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Educational Scarecrows
Margaret E Stucki

Reprinted with permission from Christian Educator, November, 1973, pp.29-30.


"The Center for Humanities, Inc.," offers for about $100.00 each, over a dozen programs of slide-sound-script integrated Sets of questions and answers on a variety of very important subjects such as: The Origins of American Values: The Puritan Ethic to the Jesus Freaks, Man and His Gods: An Inquiry into the Nature of Religion, and Man's Search for Identity; the latter being the one I sent for, is discussed here with these questions in mind: What is the purpose of these programs? Who has compiled them? What answers do they present to the problems they pose, if any?

So come with me and search for your identity in the Center for Humanities program. Part I begins with a voice that says, "Where do go?.... Is there an answer that tells me why I live and die?.... I am told to, "Follow the sea-gull, the smiles of children, the wind, the thunder, and the neon light in the eyes of young lovers down to the gutter, up to the glitter into the city where the truth lies." End of the voice or introduction to Part I. Note: we've taken a stroll down to the beach where the gulls sail on the wind and the thunder warns us to scurry home like a mouse to its burrow. But, as for me, much as I adore nature as the visible creation of God, I do not identify with the surf or the ocean or the shrieking gulls. I am something more, and the answer is not blowing in the wind. It is in the Word of God, the Holy Scripture. Nowhere in this program prepared to help youngsters find themselves is the Bible mentioned. A lion, a horse, a dog, a fly, - and other creatures are mentioned but not Jesus, the Son of God who said that, "lam the Way, The Truth and the Life." Surely it would be more fitting to have a painting of The Last Supper by one of the great masters of Western art than to have a self portrait of Rembrandt or Marilyn Monroe which we are offered.

In the second paragraph we are told that only one species of animal has no model and no map for behavior. The ten commandments are ignored and we are told that human beings have to "create themselves by establishing their own social organization . . . each generation establishes its own standards" which often differ from our parents'. We are not asked if we believe that standards are relative, we are told that they constantly change. What seems to be a leisurely trip in search of our id identity, is in reality a guided tour, subtly steered through the rites of passage from a South Seas circumcision and a Bar Mitzvah, through a concentration camp and a shipwreck and a black girl who hated blacks even more than whites because she had been born, to a VOICE that repeats, "Where do I go?... Will I ever discover why I live and die?" The paintings that go with the question of the VOICE are Along the Beach, Clarinet Player, After the San Francisco Conference, and Looking Out to Sea. Again we are left stranded on the sand.

Who selected the slides? There are numerous magnificent statements by great artists on this topic of "Where do I go?" A Bosch triptych comes to mind of a couple sitting on the Haywagon of Life with Heaven and Hell in the wings waiting for the outcome of the decisions made by the people sitting in the hay. Choice is implied as well as punishment and reward. There is no reference made in the program to sin or the possibility of error in personal judgment. The individual is glorified in his lonely, aimless, uncharted wandering. We may feel sorry for him to the original music from the Broadway musical, Hair. Who picked the music? Bach, Handel and Beethoven knew better the melody to the score along the way from thither to the Beyond.

We have come to Part II. The Narrator tells us of the feeling of "The Catcher in the Rye" who wants to "catch" children before they fall over a cliff. In the immediately following paragraph to this wish by the "catcher" we are told, "Daddy's going to kill you," and with that statement we are given a slide by Henry Matisse of "The Snail." What a perfectly hideous combination or sequence of thoughts this is. Following the snail we are given children's art a juggler and a parade and we are told. "We're captive on the carousel of time," and all we have to do is go around and around in circles. This is more of the same comfort" that we have been getting in our search for identity. It's been coming along rather poorly until now, I would say. wouldn't you?

Continuing. we are told that we may have to take a stand rejecting what society requires, or against the law. For example, we are given Huck Finn who refuses to turn his runaway slave, Jim, over to the authorities. We are given, also, Nora in Ibsen's "Doll House," who chooses to determine her own life and blame society for her lack of self-fulfillment. Paragraph sixty-eight quotes from a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald in which the hero could rebel freely. "There was no God in his heart, he knew."

At the end of the program there are topics for discussion which are very meaningful but unfortunately no Christian guidance is given. Kant Nietzsche, Hesse, Wylie, Joyce. and Wolfe are some of the writers suggested for reading in the bibliography. In non-fiction they recommend Fromm's "The Art of Loving." Goodman's "Growing Up Absurd," Riesman's "The Lonely Crowd," Skinner's "Beyond Freedom and Dignity." Tillich's "The Courage to Be" as examples. All of these books are interesting reading but when it comes to fundamentals or beginnings. there is no substitute for the Bible. Marx's "Manifesto" is sup- posed to have outsold the Bible this year. It's not a question of owning a Bible or selling it, but, taking it by faith and living it. Hundreds of thousands of school children are being indoctrinated by these humanities programs. Teachers are urged to purchase them with federal funds. We are not given the authors of the programs. Who are the people putting these programs together and what is their philosophy of life? They seem to have unlimited funds at their disposal.

Our schools are flooded with indoctrination unlimited and the total rejection of all absolutes. Included with the program is the promise of a free print of an Andrew Wyeth painting of a scarecrow entitled "Man's Search for Identity," which incidentally. I have never received even though I phoned for my print. Maybe it is just as well that I did not receive my scarecrow. I am in charge of a field of human souls, my pupils, and not a field of cornstalks.

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