22 May 2006

Presuppositions and Public Schools

I am experimenting with guest-blogging, and my friend, Peter, has agreed to be my guinea pig.

As for this particular post, I would like to address a recent forum discussion that I saw on CSPAN. This forum discussion revolved around the topic of “Teaching World Religion in Public Schools”. In this discussion, four persons sat on the panel, along with the moderator/host; high school students from around the US were then allowed to ask questions concerning the class.

Patrick S. Robert was one contributor on the panel, and his responsibilities in this course were related to class surveys and the like. As students embarked on this world religions class, they were surveyed concerning the question, “Is there only one religion that is true?” The obvious implication is that if one is true all others were then false. In the initial survey, the results were almost 50% to 50%. Interestingly, in an identical survey taken after the forum was completed, the results were essentially the same! Even with “more education” concerning beliefs around the world, students felt that either (a) only one religion was true, or (b) all/no religion is true. The panel felt that the course was a great success, for not only were students exposed to religions of the world (resulting in respect for other belief systems), but they became more entrenched in their own beliefs as a result of the class.

Before addressing the believer’s response to such a course or surveyed results, I would like to address the teaching philosophy that was employed in this endeavor. The mantra of this panel was emphasized by both Charles Haynes and Yvonne Taylor (Social Studies Teacher, Peter Johansen High School, Modesto, CA), stating that “We are not teaching religion; we are teaching about religion.” The panel felt that such a statement protected and qualified/validated their methodology. They claim to never force a particular religion on the class, but rather act neutrally in the discussion and merely provide guidance through various discussions. Such subtle shifts in semantics do not reconcile the fact that neutrality is not possible in such a discussion. If one teaches about religion, he/she is in fact teaching religion. I recognize that the instructor of the class was attempting to moderate a discussion without superimposing her views onto the class, but to say that the material was untainted by her personal bias/belief system is untrue.

All people operate off of what they believe. People with the Spirit operate off of a totally different set of beliefs than people without the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14–15). The results of their survey only show that believers become more solidified in their faith when recognizing that their presuppositional framework is sturdier than the false epistemological processes that pagans pursue. The unbelievers become solidified in their unbelief as “truth suppressors” (Rom 1:18). This survey reveals that 50% of America’s young people see no one objective standard of truth, and that the other 50% are confirmed in their belief system (whatever that system might be). “More education” does not produce right beliefs; as believers, we must pray that the Spirit would shine light into the minds of “truth suppressors” and that the gifts of repentance and faith might be made evident in lives.

--Peter

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