Education – The Influence of Naturalism

Posted: December 5, 2013 in Apologetics, Christians & Culture, Education, Politics

EducationI am currently working on a project analyzing the worldview of naturalism and its effect on society and the Christian church. I plan to post a few blogs showing what naturalism is, and its current impact on different aspects of western culture.

OK, so what the heck is naturalism? Well, it does not mean that you love nature. Naturalism is basically the view that nature is all that exists. There is no god, no supernatural, and no immaterial realities. Imagine the universe as a box. Everything that exists, exists in the box, and nothing exists outside the box. The universe is basically a cause and effect machine comprised of matter and energy. In the words of Carl Sagan, “The universe is all there is, all there was, and all there ever will be.” Accompanying this view is the lack of objective morality, purpose, design, or end goal in the world.

Now naturalism may sound absurd to many – as it should – but sadly this view dominates the halls of academia and has profoundly impacted the thoughts and actions of average American citizens. Let’s briefly examine how this destructive philosophy has impacted education. In the coming posts, I will address the impact on mental healthcare, law, vocation, human life, and the church.

Naturalism’s Impact on Education

The quality of education in America, specifically public education, is extremely deficient. Nearly 20% of high school graduates cannot read, America consistently ranks below other countries in reading, math, and science, and employers are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of job candidates who can write and speak proficiently. These alarming statistics point to a deep problem rooted in our philosophy of education. Having embraced a naturalistic mindset, modern Americans have abandoned notions of goodness, truth, and beauty in lieu of pragmatism.

Since God is removed from the educational picture, with him must go objective morality, intrinsic human value, purpose and meaning, objective beauty, and any sort of educational ideal. According to the thoughts of modern educational architects, objective standards are replaced with “what works.” The new goal of education is to create men and women fit for democratic society – persons who can get a job, pay taxes, vote, and function in our society. In keeping with this objective, schools have been turned into factories, where children are parts to be stamped out to fit a role in society. Learning to think is not as important as learning the right facts. To quote Bradley Heath:

“Thinking is the least taught discipline in public schooling. The stifling conformity of their educational methodology stamps out one cookie-cutter student after another…By emphasizing mental mass-production and social standardization, the public schooling factories have nearly achieved the efficiency of a high-speed Coca Cola bottling plant.”[1]

This assembly line education, aside from the poor academic results, neglects human individuality, denies the intrinsic worth of academic subjects, and reduces learning to the end goal of selfish gain. However, to make matters worse, naturalistic thought has turned the schools into a breeding ground for moral confusion. With Christian faith reduced to a private affair and transcendent moral values denied, relativism rules the day. Openness and tolerance are the new cardinal virtues and the only sin is to claim to “know” anything. Finally, we bemoan the violence, rising teen pregnancy, and other immoral (whatever that means) actions among teens, yet we teach them they are evolved animals and objective morals do not exist. Yes, the school system is indeed naturalized and thoroughly confused!

The Solution
I am convinced the solution to our educational woes is a return to a robust Christian view of education. Education should be about the whole man, head and heart. A man must have an understanding about his God and his place in the world before he can hope to make sense of the world. Pragmatism, though important, should be secondary to truth, goodness, and beauty. We need a restoration of absolutes – standards by which to guide our thinking and understanding. We need a framework within which to study math, science, and history. Christianity offers such a framework. Math is the rational blueprint by which the physical world was created. Art is the imitation of beauty we find in the created world around us. Science is the study of God’s ordered and knowable creation. Reading and writing are the means by which we communicate truth, God’s truth. History is the study and assessment of human beliefs and the actions that spring from those beliefs. History can be analyzed properly only if an objective standard is used as the measuring rod.
Integrating all subjects within a Christian framework provides true meaning to the education process. Additionally, it unifies the subjects into one coherent whole, rather than disconnected topics. A Christian view of education is passionate about truth first and moral character second. Practical application will naturally flow from these fountains. Conversely, a focus on pragmatism while neglecting objective morality and truth will create the educational drought we see today.

[1] Bradley Heath, Millstones & Stumbling Blocks (Tucson: Fenestra, 2006), 18.

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