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Vol. IX • 1987

Indoctrination by Our Public Schools
Jerry Bergman

Christians, for the past dozen years or so, have become increasingly discouraged with the public school system (Whitehead, 1985). The writer, as a public school educator, has taught from pre-school to the graduate level for almost a decade and a half. His experience has forced him to conclude that this discouragement is fully justified.

Schools, Indoctrination Centers?
Schools are openly indoctrination institutions, designed to inculcate in their students a specific set of values and beliefs. As Roberts (1981:28) notes:

From a Christian view, some of the values and beliefs indoctrinated are positive (a love of learning) but others are negative (the discarding of all absolute values). A major problem is that the anti-Christian side of religious questions are often forcefully and persuasively presented with impunity, but the Christian position is typically censored out of the curriculum Bergman, 1980). The reason for this one-sided indoctrination is that the anti-Christian position is "secular," and thus can be taught. The Christian side, though, is viewed as "religious," and separation of church and state requirements, it is often successfully but incorrectly argued, prohibits this side from being presented (Whitehead, 1983, 1985). While teaching content guidelines are often not rigidly enforced, and somewhat up to the discretion of the teacher, a strong pervasive pattern exists for the anti-Christian side to be presented far more often, especially in the larger city and suburban school districts. The creation view of origins, it is felt, cannot be taught because it is "religious," but the anti-creation position can because it is secular, and is not teaching "religion," and therefore is objective and "proper." Enforcement of this position is ironically more common at the higher grade levels.

The writer's experience is that positive comments about Christian values and religion in general, in both the behavioral and natural sciences, are rare, especially at the college level. On the other hand, negative comments (many times inaccurate or grossly distorted, to say the least) are commonly made. In the writer's entire undergraduate education (four majors) and graduate trainmg (completion of the equivalent of three Ph.D.s) he has heard, at best, three clearly positive comments about Christianity

These comments specifically were, that "the church" has historically assumed a major responsibility in the care ofthe mentallyand physically sick (during the middle ages, it was noted, in many monasteries the care was of fairly high quality and very compassionate). The second was made by a strongly anti-Christian professor who almost every class criticized both religious believers and their beliefs. Yet, he once admitted that the only effective rehabilitation that he had seen work in prison was religious conversion. The third comment was by a Jewish professor who stated that, for ancient historical writing, the Old Testament contained a lot of "wisdom," and a remarkably high level of insight. He was not implying that the Hebrew Scriptures were God's word land made this clear) but only that their level of insight was "interesting!" His other comments about religion were quite critical, especially of Christianity

On the other hand, I can remember countless negative comments toward Christianity and religion in general. A few of my professors seemed to feel that their main goal in the class was to lambast Christian and all religious beliefs, values, ideas, and persons. And most of the time, when they did so, religion had nothing to do with the subject matter at hand. For example, in one undergraduate biology class (which was recorded and transcribed), the professor often mocked Christianity Below are some excerpts which not only reveal the professor's lack of knowledge about the Scriptures but are obviously totally inappropriate in a biology classlin this class alonethe professor spent an entire houi; nonstop, criticizing Christianity and the Bible).

Although many professors do not go to this extreme, similar ignorance is constantly passed off as "knowledge" in our university classrooms today! In a graduate level course entitled "Myth and Myth Making," although the professor was extremely knowledgeable and very open to alternative points of view (he was an excellent discussion facilitator), it was clear from most of the student comments that, among other things, they assumed a priori that evolution is true, and as no one mentioned theistic evolution, atheistic evolulion was implied. While few blatantly anti-religious comments were made, the underlying assumptions were basically this view. This form of indoctrination, though, is more subtle but far more effective. If a student verbalized, "I think that God is a myth and does not exist," this confrontation might elicit any latent religious feelings that other students still had.

Blatant propaganda is far less effective, and this makes the pervasive indoctrination of the public schools all the more dangerous. As an example, in this class, half of one class period was spent discussing allusions to animals in everyday speech (he is as sly as a fox, eats like a bird, is messy as a pig, etc.) as well as in literary metaphors. Several of the students suggested that these allusions were common because of man's kinship with animals and that, indeed, humans could have inherited some of these traits from these particular animals in their long line of evolution, in essence picking and choosing traits along the way Thus humans, indeed, do have traits that some animals manifest. Although students suggested that there are many inaccuracies (owls are not actually wise compared to birds, pigs are among the smartest of animals, etc.) nonetheless, the alleged similarities were noted.

Probably the best example of indoctrination, partially because it is clearly anti-religious, is that typically found in Death and Dying classes. The writer has had several courses titled variously Death andflying Bereavemenfl Sociology of Aging and similar classes. In all of these courses, it was specifically taught as fact, and no one questioned it, that there is no life after death, and that the person dying "must accept this fact" instead of utilizing "rationalizations" or "delusions" to deal with "reality" such as death is not the end of life. Also criticized were such euphemisms as "passed away," he is now "beyond the veil" or "is with the Lord." In several classes it was specifically stressed that these terms should never be used in reference to the dying or dead. The person is simply "dying" or "has died" and, except in our memory, is gone forever In the three classes the writer has been part of, there was no recognition of, or even awareness indicating that many people believe that death of the body is not the everlasting end of the person's consciousness or existence. This teaching is clearly, blatantly anti-Christian. The courts have consistently ruled that, by law, the slate is not to be hostile toward religion. Yet instruction in colleges typically is such. The instruction in these classes was specific and matter-of-fact. There is no life after death.

This is obviously a subject of great importance to most religions. It touches at the heart of the meaning of our relationshipto our Creator and the message of many western religions. Religion, especially Christianity and those that share its heritage, including the Judaism and the Islam faith, are especially concerned with salvation and the assurance of one's life after physical death. This very position often taught in the schools and colleges is a primary teaching of latent atheism. The Detroit chapter of American Atheists, in its newsletter, published an article entitled, "Atheists Die God Believers Pass On" which notes that the primary difference between atheists and "God believers" is that atheists find "strength that comes from facing [th~ reality [of death as the final end] head on and dealing with it." This is exactlythe attitude which was openly conveyed in the death and dying, bereavement, and psychology-sociology of aging courses that the author pursued.

The Textbooks
Most textbooks express, at least covertly, an anti-Christian bias. One text on Delinquency Empy (1982), repeatedly stressed the "inferiority" of Christian principles and concepts. It was in parts especially critical of the Christian teaching of the innate depravity of man (and the necessity to "bring up a boy according to the way from him" to counteract the natural tendencies of selfishness, etc.). Christianity was repeatedly misrepresented (although the author had to admit that Christian acts of charity, kindness, etc., were frequent, if not common, in history). yet, this text was actually more balanced than many that the writer has used in his teaching

Probably one of the most serious and common areas of censorship of creationism and theism in general is from textbooks (Bergman 1980). The writer; in order to earn the equivalent of three doctorate degrees, and from his teaching experience of over 18 years, has read literally hundreds of textbooks. Virtually all of them assume a priori that there is no God, rarely even adopting the agnostic position. A textbook he used last term, Anthropology, by Ember & Ember (1985) assumes apriori reverse creationism, i.e., man created God, not the other way around. The only question is how and why we created theos. One of the many theories developed to answer these two questions was that the human mind "needs" to explain certain events, such as the universe's existence, Thus our creation of God. Another is the idea that "the God belief" is functional because it unifies society, facilitating social harmony and societal bonds which reduce the likelihood of suicide and other problems that stem from anomie. Another theory of why man created God, by Karl Marx, slates that the idea of God is used by the powerful to control the powerless.

A neutral position would take the agnostic view, i.e., note that some people believe that God indeed exists, and thus religion is a cultural universal because, as a result of the interaction of humans and God, humans have learned about Him. An example would be through the revelation as recorded in the Scriptures. Since all persons came from Adam, who clearly knew that God created him, this belief would be a universal cultural heritage, modified only by time and local conditions, Thus religion, for this reason, would be a cultural universal. This option could be presented in addition to the reverse creationism position, helping the text be fair and balanced, presenting both sides. These are only a few examples of an almost universal problem in secular education. The Scriptural solution, as summarized by Hanes (1983:30), is as follows:

This state of affairs did not always exist, but is fairly recent. As Henry (1984: 1) notes:

The recent example of the Tennessee mother who was jailed over a "textbook battle," illustrates that more and more this indoctrination is becoming "forced." In this case the school refused to consider any alternatives to a "mandatory" reading book which, according to the mother, Mrs. Frost, advocated values to which she was strongly opposed. Ironically, the principal accused the mother of being a part of a "parental action group" which is part of a national anti-public education movement that would like to indoctrinate students in its narrow religious and philosophical point of view" (quoted in Clark, 1984:62).

Those who are endeavoring to achieve a more balanced presentation of origins and a less dogmatic teaching of atheistic evolution can attest that the controversy is not over the humanists trying to present a balanced view and the Christians a one-sided view, but more often the humanists wanting to indoctrinate their point of viewonly, and the creationists wanting at least a fair hearing.

The Christian response is to be aware specifically of the conditions in one's local school district, especially if one's own children, grandchildren, etc., attend. Secondly, one must bring to the attention of school boards problems of anti-religious bias. To do this, curriculum materials and textbooks must be examined and students asked as to what was discussed in the class. The concern is not censorship, but insuring that the Christian position is fairly presented and that the prevalent anti-Christian indoctrination is modified so as to reduce the psychological rape of our Christian children (Glenn, 1985).


Bergman, Jerry. "Does Academic Freedom Apply to Both Secular Humanists and Christians?," Impact Feb. 1980, pp. i-iv.
Bird, Wendell. "Freedom of Religion and Science Instruction in Public Schools," The Yale Law Journal Vol. 87, No.3 Jan. 1978.
_____ "Freedom From Establishment and Unneutrality in Public School Instruction and Religious School Regulation," Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy Vol. 2,1979.
Clark, Suzanne. "Tennessee Mother Jailed Over Textbook Battle," Fundamentalist Journal Feb. 1984, p.62.
Ember, Carol R. and Melvin Ember Anthropology Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1985.
Empy, La Mar, American Delinquency Homewood, IL: The Dorsey Press, 1982.
Glenn, Charles. "Why Public Schools Don't Listen," Christianity Today Sept. 20, 1985, pp.13-16.
Hanes, Cliff. "The Interference Factor;" Solo, Fall 1983.
Henry Carl. "The Crisis of Modern Learning," Imprimis, Vol.13, No, 2, February 1984.
Robertson, Ian. Sociology San Francisco, CA: Worth Pub. Co., 1981.
Whitehead, John W. The Freedom of Religious Expression in the Public Schools. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1983.
_____ "Freedom in the Public Schools; Standing Against the Tide of Secularism," Fundamentalist Journal Sept.1985, pp.17-19.

"Indoctrination by Our Public Schools"
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