In this space I have been very critical of American public education and rightly so. It was a flawed system from its beginnings in the nineteenth century (which probably did a better job of educating students than its intellectual foundations even intended) but which, in the post-World War II era, has utterly collapsed into subjectivism. The public school system was never really intended to educate students as education was classically understood. The true purpose of public education was to create conformity with the status quo. In the nineteenth century, the intent was to make cultural Protestants out of Roman Catholic immigrants. In the early twenty first century, however, its function is to create obedient, postmodern Marxists, and it is succeeding very well.
The American public school system is also manifestly a hunting ground for sexual predators. This is beyond dispute. The evidence is in the news every day. For whatever reasons (ideological, political, union influence) this scandal does not receive the coverage it warrants, but in time, when it is possible to aggregate local news stories, we need not rely on the national media any longer.
There are some reasons for mild optimism about the future of education in America. As we have seen in the news, during Covid, parents found out what was happening in America’s classrooms and there was a revolt. Blue Virginia voted in a Republican governor who ran on cleaning up the schools, and school boards across the nation were so frightened by angry parents showing up to their meetings that they and the teachers’ unions unleashed the FBI on parents. That is a good sign but it is not enough.
Private schools are an obvious alternative to the mess that is the public school system, but private schools are not without their problems. As I am writing, Project Veritas is featuring a story about a dean of a Chicago private school who instructing students, in detail, in sexual perversion. Warning: The topics covered are quite graphic.
It might be tempting to think of private schools (Christian or non-Christian) as a panacea to the problems inherent in the American educational system. They are not. In too many cases private schools are simply privately-funded photocopies of the the public model. They start with the same assumptions, the operate on the same factory model (bell rings, students move en masse to the next station), they use similar curricula, and they draw teachers from the same teachers’ colleges from the same universities.
Education in America needs to be re-thought from the ground up. Homeschooling and Christian schools are alternatives, but more than alternative models, American parents need to give serious consideration to the nature of education. What are schools supposed to do and why? What is the purpose of a school? Why do we send our children to school in the first place? How will we know if our children are being truly educated? These are the questions for another time, however.
What concerns us now is the reality that the same sorts of parents who voluntarily take their children to see a man dressed as a woman, performing sexually-charged dance routines before their children also send their children to private schools. The reality is that all schools are a pool of the (world)views of the parents who send their children to that school. Sending one’s children to a school is an act of faith in the other parents who are sending children to that school. The reality is that whatever community of values and virtues that once existed (e.g., c. 1850–1950) simply no longer exists.
To give some perspective, had a man dressed as a female stripper appeared, or had a teacher taught students how to practice homosexual sex in any of the public schools I attended (1966–79), he would have been arrested, charged, prosecuted, or hospitalized for mental illness. Had parents conspired to introduce children to such a figure, they would have been arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor or some such. In short, what has become commonplace in America was unthinkable not that long ago.
Parents are voluntarily taking their small children to see “Drag Queen Story Hour” and paying exorbitant tuition to elite private schools where they know that their children are being taught things that would have caused a stir in Sodom and Gomorrah. What does this mean? These episodes are a way to take the spiritual temperature of the nation and the indications are not good. The patient is very sick. Indeed, according to the Apostle Paul, by nature, after the fall, all of us are “dead in trespasses and sin” (Eph 2:1–2). After the fall, we are not basically good—contradicting one of the pillars of the Modern view of humanity. Because of God’s restraining providence and grace, we do not do all the evil of which we are capable, but from time to time it is almost as if the Lord lifts his restraining hand ever so slightly so as to give us a glimpse of what is possible, and that foretaste is terrifying to all rational people.
As I said (behind the paywall) in the recent interview with the Babylon Bee, these are indications of a heart problem. We are in the midst of the third wave of the sexual revolution. The first wave began in the nineteenth century, while Christendom was tottering but still in place. The second wave occurred in the late 1960s through the late 70s, just before Christendom (the prevailing culturally Christian consensus) collapsed. The current wave, signaled by the Obergefell decision (2015), is what the sexual revolution looks like after Christendom, under the prevailing influence of neo-paganism. It is what sex looks like after virtue and after nature.
It is true that the law is a teacher. When the state legalizes something (e.g., marijuana with a high THC content), it tacitly approves of it. This is what the radical Libertarians do not understand. The state exists for a reason: to maintain order and to restrain the worst impulses in human behavior. There is no legislation, however, that can change the human heart. The law, in its nature, can only instruct, prohibit, regulate, and condemn. It cannot change the heart, i.e., the affections. It cannot change the mind or the will.
What the recent episode at the private school in Chicago illustrates is the pervasiveness of human corruption. It is in elite private schools. It is in Christian schools (see the resources below), and, of course, it is in the public schools. It also illustrates the limits of law and policy. As important as they are, they can only do so much.
This is why Christians have to take seriously both nature and grace. Only God the Holy Spirit can change human hearts. This is why our Lord said to Nicodemus (John 3), “You must be born again.” This is why Justin Martyr told Trypho (his non-Christian, Jewish interlocutor) that he needed to be born again. There is simply no way round it. Nature is capable of much but it is incapable of the supernatural, and the granting of new life is a supernatural gift (Eph 2:8–9).
Politics and policy is a matter of nature and thus of law. Politics and policy are important but they are not the most important thing. All empires crumble. No one thought, when Paul wrote Romans c. AD 58, that the Roman Empire would collapse but it did. No one thought, in the thirteenth century, that the Holy Roman Empire would collapse or that, in three centuries, the papacy would be unable to silence a single German monk.
Ronald Reagan was fond of appropriating John Winthrop’s language about a city on a hill. The great American scholar Perry Miller made his career by writing about that language and American exceptionalism. Christians know, however, that the city on a hill is a city “that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:10). Christians have a responsibility to love their neighbors by serving them, by engaging the culture (nature), but we do so always with the understanding that the city of man is always and necessarily temporal and temporary. Jesus suffered outside the city gate (Heb 13:12) and the writer of Hebrews calls us to “go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured” (Heb 13:13).
The best thing we can do for our neighbors, our schools, and our neighborhoods is to pray. The time is late. The Apostle Paul says about “the last days” (which began with Christ’s ascension),
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people (2 Tim 3:2–5; ESV).
It almost seems as if Paul was reading the news feed on our phones, but he was not. He was thinking about history and about his own experience. Sometimes those vices wane and right now they are waxing. So it is between the ascension and return of Christ. There are no earthly golden ages before Christ’s return. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit is still the “Lord and giver of life,” as we confess in the Nicene Creed. He can change the hearts of those parents who think that their virtue signaling about “inclusivity” is more important than the soul of their children, who think that the corruption of nature comes without consequences. The Spirit can and does put the fear of God, new life, and true faith in the hearts humans and that, more than anything else, is what is wanted. Jesus said, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8; ESV). Amen. So let it be.
©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.
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