Friday, August 28, 2009

Religion in School

I have been reading "The Well Trained Mind" by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise and I love the method of learning that they describe. I have been making my way through book after book on homeschooling and so far this method, which is based on the idea of a Classical Education, is my favorite. I wish my education had been based on this method. I was my high school valedictorian, but I spent most of my education sitting in class, daydreaming and bored. While education concerns aren't the reason we decided to homeschool (social concerns are, which is funny since everyone asks "aren't you worried you children won't be 'socialized.'") I'm really excited about this particular method. I'll be writing more about it as I go along, but today this section, on religion, really jumped out at me:

"Public schools, which have the impossible task of teaching children of many different faiths, must proclaim neutrality. We don't deal in matters of faith, the teachers explain. We're neutral.

Think about this for a minute. Arguing for the presence of God is generally considered "biased." Assuming His absence is usually called "neutral." Yet both are statements of faith; both color the teacher's approach to any subject; both make a fundamental assumption about the nature of men and women.

To call this neutrality is intellectually dishonest.

Education cannot be neutral when it comes to faith: it is either supportive or destructive. The topic of education is humanity, its accomplishments, its discoveries, its savage treatment of its own kind, its willingness to endure self-sacrifice. And you cannot learn- or teach- about humanity without considering God.

Let's take biology for example. Mammals are characterized by, among other things, their tendency to care for and protect their young. Do mothers love their babies because of sheer biological imperative? If so, why do we come down so hard on fathers who neglect their children? It's a rare male mammal that pays much attention to its young. Do fathers love their babies because of the urge to see their own genetic material preserved or because fathers reflect the character of the father God? How should a father treat a defective child? Why?

We don't blame the public schools for sidestepping these sorts of questions. In most cases it's the only strategy they can adopt.

Yet this separation of religious faith from education yields an incomplete education. We're not arguing the religion should be "put back" into public schools. We'd just like some honesty; an education that takes no notice of faith is, at the very least, incomplete."

On a different note, I was very excited today at dinner when I asked Sadie if she was all done or if she wanted more food and she made the ASL sign for "more." She's like a little sponge, always learning and then using what she's learned. We bought the Signing Time DVDs when she was very small but we haven't watched them much lately. Occasionally, when I remember (like tonight) I'll make the signs I know. Babies are so amazing!


  1. You might also like Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist and/or The Latin Centered Curriculum by Drew Campbell. There are may Catholic options out there for homeschool curriculum.

  2. I'm excited to see that there is another mom of a young child (not that close to homeschooling age yet) that reads books about homeschooling. I read The Well Trained Mind last summer (right around the time you were reading it) and have since obtained all 3 editions because I am obsessed with Susan Wise Bauer's philosophy of education. I struggle now how to make it Catholic. Her SOTW books have a Protestant slant, although are great storybooks on history for kids. At least we have a few years to keep researching and finding just the right curriculum for our families!:)


I love comments and I read every single comment that comes in (and I try to respond when the little ones aren't distracting me to the point that it's impossible!). Please show kindness to each other and our family in the comment box. After all, we're all real people on the other side of the screen!