it says (handcuff an Arminian and a Calvinist together for a week if you doubt me) – provides a common foundation from which to work. In that broad commonality, most disagreements can be reconciled.

But handcuff a Christian together with – take your pick – a Hindu, a naturalist, an atheist, a Buddhist, a New Age spiritualist, a Wiccan, a Mormon, a Muslim or Miss Cleo, and many disagreements will be completely irreconcilable because the various belief systems contain presuppositions that are mutually contradictory.

Each of those systems will interpret facts based on their respective presuppositions. The naturalist, for instance, will not look at science the same way a Hindu will, or a Christian. He presumes nothing exists beyond the material world. The Hindu and the Christian disagree with him emphatically.

So how does that play in school?

The science teacher will likely be a good naturalist. He’ll thus discount the notion of intelligent design or creation because that presupposes something outside nature. We can’t have that, so, evolution becomes the ruling theory.

Of course, that also leaks out into other fields as well – say, any discussion about the environment, something rife in public schools. Ecology and environmental policy hinge on one’s worldview as much as a belief in God – especially if you believe God made the environment. Even someone basically anti-religious can object. Economist Steven E. Landsburg has written about his objection to his daughter being schooled in “environmentalism,” which he slams as “increasingly like an intrusive state religion.”

By its nature, a worldview is pervasive. It informs and answers questions of ethics and morality, economics and politics, arts and culture. Every sphere of life is affected by an individual’s philosophy.

Yet, strangely, parents seem out of the loop when it comes to what their children learn in school, how they learn it and at the expense of what they might have learned otherwise. Many parents, of course, do care a great deal. But for those that do not, stop and think about some things:

Does the worldview of your children’s teachers jibe with yours? How does that affect what your child is learning? Balanced with whatever instruction she gets at home, who is having the bigger impact? Do you want a naturalist telling your child what is proper? Landsburg might, but what about someone who’s Jewish or Muslim?

As James Dobson has been pointing out recently, public schools across the nation are pushing curriculum increasingly supportive of homosexuality, postmodernism, secularism and … take your pick of anything pooh-poohed by Holy Writ.

Dobson’s solution? “In the state of California and places that have moved in the direction that they’ve gone with the schools, if I had a child there, I wouldn’t put that youngster in the public schools,” he said in his March 28 “Focus on the Family” broadcast.

Earlier this week, he not only reiterated that notion but went further, basically recommending that Christian teachers bail out of public schools as well. This idea is, of course, not new. It sparked the private-school renaissance of the ’70s and ’80s and fuels the growing home-schooling movement today. No, not a new idea, but a great idea.

At bottom, the issue isn’t about what philosophy you as a parent hold, but how much you care about what philosophy your child is getting force-fed at school.

If you are concerned about what drugs your child may be putting into his body, be triply concerned with what is going into his mind and yank him out of public school.


Related columns:

‘Freedom’ banned in school?

Overgrowing education


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