Goals of a godly education contrasted with the proclaimed aims of secular - progressive' education


This article was first published in DAYSPRING magazine in 2006


Secular humanism despite its continued appearance of virility has shown itself to be an ignominious failure in all that it undertakes. Nowhere is this more apparent than in state school systems. Surprisingly, few seem to have recognised this and so the tampering and reforms continue. Nothing can be done to breathe life into this decaying body; the stench of death is already upon it. Complete collapse must come at some point.

Many North American parents are so concerned about what is going on in their government schools that they are removing their offspring in large numbers and have been doing so for years. Children are either channelled into private and independent schools, often Christian, or parents are joining the growing band of home schoolers. There are signs that the same thing is happening here in the UK although, it must be said, as yet on a much smaller scale. Once parents, however, become increasingly aware of what is really going on inside state schools, the stream may well turn into a torrent. Some of the well-informed and well-heeled have returned to employing tutors for their children at salaries in excess of £40,000 a year. Yet many parents still fondly imagine that all things are as they were when they went to school, but this is not so.

The present failure of state schools was predictable, and obvious from the beginning to all save those blinded by their own ideology demanding compulsory, ‘free’, but stringently secular education for all. What things are at the beginning will without fail determine what they become. Government schooling was always a rotten idea, begun for all the wrong reasons. Our school system today is a shambles feeding a rising tide of illiteracy and misery.

The government response to any rejection of state education in Britain and North America is unlikely to be an immediate outright ban on alternatives, although this can never be ruled out. Attempts in the USA in the 1980s to use the blunt instrument of the courts to criminalise home schoolers and close Christian schools largely failed. Jailing the pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Louisville, Nebraska along with six other fathers and locking the doors of his Church only drew more and more support for their cause from across the nation. Many flocked to this small town to show their support for those in jail and ‘America’s First Padlocked Church’. It would be easy for British politicians to blame the EU for any ban they introduced. Overall in Europe there is far less educational freedom than here in the UK. Were the Christian school and home schooling movement to expand significantly, a move against those whom politicians of all colours deem to be the hated ‘Christian right’ would be almost inevitable. All independent schools would never disappear. Where then would politicians send their offspring in order to avoid the hoi polloi?

Our illiberal libertarians may well at first use financial means, tax incentives, manipulative grants, as they did in the late 19th century to rid England of its voluntary schools. This will, at the very least, dilute the distinctiveness of independent and home schooling. We need to be vigilant. Government aid to independent schools should be viewed with suspicion because of the inevitable strings attached. Should this not be sufficient to bring private and particularly Christian schooling to its knees, the government plan would then doubtless be to introduce a mandatory curriculum to ensure a measure of control over what is taught. This again was a strategy used in the 19th century. The next step would be to insist on government teacher training for all teachers in the interest of ‘maintaining standards’. (Surely, you cannot be serious?)

These are general observations but, serious though they are, there are other considerations that apply for Christian believers quite apart from whether state schools are educationally good, bad, or indifferent. Government schools will fail because they have stood truth on its head and as a consequence have lost touch with reality. What is truth to them is a myth to us. It ought not to be too difficult to be academically superior to failing state schools. But is this sufficient? We should not imagine for a moment that the goals of a Christian education are in any way similar to those of a government run school. Our aims, methods, and curriculum can have nothing in common with those of humanist educators. If we simply reproduce under the banner of a Christian education what is being taught in non-Christian schools – in the state, or for that matter the independent sector –, striving for a ‘Christian’ version of non-Christian education, we shall end up with the same humanism and the same failure as is common in these schools. Furthermore, apart from academic standards and curriculum, we would also want to know what kind of Christian faith is being presented to the children. Not all ‘Christian’ schools are places we would like our children to attend anymore than we would ourselves attend the churches that support them.

In this, the first of three projected articles on Christian education, we shall trace how ‘voluntary’ private and religious schools were deliberately squeezed out of existence by the radicals of the 19th century and replaced by compulsory state education. We shall continue by looking at some of the men and the ideology that has given us our modern secular education system and show how schools are used deliberately to undermine the Christian faith. This first article will then conclude with a brief outline of a Christian and biblical approach to education.


How it all began


A battle for the hearts and minds of our young people is taking place right now in secular government-sponsored schools. It is an on-going spiritual warfare. Believing Christian parents put their children in the path of spiritual danger by sending them to state-run educational institutions. Yet many seem oblivious to the reality of this battle or chose to ignore it, but this is not true of those on the other side of the fence. A writer on education commented recently, “government schools are evangelistic institutions for secularism and various forms of New Age theologies.” Writing back in 1983, (The Humanist Magazine Jan/Feb), the ‘new-ager’, John Dunphy described the battle succinctly.

“The battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity….

The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new – the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and miseries, and the new faith of Humanism, …will finally be achieved.”

In the 1830s, Alex de Tocqueville visited America and was genuinely surprised at the strong influence of biblical Christianity and wrote about the daily use of the Bible by families living even on the far-flung frontiers of the republic. His experiences are recorded in his Democracy in America. The desire to read the Bible in one’s own language has historically always provided a positive and strong motive for education. In the early

days of voluntary schools in Britain, Christian belief was an important motivating force. In virtually every school in Britain then, and even into the 1950s, prayer and the reading of the Bible were a normal part of school life. Most schools now largely ignore what is still a legal requirement. Remaining enclaves of Christianity have been progressively taken over by humanists. Today in Britain even tokens of Christian belief, such as the wearing of crosses (not something we would necessarily want to promote), are banned from many schools, despite similar items being allowed to children of other ‘faiths’. This inconsistency demonstrates not a desire to be even-handed in a ‘multi-faith society’, but a deep-seated prejudice against Christ and any public representations of Him. Secular humanists in education appear at times to take every opportunity to express what appears to be spiteful hatred towards the Lord Jesus.

A. A. Hodge of Princeton Theological Seminary was one who saw this situation coming in 1887.

“I am as sure as I am of Christ’s reign that a comprehensive and centralised system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.” (Popular Lectures on Theological Themes, p.283)

We have no choice but to remove our children from the influence of these institutions. To leave them there is to sin against God and our children. Quite apart from the fact that government sponsored schools seem to have lost the skill of being able to teach pupils how to read, write, and do their sums, how can we let their minds be filled with the godlessness that is the daily diet served up to them? Despite ‘league tables’ and ‘spin’, the situation continues to deteriorate – academically, morally, and in pupil safety, not to mention all things godly. We cannot allow our children to be exposed to what is little more than blatant daily brainwashing. Waiting upon God, other schooling options need to be rigorously investigated.

Government sponsored education is now taken for granted as being the normal way for children to be educated. Yet state education as such is but little more than around 130 years old. Before that time, a quite adequate education – although it certainly had its weaknesses – was provided by voluntary schools. Evidence suggests that for the most part the education in these schools was somewhat superior to most of that provided in state schools today. For example, even in workhouses research shows that 95% of all the children there could read and write well. Most children spent at least some time in fulltime schooling, a far greater proportion than ‘progressive’ educational historians are prepared to allow. Even the progressive educationalist, Horace Mann (1796-1859), conceded that school attendance in Britain is likely to have been on average to as much as five years. Education was not free but was paid for even by the poorest of families, many of whom would make tremendous sacrifices to see that their children learned to read and write. It is repeatedly said that ‘poor families could not afford schooling’; this is a blatant untruth. There was a programme of government subsidies from 1833, but even before this the number of schools had increased substantially. The greatest portion of the costs was always met by parental subscription. Schools were viewed as a preparation for life. In the words of John Knox, “for the business of life and the purpose of eternity.” That many of the voluntary schools were capable of improvement goes without saying. However, to denigrate them as many do is rich when their modern critics have themselves only been able to produce schools that are in large numbers failing. In 1840 two-thirds to three-quarters of the working classes were already literate. It is clear that in the England of the late 1860s most people were literate, most children had received up to five years schooling, and most parents had contributed towards it.

In a fascinating book first published in 1975, Education and the Industrial Revolution, Professor E. G. West, has shown that general education was good, if not better before than after the introduction of state education. Misconceptions about Victorian schools persist and are based largely on the political and the ideological bias of ‘orthodox’ but liberal historians such as G. D. H. Cole and G. M. Trevelyan. Add to this the emotional fiction of Charles Dickens’ Dotheboys Hall and the distortion is complete. ‘Dotheboys’ cannot be thought of as representative. Indeed, many question whether there were ever any such schools. Dickens when pressed was quite unable to name the school in Yorkshire on which he claimed ‘Dotheboys’ had been built. Dickens was an enthusiastic follower of Jeremy Bentham and he also favoured compulsory state education. He, as others, had his own reasons for painting such sordid pictures, fascinating stories but hardly historically representative or reliable. We hear nothing from these prejudiced critics about the excellent schools founded by men like the Wesleys and others, or later of the orphan homes of George Müller in Bristol – they even boasted an indoor swimming pool!

The unfounded assertion that education and social services declined with the increasing hardship and ignorance accompanying the growth of capitalist industrialisation is a deliberate misrepresentation of the Victorian era in England by liberal ‘progressives’ at the time and since. Using precisely the same historical sources, Professor E. G. West has successfully shown the very opposite: that both in quantity and quality neither schools nor social services were as bad as is often claimed. The reasons for introducing and maintaining comprehensive, compulsory education were what they always will be: an exercise in social engineering and the attempt to fulfil impossible utopian visions of a ‘new world order’.

Measuring the quantity and quality of Victorian education in England depends much on how the relevant statistics are interpreted. Clear is that 90% of all children received some education at some time. Not all children between the ages of 5 and 14 will have been at school for the whole of that time, possibly some less than four years. The general rate of literacy is therefore that much more surprising. Possibly one third of children would have been at school at any one time. However, it is not to be supposed that the other two thirds never had any schooling at all. Yet this is how the figures are often dishonestly interpreted. To say that schooling deteriorated as Britain became more industrialised is not supported by the evidence. It is more likely that education overall has deteriorated in post-industrial Britain under social welfare and state-sponsored schooling.

All schooling was voluntary and fee-paying. Most parents wanted their children in school and made sure that they attended, so the argument for compulsory education was weak. Furthermore, they were able to remove their children from a poor school and send them to a better one. Most Victorians were literate even before the 1870 Forster Education Act ever came in to force. This is evident alone from the numbers of religious tracts printed, Bibles purchased, popular literature circulating, such things as the penny magazine, and then there were the newspapers. The evidence for this widespread literacy is conveniently ignored by many educational historians. Much statistical evidence shows that Trevelyan’s assertion that during the industrial revolution education stagnated or even regressed is misleading and plainly wrong. Factory Commissioners’ in 1834 found that 86% of all factory workers could read and in Scotland it was as high as 96%.

Nevertheless, caution must prevail when using government figures then as now. There was a very selective use of figures, ‘embarrassing’ research was replaced by ‘new’ to dilute, obscure, and supersede it. Outside independent research was almost always ignored. W. E. Forster was guilty of this in presenting his 1870 Education Act. Right up to the last minute changes were being made. Blatantly misleading statements were used to further his ends. In order to make a case for grants, schools were presented as having a low standard.

Forster grossly exaggerated the numbers of children who had ‘never had a schooling’ by distorting the reading of the figures. Had Forster been a little more honest he would have found that by 1870 the average time spent in school by any child was 6 years, just 1 year short of the desired statutory target. All that was required was to raise the school leaving age, which the 1870 Act failed to do. Fewer school buildings would then have had to be built. In 1880 compulsory school attendance was introduced for all children aged between 5 to 9 years, although this was not enacted immediately. Those between 10 and 13 years old could have a certificate to say that they had reached the standard required by law. 

On the back of the 1870 Education Act there was a boom in school building with the result that there were more government ‘Board Schools’ (as they were known) than there were children to fill them all. To counteract this, Board Schools lowered their fees using a subsidy provided by local rate revenues, whilst at the same time denying this to the voluntary schools. West quotes from The National Society report for 1876:

“…while the ratepayers are compelled to furnish whatever sums the school board is disposed to spend, all deficiencies in the revenues of denominational schools must be supplied by voluntary contributions.”   (p.109, footnote 13)

As local taxes increased in order to pay for state ‘Board schools’ “the ability to give on the part of subscribers is proportionately diminished.” Those providing an education for their children from their own pockets were forced to subsidise state education through taxes. The more money that was taken from them that much less would be available for school fees. Thomas Paine (1737-1809) – pamphleteer, republican, revolutionary, and utopian dreamer – complained that taxes, for the most part hidden, took away a quarter of the income of the poor, preventing them from providing their own education. Today we are rid of a monarchy with any real power, a delight to Paine, but such taxes in the UK are estimated to have now risen to around something near to 50% of average income and they are the greatest burden to those least able to pay. Consequently, school fees are likely to be even more difficult to find than in Paine’s day.

The same 1876 report urged that measures were needed

“…to place the Denominational Schools in a position to compete with the Rate-aided Schools, which were called into existence solely to supplement them.”

There was a discrepancy in the available school places of about 10% to be made up, but the building programme after 1870 far exceed this. The result was inevitable, many of the voluntary and denominational schools closed because they could not compete. Was this deliberate? Who can say? State schools were able to dominate education by forcing all competitors out of business by abusing the tax system.

These days, after compulsory incarceration for up to twelve years – a prison sentence indeed – at the cost to the longsuffering taxpayer of on average now of  £6000 per year per child, the majority emerges at the other end poorly educated and with huge numbers of them functionally innumerate and illiterate. What we can say is that more spending does not necessarily produce better education for our children. Historically it has not done so. In truth, the 100-year experiment in compulsory, ‘free’, state education has been a complete disaster and is nothing short of a national scandal. As far as the children are concerned it is an inexcusable tragedy of gigantic proportions. In order to obtain an adequate education for their children those with the means are compelled either to pay for private education or move to an area where there is a half-decent state school. The rest send their offspring to be penned up in the holding camps (bog standard comprehensives?) they dare to call schools where even the brightest pupils are deterred from learning very much. There they remain until they are old enough to be pushed out into the wide world often to take dead-end jobs should they be able to find one, join the army, or go to prison. The findings of a Department of Education survey on adult literacy in the USA in 1993 revealed that 90 million adults could hardly read, that amounts to around half of the nation. The situation in the UK is hardly better where, according to government figures, around 25% of adults are functionally illiterate and this is probably a fairly conservative estimate. 20% of 7-year-olds fail to learn to read as they should, by the time they are 11 the situation has become worse, with half failing in both maths and English. Despite all the assurances the situation does not improve. It is just made to look better by moving the goalposts.

Examination results can be made to look respectable by making the examinations themselves easier and the pass marks lower. Only 47% is required to achieve a top A* grade in a GCSE. On one maths paper worth 25% of the total grade the requirement was just 16% for a grade C pass. Many elements of mathematics that once featured in the earlier GCE O-level papers are now entirely missing. This is the same for more than 100 GCSE papers set by the AQA examination board in 2004. What message does this send to more able students able to achieve 90%+? How do these people get away with it? Business studies is perceived by students to be considerably easier than subjects such as physics or modern languages, particularly German, and is therefore popular. Russian has now all but disappeared. Only 47% is needed for an A* grade. Year after year, spokesmen for the examination boards and the educationalist mafia trot out the same nonsense insisting that standards were ‘just as tough as in previous years’. But who believes them any longer?

This sorry state of affairs is a direct result of the philosophy behind our education system. As Christian believers, educational failure in state schools is to be expected and is but one part of the problem. Even were they academically excellent, we would still not want our children attending them. To teach in these institutions as a Christian as some of us have done, whilst individually we may bear testimony to the truth up to a point, overall we contribute to the dismantling of our own faith. In the end where conflict does not arise our consciences will be smitten – or ought to be.

Late 19th century discussions on education were supplied with an additional strand by Horace Mann’s ‘social fusion’ argument. The most important function of state education is a socialistic redistribution of wealth. However well intentioned, this approach petrifies into permanence distinctions of class and race, achieving the opposite of what is intended, causing deep resentment on all sides. Few low-income parents of today reflect for a moment on the fact that they are paying for ‘free’ health care or education through taxes. Nothing is free; someone pays. The reality is that although progressive taxation was not introduced until the 20th century the largest part of tax revenue, then as now, is taken from those at the bottom end of the earnings bracket. Tom Paine believed the poor were well aware of the advantages of education, but the burden of taxation on those with the least income was such that they could ill afford it. He argued for a remission of taxes to be given to families to enable them to pay for education. Tom Paine’s interest in education was that he believed ignorance kept in power the aristocrats he so hated. Paine wanted to cut taxes and provide education for all. Those using private schools today, ‘voluntary schools’ then, pay twice. Money is redistributed in favour of State education. The result in the 19th century was unfair competition between state-aided public elementary schools and voluntary schools in which the latter were always bound to lose out.

In 1870, W. E. Forster’s Education Act was passed by parliament. Four separate plans were presented to him for consideration when drawing up this legislation. The most progressive of these was that presented by the Birmingham League. The Birmingham League was a group of doctrinaire radicals led by Joseph Chamberlain. The Chamberlain family were industrialists from the Midlands. Joseph’s son, Neville, will be remembered as the British prime minister who met with Adolf Hitler at Munich. The Chamberlains were staunch Unitarians and did much to support this apostate faith in and around Birmingham.

Modern progressives like to claim Forster as one of their own. This is very far from being the case and he would be appalled at our modern state education system. His aim was very straightforward and in some ways a laudable one: it was simply to secure for all children in the country access to a good education. A draft Bill compiled in 1869 set a number of goals. First, the bill was to give the least possible encouragement to parents to neglect their duties towards their children and he was opposed to any suggestion that they should be relieved of direct financial responsibility for the education of their children. Then, education should involve the least possible expenditure of government money. Thirdly, there should be the least possible injury to the existing private schools. In all these points Forster eventually lost out to the Unitarian radicals who set the course of education and made it what it is today. Forster did not want ‘free’ schooling; fees were to be charged at all his new ‘Board’ schools. Most parents were both willing and able to pay. ‘Free tickets’ would be given to the very poor by the school board. In this way the poor were not deprived of the freedom to send their children to any school they chose. A ‘welfare’ approach towards education or anything else, by its very nature, always removes choice. The goals of the Birmingham League were eventually realised. In their campaign they had been supported by George Dixon, Robert Applegarth, Jesse Collins, Charles Dickens, but not J. S. Mill, who did not insist on free education.

According to Forster’s reckoning, three-quarters of all children were already in school. The purpose of the 1870 Act was simply to fill the gaps in voluntary provision with state schools to form a heterogeneous national school system. Today the opposite applies, the independent sector now takes up any slack in the system. After the passing of the Act under the guidance of ambitious officials, the administration that had been set up ran out of control. Schools appeared everywhere, often where they were not needed. There can be no doubt but that voluntary schools were discriminated against. They were in a difficult position and many closed. All this went far beyond what Forster had envisaged, but by this time he was gone from government and could do nothing. Additional government spending did nothing to increase education, but only secured more power for the state. The expansion of the public sector to the detriment of the private and voluntary sector was to people like Horace Mann a ‘fact of life’ – Darwinian progress, perhaps, the survival of the fittest. To many others it was the cause of complaint and deep disquiet.

Mann was clear that all children should be sent to the same type of school in the interests of ‘social cohesion’. Schools needed to have a ‘public quality’, which meant in reality being controlled by the political process. Under a false banner of neutrality a highly secularised, anti-religious, ideological schooling was being imposed on the nation by law. There was nothing neutral about their goals at all. The axe was finally laid to the root of Forster’s 1870 Education Act when a few years later government Board schools, ‘common schools’, became ‘free’, no fees. This is how our education system was hijacked by godless ideologues and the freedom to educate our own children according to our own beliefs was diminished and made difficult. In the name of ‘liberty’ they took it away and imposed the worst kind of compulsion to impose their own goals upon everyone else.

The Birmingham League campaigners claimed that ‘human nature could not be trusted to supply itself with instruction’ – what they meant was: with their kind of instruction! Chamberlain was candid. Now that ‘democracy’ had arrived with the enfranchisement of 1867, it was necessary to get the people to vote for the right kind of people. Berthold Brecht put it another way: “If the vote goes against a political party, we should change the voters not the party.” Board schools were there to put an end to Church of England schools and indeed all denominational schools. Edwin Chadwick made clear his support for compulsory education at ‘nationalised’ schools. Small ‘sectarian’ schools were, he claimed, necessarily of poorer quality and did not provide an appropriate ‘secular’ curriculum. This is a myth perpetuated today to denigrate Christian schools in defiance of the reality – they cannot possibly be as good as state schools! The strongest motivation for compulsion was the desire to secularise, politicise, and collectivise the population through education. To achieve this, education must be compulsory and universal. Such aims remain in place today.

Legislators still believe they and they alone know best and so will always favour free, compulsory, universal education and will employ inspectors (enforcers) to see that their will is carried out to the letter. The more that parents are deemed to be the best judges, the less need there is for an inspectorate. There is to this day a disdain by inspectors for schools where parents have a dominant influence. Inspectors were as patronising then as they are today about independent education.

Whilst professing liberty the Birmingham League objected strongly to parental choice favouring ‘sectarian’ schools. The aim was to remove all choice but for state schools. Despite this, many parents still preferred to find the relatively high fees required to send their children to denominational schools of their choice rather than to pay the lower fee at Board schools. It was the embarrassingly poor attendance at some Board schools, despite the subsidised lower fees and better paid teachers, and the overall excess capacity in the state sector that led eventually to the abolition of all fees in state schools, making independent schools the expensive luxury they continue to be to this day. 

To summarise: in the 1860s there was an almost universal system in Britain of private fee-paying schools used by the most parents. In 1870 it was thought necessary to complement this with a number of government ‘Board schools’, simply to fill in any gaps. By 1880 universal compulsion was legislated. Fees meant no truancy, something that grew with the introduction of free schools. Education was to be ‘free’, as it was thought indefensible to legislate for something parents could ill afford. Free schooling meant a total subsidy, but it was only for government schools. There was to be no money for private schools run for ‘profit’, nor for denominational (Christian) schools that existed to promote their own beliefs. It was protested that public taxes ought not to be used to promote any particular faith. Nevertheless, public monies were to be used to sustain secularist schools to promote the secularist faith! Yet Christians could be taxed – and still are – to support state enterprises that undermine their faith. Where argument cannot bring a victory, subterfuge nearly always does.

The Human Rights Act of 1998 allows parents to have their children educated “in conformity with their own religious or philosophical convictions”. The belief that the state knows best when it comes to education is positively prehistoric. The present chaos in schools is evidence enough that ‘nanny’ does not know best. Why should we be coerced into sending our children to schools that offend our ‘religious and philosophical convictions’ at every turn? Yet ‘liberals’ seem unable to see their own illiberal attitudes.

Eventually Board Schools set up to complement the private system superseded it by unfair manipulation of the system. As private schools closed there were changes made to board schools. Where there is a monopoly quality suffers. Previously parents could and did remove their children from failing schools, now they had no choice. It cannot be shown that a compulsory later school leaving age for all children meant more education, just longer education and more frustration. Chamberlain’s claim that educational irresponsibility applied to ‘a great many human beings’ was simply untrue. The reality was that in 1869 the majority of families were sending their children to school without compulsion and what is more they were paying for the privilege directly out of their own pockets.

Unlike today, the evidence from the mid-1800s onwards suggests that most school-leavers were literate and numerate! State education has proved to be the most disastrous social experiment of the 20th century. It cannot be repaired because its basic assumptions are fatally flawed.


The men and their ideas


What ideas motivate the enemies of Christ and the Gospel? The apostle Paul describes them as those:

“Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)

Instead of being motivated by the glory of God, their own appetites and desires rule. They mind earthly things not on those things from above They see nothing beyond this immediate and physical world. They glory in that which ought to be a matter of shame.

The philosophers Paul met on Mars Hill (Acts 17) were Stoics and Epicureans, two distinct branches of Greek thinking. Stoicism was the most influential teaching of the ancient world. Their secret was that indifference brings freedom. If you are indifferent to what was going on around you, to events and the actions of others, then they can have no power over you. In this way we all make our own good or evil. Stoics believed in a kind of fatalistic predestination. Virtue is to accept all that happens ‘stoically’. We may live a life of pleasure or poverty, but must remain indifferent to both. Responsibility for our own happiness lies with the individual not society. We are powerless to change the world so we must renounce it.

The Epicurians, on the other hand, were quite a different group and they may have been in Paul’s mind as he penned Philippians 3:19. The message Paul preached that day in Athens divided his listeners sharply. There were two completely different responses when he spoke of judgement and particularly of the resurrection. It would have been the Stoics who postponed a decision, “we will hear thee again.” It would have been the Epicureans who mocked the resurrection. Their philosophy was very firmly tied to the physical and material world – “who mind earthly things.”  Beyond this world there is nothing. That alone exists that can be sensed with the five human physical senses, nothing else is there or is worth living for. Founder of this school, the Greek philosopher, Epicurus (341 to 270 BC) took a close interest in education. He deprecated the pursuit of knowledge as an end in itself, but instead asked: What is the goal of life? And how can this goal be attained? Pleasure and happiness in this life is the sole good. This philosophy is also called ‘hedonism’.

More recently, hedonism was revived in England in another form by Thomas Hobbes in the 17th century. The aim and end of life for everyone is his own self-centred happiness. A direct Epicurean influence on modern state education came through its reintroduction in the late 18th century in England by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and then later John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). They sought to lay down an objective principle to determine whether an action was right or wrong. This was called the principle of ‘utility’, hence the name given to their philosophical school of ‘utilitarianism’. They concluded an action is right if it tends to produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. It was the action that was to be deemed good or bad, quite apart from the good or evil nature of the person performing it. Bentham and Mill identified happiness with pleasure, as the Epicureans had done before them.




Jeremy Bentham was leader of a group of reformers often known as the ‘philosophical radicals’. Between them these men were responsible for many wide-reaching social and political changes in England affecting the British criminal code and more particularly education. The Benthamite doctrine was that character and intellect can be completely determined by education. These ‘radicals’ pressed for, and with time were successful in achieving state-sponsored education for all. All this took place, despite the fact that J. S. Mill, for example, was educated at home by his father, James Mill, another radical and a home schooler at that! The young John Stuart was deliberately shielded from association with other boys of his age. The beliefs of these men laid the foundation of government schools, the tragic results of which are with us today.

Bentham denied that there was anything outside the physical world. He was, incidentally, among the first philosophers to take animal liberation and animal rights seriously. His views have lent support to much evil in this area, ranging from vegetarianism at the one end to animal rights terrorism at the other. Man has no invisible eternal soul and is little more than a superior species of animal. As if to prove his point, this godless man prepared an extraordinary last will and testament. Three days after his death his body was to be dissected in an amphitheatre at the Web Street School of Anatomy in London, an illegal act at the time except in the case of executed murderers. It was as if he were saying, “Look there is no soul just bones and flesh – there will be no resurrection!” He knows better now. His organs having been removed, his body was preserved, stuffed, and dressed in his own clothes and he sits to this day in a glass fronted mahogany case in the busy lobby of University College, London, the college that he had helped to found. Bentham’s own head was replaced later with one of wax. His real head was stolen by students for a prank and so has since then be kept locked in a safe. He is visited by scholars, was once carted off to a beer festival in Germany, and was at one time regularly wheeled into the annual meeting of the Board of Directors. It would be recorded in the minutes of the meeting, Bentham present but did not vote. Can there be anything more gruesome or bizarre? Let the Word of God be the final and definitive statement on such behaviour.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Galatians 6:7-8)


Shall we entrust our children to schools founded on principles advocated by such a man?


The views of the ‘philosophical radicals’ had been greatly influenced by the writings of David Hartley (1773-1836). Although today he is not very well known, his ideas persist in various forms. They have been added to and revised, but their influence on modern education is unmistakeable. He is known as being the author of Observations on Man, his Duty, and his Expectations, a book that influenced minds not only here in Britain, but also in North America and on the Continent of Europe. He grounds consciousness in neuro-physiology, the mind is a physical operation of the brain. In fact, the whole person is a mechanism and as such subject to scientific study. Again, this also meant that the human personality could be ‘scientifically’ educated. In the Observations Hartley applies Newtonian science to the study of human nature. Hartley writes that

“Since sensations are conveyed to the mind, by the efficiency of corporeal causes…it seems to me, that the powers of generating ideas, and raising them by association, must also arise from corporeal causes, and consequently admit of an explication from the subtle influences of small parts of matter on each other, as soon as these are sufficiently understood.” (Observations 1, prop.11)

In other words, the workings of the mind are to be explained on a purely physical basis. Thoughts are physical. The response of the nervous system to its physical environment generates and raises ideas and consciousness. That which we associate with the workings of the human mind and soul is reduced to molecules, nerves and vibrations. The same is true for animals as for humans. Hartley suggested that if an organism could be endued with the most simple kinds of sensation, it might also arrive at all that intelligence of which the human mind is possessed – animals that can think. This is important, for although the form has been refined and redefined, the basic notion is still to be found at the heart of pedagogical methodology to this day. So by means of manipulating the environment, ideas, thoughts and emotions can be generated. External stimuli in the classroom cause physiological responses that end in thought and ideas.

Not that all this was new, it had been proposed many times before. What is important for us is the influence that Hartley had on those who would shape government-sponsored education in the future, men like John Stuart Mill. It is not surprising to find that Hartley too was a vegetarian believing as he did that animals are ‘near relations’ to humans. This obligates us ‘to be their guardians and benefactors’ and is reason enough from making them suffer for our sport or convenience, and from killing them for food (Observations 1, prop.93; cf. 2, prop. 52). What separates us from animals is not being made the image of God, but nothing more than differences in neuro-anatomy. Clearly, he provides a pseudo-scientific basis for vegetarianism of all kinds, environmentalism, ‘animal rights’. If we function mechanistically and are no higher level than animals then education can be little different than training a troupe of monkeys, and as we shall see, this is really what it has become.

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” (George Orwell, Animal Farm)

Yet David Hartley was no atheist in any conventional sense, such as La Mettrie who wrote the notorious L’Homme machine in 1748. He professed instead a deep religious sensibility. He was a ‘dissenter’, a Unitarian, as were many of the radical educational and social reformers of the 19th century. Along with all Unitarians, he rejected all notions of a triune God and believed that the deity of the Lord Jesus and the substitutionary atonement obscured the original and true light of Christianity. He affirmed universal salvation or ‘restoration’ and even this he explained in ‘scientific’ terms. We are all framed physically and psychologically so as to attain ultimately a state in which all men are “partakers of the divine nature, loving and lovely, holy and happy” (Observations 2, prop. 56). Such is his interpretation of 2 Peter 1:4. His monistic understanding of being means that we shall all become essentially the same as God Himself. Hartley’s view of God, of man, of animals, his environmentalism and vegetarianism are not even an aberration of Christian teaching but a return to paganism, a ‘doctrine of demons’ (1 Timothy 4:1-5).

‘Man the machine’ is still with us:

“Isn’t the murderer just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective genes? Why do we vent hatred on murderers when we should regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing? We shall grow out of this and laugh at it…” (Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist, Oxford University, quoted in the Daily Telegraph, 3 January, 2006)




The world became ‘scientific’ the day we stopped burning witches! We are now ‘enlightened’. The earth is round not flat and goes around the sun. Newton formulated the law of gravity and we invented the steam engine. The critical spirit was emancipated. Is there anything we cannot now achieve? We still await the new ‘golden age’, the new ‘world order’.

With the 17th century there dawned a new epoch with the many discoveries in science and mathematics. Most influential for our modern world was discovery that all motion is subject to mathematical measurement. These discoveries influenced not only the way we look at the world but also at ourselves. These discoveries took place over about 100 years. The new Copernican astronomy challenged the previous understanding of the planets. Galileo studied the swinging of the chandelier in Pisa cathedral and dropped weights from the leaning tower. He discovered that both motions could be expressed as mathematical formulas. As mathematicians developed this study, they found that the elliptical orbits of the planets, once thought to be uniformly perfect circles, could be measured by mathematics. The scientific research of this era was capped by the publication in 1687 of Newton’s Principia Mathematica. Certainty, once provided by church dogma, disrupted by the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo, was now restored in mathematics and reason. Nature was measurable. Human beings were a part of the mechanism of the natural world and therefore subject to the measurement of mathematical physics.

Starting with the work of Greek philosophy and Galileo, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) sought to apply geometric reasoning to the nature of man and society. Mathematical formulae were to be the answer to all moral and social problems. Hobbes projected a scientific utopia in which all vices would ‘faint and languish’. There was salvation in science, peace on earth and goodwill to all men thanks to mathematics. Man was an animal, a machine. Yet his passions, appetites and desires could only be controlled by a government strong enough to force its will upon all its citizens. Social ‘sciences’ were born. Social and moral problems were as scientific as mathematics and physics. 

In France, René Descartes (1596-1650), was engaged in a somewhat similar enterprise. So confident was he that he believed that sickness, the infirmities of old age, and even death itself could all be overcome by science. His conclusion was that, like everything else under the sun, ethics too was a science as certain as physics and was a development out of mechanics and physics. There were others, Spinoza, Leibnitz, and many afterwards. One man in 1699, John Craig, published mathematical calculations said to prove the truth of the Gospel! Even more absurd theories followed that attempted to compute the morality of an action. By a plus or minus you would reach heaven or go to hell, commented novelist, Lawrence Sterne. What is important for us to note in our consideration of education and its development is the application of physics and mathematics to the understanding of human nature.

The English philosopher, John Locke (1632-1704) was an empiricist in the tradition of Hobbes and Bacon. Although born of puritan parents, his thinking was rationalist and anti-authoritarian. Locke went up to Christ Church, Oxford, in the autumn of 1652, the same year that the godly theologian, John Owen, was made Vice-Chancellor of the university by Cromwell. John Locke’s views still lie at the foundation of much thinking today. (William Rees-Mogg, one-time editor of the London Times, confessed recently to carrying a copy of Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration about his person as we would carry a pocket Bible.) His greatest work was the monumental An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Here he repeatedly states that morality is as capable of an exact demonstration as mathematics. Locke rejected Descartes view that the ‘soul’ was a ‘substance that thinks’. After 1700 scientific investigation into the psychology of the individual and human behaviour understood them to be subject to discernable natural laws that could be managed by controlling reason.

In Book I of Locke’s Essay, like Berkeley and Hume, he argues that we have no innate knowledge. This means that at birth the human mind is a sort of blank slate on which experience writes. Locke claims in Book II that all ideas are the materials of knowledge and originate from experience. An ‘idea,’ "...stands for whatsoever is the Object of the Understanding, when a man thinks." (Essay I, 1, 8, p. 47) We cannot create ideas; we can only get them from experience. In this respect the mind is passive. Once the mind has a store of ideas, it can combine them into more complex ideas. So, in this respect the mind is active. Thus, Locke subscribes to a version of the empiricist axiom that there is nothing in the intellect that was not previously in the senses – where the senses are broadened to include reflection. Creativity is stirred by the stimulus, the environment. Change the environment, change the man.

In applying such thinking to the classroom today, children ‘learn’ through stimuli supplied by the teacher. The mind is both passive and malleable, but becomes active in processing what is perceived. Different results are achieved if things are said and done in different ways, so the thoughts of the child are manipulated and directed. As many teachers will testify, in such an environment it is difficult even for the most resolute adult to resist. As practised by totalitarian regimes, we know this procedure as brainwashing. In the late 70s the rock group Pink Floyd also called it by its proper name – thought control.

We don’t need no education

We don’t need no thought control

No dark sarcasm in the classroom

Teacher, leave those kids alone

Hey, Teacher, leave those kids alone!

All in all you’re just another brick in the wall

All in all you’re just another brick in the wall

          (‘Another Brick in the Wall’, 1979)

He who controls what goes on in the classroom controls the child. This is what a ‘liberal’ education is all about. Teachers themselves have been trained using the same methodology they now inflict upon their young charges. They will generally be as ignorant as to what has happened to them at training college as most of the pupils will be as to what is happening to them in the classroom.

Following this methodology crime and ‘yobbish’ behaviour are a response and can be changed by ‘education’. The perpetrators are not to blame, things around them are. Discipline in the classroom can be achieved by a changing the environment in which children become what they are, by adjusting the stimmuli to which they are exposed. The utter failure of such thinking evident all around us on our streets seems to do nothing to dispel the nonsensical view men have of themselves. Having rejected the existence of the soul and along with it any inherent evil within it, what can be said but that evil arises from ignorance to be remedied by education?

Most writers and thinkers at this time began with Locke. Yet, if all men are machines, then are not those who manage and manipulate these machines also machines and who shall manage them? Locke did not carry his conclusions as far as his followers, but they entertained no such inhibitions.

All reform and revolution could progress based on scientific laws, and in this education was central, all to make the world a better place in which to live. Everyone acts out of self-interest. All appetites and desires or impulses within us, according to their satisfaction or their frustration, will give us pleasure or pain. This pleasure-pain motive was to replace traditional ideas of moral values. Society is an arrangement by which fundamentally selfish individuals live together. Only education, which is the art of managing and controlling these passions and desires, can help us to achieve this end. Education is more than going to school it is co-extensive with life itself. It is above all a matter that government must take in hand. We have in our own hands the means of perfecting the human mind. Social harmony presupposes lawmakers who will take upon themselves the task of educating their citizens.

Despite the repeated failures, faith in this scientific regulation of human affairs remains a pillar of modern educational theory. When all the range of human behaviour has been studied with appropriate thoroughness all major human problems will be solvable by human engineering in which education will play a pivotal role. Again the assumption must be that human nature is some way mechanical and predictable. A true theory of human nature enables man to control his own future. This is still a dominant modern gospel. From Newton men learned the mechanical nature of the universe and deduced human consciousness must be the same. From Locke they learned that nothing enters the mind of man but through his senses. We are told that we are the total of what experience makes us. Evil therefore is not part of human nature but is acquired through bad experiences. Furthermore, man can be ‘born again’ by throwing out all this accumulated rubbish. A completely new society can be established ‘using reason’ if we begin with a sound view of human nature.

Lest we are tempted to believe that we have long moved on since those days, think again. With some small changes to method, the aim of progressive educationalists today remains that of achieving behaviour modification through emotional pressures and pseudo-psychological manipulation.

John Broadus Watson (1878-1958) is commonly recognised as the founder of the brand of psychology known as behaviourism. The ideas he originated in the area of psychology are still very much with us. He was brought up on a farm in poor circumstances. Watson’s father was known for his drinking and brawling. His mother on the other hand was a pious Baptist. Although named after the well-known Baptist minister, John Broadus, Watson inclined to the life-style of his father rather than that of his mother. His death in 1958 was brought about by chirrosis of the liver.

Watson managed to sweet-talk his way into Furman University, at the time a college for training prospective Baptist ministers. After obtaining his M.A. from Furman at the age of 21, he moved on to the University of Chicago. Here he encountered Wilhelm Wundt’s psychology, which did not impress him in the least. In 1908 he took a position at Johns Hopkins University where he taught until 1920 when he was booted out after a scandal. He then went to work for an advertising company.

Watson was greatly influenced by the work of the Nobel Prize winning Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936). Pavlov is remembered for his experiment with dogs whereby he was able to cause the animal to salivate at the sound of a bell, eventually on its own, after first pairing the sound with the presentation of food. Watson tried the same on humans using bells and electric shocks. Recognising no demarcation between humans and ‘lower animals’, Watson took Pavlov’s work further, adopting the ‘conditioned reflex’ to human behaviour. Darwin had said that we share common ancestors with gorillas, why could he not extrapolate from his own experiments with rats? Psychologists of the day generally opposed his work as they still held to an intrinsic difference between animals and humans.

Among the impressive names of those who taught Watson in Chicago was John Dewey of whom he said, “I never knew what he was talking about then, and unfortunately for me, I still don’t know.” He may have been somewhat disingenuous in this statement. Watson is firmly in the tradition of John Locke’s tabula rasa rather than the Rousseau to Spock pedigree of the spontaneous child brigade to which Dewey belonged. Watson’s bestselling The Psychological Care of the Infant and Child (1928) was the ‘Spock’ of its day. Watson was later rebutted by Dr Spock. Dewey would certainly not have appealed to Watson. What issued from the child in terms of wishes, needs, feelings, Watson ignored as though they did not exist. We should remember that despite their different approaches, these two different lines of thought also have many basic ideas in common. Both, for example, emphatically deny the biblical doctrine of human depravity. The followers of Locke deny virtually all things innate, whilst the followers of Rousseau say that if it comes naturally from the child it must be good. For his part, Watson gave ground a little in that he recognised three innate or ‘unconditioned’ emotional responses in infants who had not yet had the time to acquire conditioned responses: fear, rage, and something he provisionally called love. All other ‘natural’ reactions, fear of the dark, love of one’s mother, came about through Pavlovian conditioning.

The following definition of behaviourism, written by Watson in 1913, ought to be read with great care. As we shall see when looking at modern ‘progressive’ teaching methods, it is hard to overestimate the influence of behaviourism in education. This extract is from his well-known essay written in 1913, Psychology as a Behaviourist Views It.

“Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behaviour. Introspection forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its date dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness. The behaviourist, in his efforts to get a unitary scheme of animal response, recognizes no dividing line between man and brute. The behaviour of man, with all of its refinement and complexity, forms only a part of the behaviorist’s total scheme of investigation.”

All orthodox modes of experience such as mind, consciousness, images, feelings, were excluded. He accepted only that which could be demonstrated in physical behaviour by actions of muscles, glands, and the like. Behaviourism was the study of how humans and animals alike adjust to their environment. The ‘descriptive categories’ were stimulus and response.  In a thoroughly worked out system of psychology, “given the stimuli the response can be predicted”. The goal of his researches was “to learn general and particular methods by which I may control behaviour”.

Basic to all behaviouristic theory is that human nature is perfectible, passive and malleable, and without sin. The formative influences on behaviour are all external and do not come from within, either from natural goodness or original sin. They are responses to the stimulation of sense perceptions and environmental factors. By varying these man’s personality can be developed and controlled. Education is total conditioning.  True education that encourages natural ability and latent talent, these things are beyond the reach of educators using behaviouristic teaching methods, and are resistant to control and so are an abomination to ‘scientific’ behaviourist educators.

Consciousness is non-existent, neither is the mind as a non-physical entity. After all, these things lead to the souls and to God.

“Behaviourism claims that ‘consciousness’ is neither s definable nor a usable concept; that it is merely another word for the ‘soul’ of more ancient times. The old psychology is thus dominated by a kind of subtle religious philosophy.” (Behaviourism, p.3, 1924)

Yet Watson and friends have no difficulty in accepting the ‘self-evident truths’ of their own system, declaring them scientific with no ground for doing so other than their humanist ideals. With consciousness gone, so has man. Man is a ‘whole animal’. No dividing line exists between man and animals. It is therefore quite appropriate to apply to man the results of psychological tests on rats, dogs, and any other similar animals. The absence of consciousness is the starting point for behaviourism.

“The behaviorist finds no mind in his laboratory, sees it nowhere in his subjects

…If the behaviorists are right in their contention that there is no observable mind body problem and no observable separate entity called mind, then there can be no such thing as consciousness or its substratum, the unconscious.”    (The Ways of Behaviourism, p.7, 1928)

The child in school now becomes, using behaviourist methodology, anything the state via the teacher wishes to make him.

“In short the cry of the behaviorist is, ‘Give me the baby and my world to bring it up and I’ll make it crawl and walk; I’ll make it climb and use its hands in constructing buildings of stone or wood; I’ll make it a thief, a gunman, or a dope fiend. The possibility of shaping in any direction is almost endless.” (The Ways of Behaviourism, p.35, 1928)

Given the stimulus, the response can be predicted; given the response the stimulus can be identified. Personality does not come as a gift from God but is man-made. If total control were possible then even adults could be changed completely. Every individual can be made to behave as society specifies. Social control must begin with behaviour not with thoughts, with external actions not internal theories. What a man thinks reflects what he does, not the other way round.

Behaviourism has entered the world of language. ‘Political correctness’ ensures correct thinking by proper language conditioning. Faulty behaviour is due to faulty conditioning through misused words. The introduction of manufactured words such as ‘homophobia’, making other words taboo, is designed to make us all think in ways socially acceptable to the liberal élite who make our laws. Correct verbal conditioning produces predictable thinking.

Where mind and body are one, thought and deed are the same. The only freedom we can know is conformity of the ethics and standards of the group.

“The universe will change if you bring up your children, not in the freedom of the libertine, but in behaviorisitic freedom – a freedom which we cannot even picture in words, so little do we know of it. Will not these children in turn with their better ways of living and thinking, replace us as society and in turn bring  up their children in a still more scientific way, until the world finally becomes a place fit for human habitation." (Behaviourism, p.248, 1924)

Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-1949), son of a Methodist minister, was professor of educational psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. Like Watson, he also did experiments with animals and transferred his findings to human beings. Thorndike used puzzle boxes to demonstrate instrumental conditioning. If the animal responds if it is rewarded, the response is learned. Animals could only escape from the box by making a response such as pulling a sting or pushing a button.

In his book, The Principles of Teaching based on Psychology, Thorndike endeavoured to make “the study of teaching scientific and practical.” This is how he described the art of the art of teaching and is one which would be readily recognised by student teachers in training today.

“The art of giving and withholding stimuli with the result of producing or preventing certain responses. In this definition the term stimulus is used widely for any event which influences a person, - for a word spoken to him, a look, a sentence which he reads, the air he breathes, etc., etc. The term response is used for any reaction made by him, - a new thought, a feeling of interest, a bodily act, any mental or bodily condition resulting from the stimulus. The aim of the teacher is to produce desirable and prevent undesirable changes in human beings by producing and preventing certain responses. The means at the disposal of the teacher are the stimuli which can be brought to bear upon the pupil, the teacher's words, gestures, and appearance, the condition and appliances of the school room, the books to be used and objects to be seen, and so on through a long list of the things and events which the teacher can control.”

Thorndike saw the mind as a functioning of the human organism in adapting to its environment. His work did much to overthrow tradition introspective educational psychology. His stimulus–response (S–R) was widely accepted and made possible a ‘scientific’ understanding of education. Thorndike is, however, remembered primarily for devising methods of testing and measuring children's intelligence and their ability to learn. His reasoning was that anything existing did so in some amount that could be measured as in all physical sciences. Where mind and body are one it follows that human nature ‘can be made material for quantitative science.’ Thorndike did give some ground to heredity, saying that human beings differ enormously at birth due to their ancestry. Furthermore, environmental influences he felt were often exaggerated, as they were not constant for any two people.




We now turn to another line of thinking that has influenced modern education. Even at the time of the Enlightenment, not everyone cared anything for scientific thinking and so they strode off in a different direction. This is illustrative of the many contradictory strands within today’s progressive education. The Genevan thinker, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), believed man to be essentially good but that he is corrupted by external influences. Salvation lies in following his own nature, his own impulses and appetites, and in allowing his natural humanity to blossom and find completeness. By the 1770s what is known as the Romantic movement flourished all over Europe and in Germany it was the ideal of die schöne Seele – the beautiful soul – that became central. Rousseau’s ‘big idea’ was that everything was good as it came from the hand of God and Nature, but all things deteriorate in the hands of men. External laws and customs corrupted the natural man. Abolish marriage and there can be no unfaithfulness; abolish the monarchy and wars will cease. Evil is between men not within them and can be traced to the church, government, monogamy, schools, even eating meat. Yet surely, these evil institutions that have so ‘polluted’ us have been founded by other men who must then have evil within them? Romanticism here falls into contradiction.

Rousseau’s ideas have made as much impact as any on current progressive education. Because man is essentially good, let us follow nature! The conflict lies not within man but with that imposed upon him from without. There must be a rejection of all that impedes or is contrary to the goodness of our human nature. In 1762, Rousseau published Emile, a classic guide to education according to nature. Using the literary form of a fictional biography of an orphan boy, Rousseau explains that he wants to ‘form’ a man of nature. In this ‘forming’ all traces of civil society are to be eliminated from the boy’s experience. A tutor is appointed to see that nothing interferes with the spontaneous development of the faculties of the child. Let the boy be guided by nothing else but the impulse of his own intelligence. The boy is to find his own way, to use his own powers of observation and experience. There is to be no instruction. This nonsense still prevails in many classrooms today. Children must discover for themselves. Emile was not to see a book until he reached the age of 12. He must learn astronomy by looking at the stars. If he smashed a window, let him learn from experience that the rain gets in! This is probably one of the most nonsensical doctrines in the world of education and it has done more to deprive children of the good teaching they deserve than almost anything else. Such methodology works only in the pages of storybooks. The rule is that a child should be allowed to follow the impulses of nature. Surely this is asking for trouble should the teaching of Scripture turn out to be true and Rousseau’s notions misguided? King David’s confession is to be preferred to the ramblings of this Swiss cuckoo!

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm  51:5)

Or what of the words of the apostle Paul?     

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.”   (Romans 7:18)

“The Old Masters: how well they understood,” muses Auden in one of his poems. He was speaking here of suffering and tragedy and draws attention to the painter Brueghel’s Icarus. On the theme of innate wickedness the poet could have well drawn our attention to the cruelty inflicted by children on each other in the same artist’s picture Children Playing. Rotten on the inside means rotten deeds on the outside. The verification of this truth is met with on a daily basis by teachers in the classroom. In Scotland alone, according to figures gathered directly from local authorities independently by the country’s leading newspaper, there are 34 attacks on teachers every single day of the year. Because the figures are so bad, the Scottish executive no longer publishes them saying ‘the data is unreliable’! How long must the longsuffering people of Scotland put up with this nonsense? Bad behaviour is blamed on the teacher, the external influence, and not on the child. A ‘toolkit’ for teachers on teaching the very dubious concept of ‘emotional literacy’ and issued in 2005 explains that a teacher shouting at a misbehaving girl to ‘get into your group or you’ll be sorry’ is to blame for the pupil’s bad behaviour (Sunday Telegraph, 27 November 2005). Someone has been drinking too deeply at the wells dug by Rousseau.

If the natural inclination of the sodomite is towards other men, who then can accuse him of evil? He stands justified. But then, if the impulses of the child-abuser are towards little children is this not also good? Surely, all that is required is the consent of the child? Is there not an inconsistency here? Shall we not extend this principle to the robber to rob, the rapist to rape, the killer to kill, who then can accuse them of doing any wrong? This view of human nature expressed by these ‘radicals’ stands in complete opposition to the teaching of the Bible. It assumes the essential goodness of men and the perfectibility of human nature. The Bible teaches the depravity of human nature and the impossibility of any change without the saving grace of Christ. There is in the Christian Gospel the possibility of change, humanism condemns all men to remain always what they are. Paul answers his own question:

“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25)

According to Denis Diderot (1713-1784), another of this philosophical camp, only those commands should be issued that are going to be obeyed. The child will act according to nature and a command given against nature will not be obeyed. The chaos brought about by this poppycock can be witnessed in the schools of our land on a daily basis. This is precisely the problem, children continually act according to their nature, which the Bible tells us clearly is sinful. The doctrines of Rousseau and Diderot persist despite being evidently false. The liberal theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, said of the goodness of human nature,

“…no cumulation of contradictory evidence seems to disturb modern man’s good opinion of himself. He considers himself the victim of corrupting institutions which he is about to destroy or reconstruct, or of the confusions of ignorance which an adequate education is about to overcome. Yet he continues to regard himself as essentially harmless and virtuous.”

“ The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15). The soul has gone, sin has gone, and with them all need of a Saviour.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

Writing in 1930, John Dewey named the American educator, Colonel Francis Wayland Parker (1837-1902), as the ‘father of the progressive educational movement’. Parker came from a religious family line, five members of whom had been ministers. His educational theories, as we might expect, are therefore often expressed using religious terminology. This is a common trait in Romanticism, compare Blake’s poetry, and unless we realise at the outset Parker is talking about something remote from biblical truth, we can be easily deceived. Strip away this religious wrapping and we find his gospel of freedom and group activity has survived to this day. He threw out all rote learning whether of spelling or arithmetic. Spontaneity and self-activity were to be central. The individual development of each child was a copy of the evolution of the human race itself: “the way we teach our children will determine the fate of mankind.” There are some differences, but also many echoes of Rousseau’s ‘noble savage’.

“The child is born a savage, but he rapidly ascends step by step, by love and works of love, up through all the rays of blessed sunshine! Up and up, to eternal light, and the everlasting truth, and the eternal God. …Every child is a born worker… There never was a lazy child born in God’s busy world… The child is a lover of humanity… There never was such a thing as a selfish child born – they grow selfish later. …Feed the lambs of God, and the gates of glory shall be lifted up, and the King of Glory shall enter in.” (in National Educational Association Journal of 1889)

The whole motive of education is “the motive presented in the life and words of Christ; the motive of making one’s own life and character of the greatest possible benefit to mankind.” This motive has nothing to do with Christ, and is founded on a reversal of what the Bible says about human nature.

Parker laid stress on the centrality and ‘divinity’ of the child.

“God made the child His highest creation, He put into that child His divinity, and that this divinity manifests itself in the seeking for truth through the visible and tangible.” (Talks of Pedagogics, p.7)

This natural divinity is to find unfettered expression in free activity. “The spontaneous tendencies of the child are the records of inborn divinity” (Talks of Pedagogics, p.18). Again, remove the religious covering and we are left with 20th century existentialism, truth expressed as anarchic freedom. ‘God’ may have been dispensed with since Parker, but not the ideas. This realisation of the divine nature can only be restricted by the bumbling ineptitude and ignorant intervention of adults in the form of the teacher. ‘Discipline’, ‘reward and punishment’ are all dirty words. They constitute external inducement and coercion and are the death of spontaneity. Punishment is bad enough but rewards encourage selfishness. Selfishness is brought about, according to Colonel Parker, by imposing authority on the child, whereas unfettered egoism brings out the divine in the child! Freedom is education and education is freedom.

G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924) was born in Ashfield, Massachusetts. Raised on a farm, his parents were Congregationalists. Encouraged into the ministry by his mother – he was a preacher for a short while – he used the occasion of his studies to get away from the farm and continue with his education. He turned to philosophy then to psychology. Hall gained the first Ph.D. in psychology at an American University under William James in 1878 at Harvard. He then went to Leipzig to study with Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) (a man we meet again in our second article). Returning to the USA, Hall taught for a short while at Harvard, but moved to Johns Hopkins in 1881. He moved to Clark University when it opened and stayed there until his death. One of his students was John Dewey.

Hall is known as the father of the child study movement. He linked child development with evolutionary theory, in particular he was influenced by Haeckle’s idea that ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’. Hall thought that the recapitulation of evolution by the embryo was also true from birth to maturity. The child repeats the evolution of the human race in its various stages of development.

No intellectual demands should be made on a child until eight years old. Before the onset of youth when rationality emerges, learning is by play. The child compares to ‘primitive man’ in evolutionary theory with low intellectual ability. The line between man and animals must be eradicated; they are even our elder brothers. A child is thus, because of the evolutionary process, closer to its animal past than its human present. It is this animal past that all men share. In a child instinct is more reliable than reason. Children must not be forced to learn, but their interest aroused and gently led. Hall was a true Romantic believing the

“love of nature and of children is the glory of manhood and womanhood, and the best of all civilisation.”

(in National Educational Association Journal of 1896)

There was no such thing as original sin in this world of his. Sin was not inherited, could not be, so all wrong was due to environment, which includes other people. This has given rise to the oft-quoted dictum: there are no bad children, only bad parents. So it is that each generation in this evolutionary process is better than the previous one. Rousseau: “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains” (The Social Contract, I, 1). These shackles must be thrown off, youth is destined to rebel. Yet the progress is backward not forward, back to the primitive roots of mankind.




With the new science, the new ways of looking at man and the world in which he lived, the 18th century was filled with hopes for the dawning of a new age. The revolutions in France were seen as precursors of a new world order yet to come. The French Revolution brought with it no Golden Age, but instead a Reign of Terror followed by Napoleon and a generation of war between France and England.

The words of Miranda in Shakespeare’s The Tempest::

“How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in't!

 To which Prospero responds:

        'Tis new to thee.”

        (The Tempest 5:1:183-184)

Such hopes, based as they are on a belief in the essential goodness of mankind have a long if fatal pedigree. The dawning of a new age was thought to be within reach, if only education could be brought to the people.

Many, although not all the social radicals at that time were Unitarians, also sometimes called ‘dissenters’ (meaning they were not members of the Church of England). Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), the discoverer of Oxygen was a lapsed Calvinist who eventually turned to Unitarianism. The significance of the Unitarian movement in educational reform both in the UK and North America right through until the end of the 19th century should not be underestimated. Their input was significant.

Priestley entered the new liberal nonconformist Daventry Academy in Northamptonshire. Whilst there, he read through David Hartley's Observations on Man (1749). Priestley was deeply influenced by Hartley's views of human perfectibility through good education. In 1755 Joseph Priestley became a minister at the Presbyterian Church at Needham Market. Three years later he moved to Nantwich in Cheshire. Priestley also opened a small school where he developed his ideas on education. He was especially interested in exploring how science could improve the quality of human life.

Unitarians were generally sympathetic to the revolutions in America and France and Priestley was no exception. He was made an honorary French citizen but shunned by many in England seeing that his homeland was at the time at war with France. Opposition to him and his revolutionary opinions was fierce and resulted in his house in Birmingham being razed to the ground. Consequently, he fled to London and from there he emigrated to America. His confident hope of a new age, a ‘New Jerusalem’ was based on the new theory of human nature.

“Whatever was the beginning of the world, the end will be glorious and paradisiacal beyond what our imaginations can now conceive. Extravagant  as some people may suppose these views to be, I think I could show them to be fairly suggested by the true theory of human nature and to arise from the natural course of human affairs.”

The first Unitarian Church in England was founded in 1774. Around half the Unitarian Churches in England were once Presbyterian. More Presbyterians defected to Unitarianism than out of any other English denomination. In the first half of the 19th century, defections to the Unitarians came from among the Congregationalists. In 1851, of the three million plus protestant nonconformists around 37 thousand were Unitarian. Joseph Priestley in the 18th century did much to promote their cause before emigrating to America. Their congregations sprang up largely in the industrial towns cities and towns and enjoyed the support of many prominent citizens and families such as Josiah Wedgwood, and the Nettlefold and Chamberlain families in Birmingham.

Horace Mann (1796-1858) is still regarded by many as the father of modern schooling. He had a stringent religious upbringing. His family belonged to the Congregational Church of which Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Emmons was minister. Emmons was an exponent of ‘New Light’ Calvinism. Congregationalism in America at the time was drifting in many different directions. The situation was far from clear-cut and involved many issues. Onto this scene strode Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), revivalist preacher and president of Princeton University. Edwards preached his own distinctive message and moved away somewhat from the more traditional ‘reformed’ doctrines. His followers were called ‘New Lighters’ and the traditionalists ‘Old Lighters’. The ‘Old Light’ ministers were divided into those who held to more traditional doctrines and those who were assuming a more liberal position.

By 1805 Harvard had relinquished orthodoxy and eventually became a bastion of Unitarianism. Later men built on this foundation, particularly at Harvard. The effective preacher, William Ellery Channing (1780-1842), did much to promote Unitarianism. At this time universalism – all will be saved in the end – was taken on board by Unitarianism. Between the years 1817 and 1840 around one hundred Congregational Churches became Unitarian. Massachusetts was worst hit. In Boston all but two of its four Congregational Churches became Unitarian. Many within the congregations remaining harboured Unitarianism.

As is often the case, the disciples carry the teaching further than their master. Such was true of the followers of Edwards. This was to lead to the ‘New England Theology’. The move away from Calvinism continued. Emmons himself taught that not only are sinners not associated with Adam in their guilt, but we cannot receive from him a depraved nature because he did not have one – “there is no morally corrupt nature distinct from free voluntary exercises.” Despite this, Horace Mann testified that Emmons

“…expounded all the doctrines of total depravity, election, and reprobation, and not only the eternity but the extremity of hell torments, unflinchingly and in their most terrible significance, while he rarely if ever descanted on the joys of heaven, and never, in my recollection upon the essential and necessary happiness of a virtuous life.”

It was the accidental death of his brother that finally tipped the balance for Mann. He said of himself that up until this point at the age of fourteen, he had been a ‘gullible student’ of such teachings. He immediately suspended his Calvinist beliefs refusing to accept that a Creator could be so cruel as to send sinners to hell.

It is safe to conclude that Horace Mann was challenged by the Christian Gospel and that ultimately he refused it. This seems to have been a similar pattern for many educational and social reformers at that time. Horace Mann became a lawyer and joined the First Parish Unitarian Church of Dedham, Massachusetts in 1823. The first case in his newly opened practice was on behalf the First Parish Congregational Church of Milton. They wanted to remove their minister because he refused to open his pulpit to other ministers of Unitarian persuasion. Mann won the case. In doing so, he clearly appears not only to have turned his back on the truth but also declared himself an enemy of the Gospel.

Elements of the ‘New Light’ theology seem to have been taken over in a revised form by the new radical reformers. It was inevitable that with downgrading of the biblical teaching on human depravity, it would be eventually replaced by, at the very least, an inclination of the human heart to do good. The postmillennial hopes of Jonathan Edwards, the New Age that would ‘probably’ begin in America, doubtless fed into the utopian dreams of the new educational reformers. Horace Mann believed the Christian’s millennial hope was to be realised through education.

“…which – so far as human agency is concerned – must be looked to for the establishment of peace and righteousness on earth, and for the enjoyment of glory and happiness in heaven.” (Life and Works, IV)

By the end of the 19th century the Unitarianism of Priestly was all but extinct as a philosophy and Hartley was not included in any philosophy curriculum. The Unitarians running Harvard had embraced the Scottish philosophical school of ‘Common Sense’. Unitarianism at the turn of the century increasing lost ground to secular humanism, which is hardly surprising. The philosopher, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), was brought up in Unitarianism and remained so persuaded until the age of 15 when he forsook it. The Unitarian ‘god’, such as he was, became for many, surplus to requirements and was displaced by secular humanism.

The economist, Adam Smith, suggested that the ‘intelligent and instructed’ were more ‘decent’ than others. Bentham claimed evil grew from ignorance. Despite detractors such as Herbert Spencer the influence of Benthamism was proving too strong to resist both in Britain and on the Continent. As early as the 1830s the aim of education was seen to be the perfection of human society through the ‘science of education’ (J. S. Mill). Utilitarians were well represented and successful in parliament. As early as the 1830s their spokesman in parliament, John Roebuck (1801-1879), sought to show the house why government should provide a general education for the people, the reason he gave was the reduction of crime. William Cobbett opposed Roebuck’s Education Bill of 1833 claiming on the contrary that crime in England was increasing as education as spreading. Speaking to the house:

“If so, what reason was there to tax the people for the increase of education.”

Then most insulting of all – the idea was French! Many were also aware of how education was being used in Napoleonic France as a means of indoctrination. He continued:

“It was nothing but an attempt to force education – it was French – it was a Doctrinaire plan and we should always be opposed to it.” (from Hansard 1833, Vol XX. Cited by West, pp. 131 & 135)

Mill and his friends under the banner of ‘educational reform’ began to call for legislation that would deliberately and consciously shape a new society. Utilitarianism using its novel apparatus of ‘social engineering’ through ‘scientific legislation’ would secure the liberation of the masses through specially designed state educational institutions. Teaching people to be happy would reduce violence, mischief and political unrest. Roebuck and his fellow utilitarians believed that only they could achieve this end.

The ‘romantics’ as much as the utilitarian  ‘scientists’ looked for a Golden Age, and sought to build on earth their New Jerusalem. According to the French thinker, Helvetius (1715-1771), education could accomplish everything.

 “Education makes us what we are…The science of education may be reduced perhaps to the placing a man in that situation which will force him to attain the talents and virtues required of him.” (A Treatise on Man)

If education is the whole of life, then his environment, the society and government which control him are all part of the picture. Moral education is just a management of the environment, as Rousseau taught in Emile. If the environment in which children grow up can be changed, if malevolent influences can be neutralised from wherever they may come, then in a generation or two evils will wither and be seen no more. Let reason rule and a Golden Age will appear. The human mind is the real source of progress and is the guarantee of a perfect society.

It is easy to mock such aspirations from a distance without realising some of the doctrines that gave rise to them are still with us. There is the rejection of history, the desire to wipe the slate clean and begin again. Institutions and traditions of the past have corrupted human nature. We must concentrate not on eradicating the evil within men but in the environment in which they live. There is nothing more 21st century than that! Men are evil because they are locked into the past. Man is good and can reach a state of perfection by changing human institutions – or in the case of anarchy, by destroying them. As the state of perfection is reached so more and more of these institutions disappear.




Article 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates the recognition of ‘the right of the child to education’ making ‘primary education compulsory and available free to all.’ Paragraph 3 of that same article obliges the signatories to facilitate access to scientific and technical knowledge and modern teaching methods’.

Horace Mann believed in

“…the existence of a great, immortal immutable principle of natural law, or natural ethics, – a principle antecedent to all human institutions, and incapable of being abrogated by any ordinance of man, – a principle of divine origin, clearly legible in the ways of Providence as those ways are clearly  manifested in the order of Nature and in the history of the race, which proves the absolute right to an education of every human being that comes into the world; and which, of course, proves the correlative duty of every government to see that the means of that education are provided for all.”  (Life and Works, Vol. IV p.115 f., 1891)

We must not forget that Mann’s background and that when he speaks of ‘divine origin’ or ‘Providence’, he is not speaking of the God we encounter through the Bible. According to Mann, the child has an inalienable right to education and its provision is the duty of the state.

This ‘right’ is grounded in ‘natural law’. The origin of the idea of ‘natural law’ is obscure, but it emerged in Greek philosophy, in particular in Aristotle. It then passed in to Roman philosophy and lawmaking through Cicero and from thence into Western thought and justice. Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 500 BC) thought that when men saw wrongs done they were disturbed and passed judgement on what they had seen. In so doing they were invoking a law. This may not be a written law. Nevertheless, by the act of passing judgement men show themselves committed to an idea of justice. This law is said to spring out of the constitution of human nature and is common to all men. The Stoics of Mars Hill fame believed men should live according to Nature. There is within man an essential goodness or notion of goodness according to which we all should live. This takes no account of the verbal revelation to man in Scripture. Nature is the will of God. Of course, again God is soon left out of the picture leaving only ‘Nature’. There are then certain inalienable rights for us all grounded, not in Scripture, but in Nature. Nature, not God, then becomes the source of all law. The laws of Nature are fixed and cannot be changed, not by anyone, not even by God Himself. The origin of law is fixed in Nature; it is Right Reason. The statement that ‘all men are created equal’ is a principle that cannot be demonstrated as being true by any science, but only by that intuitive reason that all men have in common. Some evangelicals believe that the rule for Christians is the Bible whereas the rule for non-Christians is a separate ‘natural law’ within them. We need the Bible for our spiritual lives and ‘right reason’ for everything else. This position is a mixture of Bible and paganism.

There have always been those who deny all idea of a universal moral law. The denial of a higher law, divine or natural, leaves us in the hands of him who is best able to force his will upon us, might over right. Law is not right because it is forced upon us, but because it is an expression of true righteousness. Such righteousness can be found only in the being of God. There is no ‘right reason’ outside God to which He must conform to be a ‘reasonable’ God. God’s reason is revealed in Scripture and our reasoning begins there and not with that which comes to us to us from outside us through our sensory organs (cf. Locke, et al). There are no universal principles or moral laws outside God or above God to be apprehended by ‘right reason’ or conscience or anything else.

Governments may today force education upon all children by pointing out natural rights; they may impose it because we cannot resist; they may insist upon it for reasons of their own self-interest – to keep themselves safely in power. International law and international criminal courts, in the absence of any binding written statute, call upon natural law, natural justice, and human rights to justify themselves. All pay homage to natural law and natural rights derived from it. John Locke went a step further than most severing the link between law and rights, believing the latter could stand alone apart from the rule of law. He opened the door to revolution. This is why today many who care most about rights, care little about law. Everyone has rights and will cast aside law to secure them.

In the educational world, the ideas of Horace Mann are still taken as read. He believed that it is not original sin as the Bible teaches it ruling in the heart of men, but natural law. Naturally the child will have a sense of delight and duty. Crime and evil come about because of the failure to educate, failure to utilise this law within. Because duty and delight are natural to children, rewards and punishments are superfluous. Indeed, parents who give rewards and punishments pervert their children. In the place of our accountability towards God we are given natural rights. The teaching of the Bible is thereby turned on its head. Mann abhorred punishment for it excited fear and “fear is a most debasing, dementalising passion”. The Bible says: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Rewards and punishment imply an external authority and accountability rather than natural rights.

Instead of being responsible, the man with ‘rights’ is owed something by God, parents, the government, and everyone else. Furthermore, if something goes wrong ‘rights’ have been violated and someone else is to blame! If there is to be any punishment at all it must fall upon parents for depriving children of their ‘right’ to an education and ultimately God will be blamed for making me what I am and letting things happen to me! Horace Mann was opposed to any idea of parental or divine punishment, but made an exception for the state! Here he was insistent. Compulsory education must involve the accountability of parents and implicitly, sanctions or punishment.

Mill is renowned for being the champion of 19th century liberalism and his essay On Liberty  (1859) remains a standard text today. Coercion is generally viewed as bad, although it may be resorted to on occasions as the lesser of two evils. There was a deep-seated conviction that certain areas of an individual’s life ought to remain free of interference, as government has no business there. However, Mill defended intervention intended to ‘prevent harm to others’. His definition is wide, but includes the more obvious things such as physical injury, offences against decency, but even injury to good manners. In addition he included failing to perform ‘assignable duties’. The proper education of children was a duty ‘assigned’ to parents. Both Mill and Roebuck believed that power of the parent over the child was delegated by the state – certainly not by God! The neglect of the development of a child’s mental faculties amounts to harm and cruelty. Each child is said to have a ‘right’ to at least a minimum of education. Parents cannot withhold this right.

For the Christian believer, the bringing up of children, which includes their education, is the solemn responsibility of parents for which they are accountable not to the state but to God. Education is not a right of the child but a responsibility of parents. Children are a gift of God over which we must watch and take care. This duty does not lie with the church; it does not lie with the magistrate in the form of the state. To teach, govern and guide children is to control the future, all governments know this. It is the mark of a godless anti-Christian culture to take these powers from the parents. We are to render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but are under no obligation to surrender to him that which is not his to claim.

The responsibility for education must rest with government according to Mill. This is discussed in his Principles of Political Economy.

“The uncultivated cannot be competent judges of cultivation. …Education, therefore, is one of those things which it is admissible in principle that a government should provide for the people.”

Despite this, Mill at times had his doubts and was fearful lest government control of education establish ‘a despotism over the mind’. Roebuck was less fearful declaring in parliament that it was his intention “to make the education of the people a matter of national and not merely individual concern”. Mill whilst agreeing with compulsion believed that control should be exercised through the enforcement of public examinations rather than through the Benthamite centralised political control proposed by Roebuck. In both cases it was government pulling the educational strings.

In the wake of the philosophy of ‘rights’ will always follow the diminution of choice and freedom and must ultimately end in tyranny. Choices are made for us and we are forced to comply. The choice

is a clear one. We accept the tyranny imposed by government or embrace self-responsible liberty. Gresham Machen, the Princeton theologian, made the following observation early in the 20th century:

“A monopolistic system of education controlled by the state is far more efficient in crushing our liberty than the cruder weapons of fire and sword.”

(Gresham Machen, “The Necessity  of the Christian School” in Education, Christianity, and the State, John W. Robbins, Jefferson, 1987)

The liberal radicals of the 19th century sought to liberate man through a system of State-supported schools. This goal has not changed. They were generally opposed to the teaching of the Christian faith in schools and particularly to the influence of the Church of England. Certainly Church schools were to receive no state support. Education was to be freed from Church influence and replaced by the state. If the state, or the Church for that matter, were to dominate education then it would be surely illiberal?  We believe in the separation of Church and State; we believe too in the separation of school and state. A truly free and liberal education must be free of Church and State control. The State having now assumed the role once occupied by the Church, it has become the source of salvation. Men are to be made regenerate through science and a new social order. The state illegitimately reserves for itself the right to intervene in every area of our lives, the inevitable consequence of a doctrine of ‘rights’ and ‘natural law’.

The provider of education becomes the provider of all things. Because I have a ‘right’ to education provided by the state, it is but a short step to saying that having educated me, I also have a ‘right’ to a job and if I am unemployed or unemployable, it is not I but government that is to blame. The state as the greater provider must see that I have access to housing, health care, and security in old age. I am the taker, the government is the provider, but as provider government then also determines what form these things shall take and so control over much of our lives is willingly yielded to government. If we look to government to provide we ought not then to carp about what form it takes.




According to educationalists, education is now more than learning to read, write and add up. Beginning with the belief that man is the highest form of animal life, education is concerned with conditioning us all for our role in life. We are being told that the older forms of education are no longer relevant in the modern world. Doing must replace understanding. The skills produced by conditioning have replaced knowledge imparted by teaching. ‘Dead’ facts are of no use to anyone. Rather than filling the mind with knowledge, it must be broadened by ‘problem solving’ and ‘critical thinking’. Knowledge and skills acquired in school need to be translated into deeds in their lives as individuals and citizens.

If not all children learn to read, we ought not to be surprised. Many leading educationalists do not think traditional literacy is important. Harvard professor, Anthony D. Oettinger, said this in 1982:

“Our idea of literacy, I am afraid, is obsolete because it rests on a frozen and classical definition. … The present ‘traditional’ concept of literacy has to do with the ability to read and write. But the real question that confronts us today is: How do we help citizens function well in their society? How can they acquire the skills necessary to solve their problems?”

The goal of modern education has become learning ‘values’ and ‘citizenship.’ If education has been freed from the church, its place has been taken by the state.

The idea of educating the child in a ‘holistic’ way, rather than simply concentrating on the 3 Rs, is nothing new and can be traced back in recent times once more to Horace Mann. Speaking at Brown University in 1825, he said:

“The fundamental maxim of true education is, no so much to inculcate opinions, and beliefs, as to impart the means of their formation.”

This remains the vision of educators.

To what end? We are all bound together in one community or commonwealth and the natural law, natural rights, natural ethics all men have in common. Again, Horace Mann writing in 1846:

“The successive generations of men, taken collectively, constitute one great commonwealth. …The property of this commonwealth is pledged for the education of all its youth, up to such a point as will save them from poverty and vice, and perhaps to prepare them for the adequate performance of their social and civil duties.” (cf. Life and Works, Vol. IV, p.131)

It is from within the ‘successive generations of men’, the ‘one great commonwealth’, that shared values, a shared life, and shared ethics, all emerge. There is no external law or compulsion.

The utopian aspirations of early educationalists doubtless drew on the Christian postmillennial hopes expressed by men such as Jonathan Edwards. In the same way, teaching of Scripture concerning salvation and the nature of the Christian Church as a ‘body’, a living community are paralleled in Mann’s perceptions of the ‘new community’. His community is a substitute ‘church’. Mann believed, however, in a universal salvation; no one was to be excluded. Any distinction such as is taught in the Bible and is inherent, for example, in the doctrine of election or in a church called out from among other men is discounted in favour of all men belonging to the one community of men. Rather than is the case when men are persuaded by the preaching of the Gospel to repent and believe and so by faith enter the community of Christian believers, we are all members of Mann’s community whether we like it or not. We cannot opt out; we are forced to take part. As a consequence, social or community education, which forms a pivotal role in the growth and development of the community, must be compulsory for all.

Universalism draws everyone into one community whether they like it or not. The religious universalism of Unitarianism doubtless carried this idea over into the political world, where everyone involuntarily belongs to the one community and cannot do other than participate in it. This is the ‘keynote of democracy as a way of life’. There is the

“…necessity for the participation of every mature being in formation of the values that regulate the living of men together: which is necessary from the standpoint of both the general social welfare and the full development of human beings as individuals.” (Dewey, Intelligence in the Modern World, p.389, 1939)

There is no individual choice in the matter. Participation in all its life, including education, is mandatory.

Compulsory education for every individual is essential to the well being of the whole community. Through the self-reformation of education, crime and vice would be eradicated. The state in the form of this collective man is not external or alien to us as is God, but is our parent, providing for us, rewarding and punishing us. Mob violence, such as that manifested in the French Revolution, according to Mann, was because of vicious or defective education of the perpetrators when children. Shall we still say that the drunken yobs who roam the streets of our towns in Britain today have not had enough ‘community’ education? They have had their fill!

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), writer, schools inspector, explains in Culture and Anarchy how exposure to that which is good, ‘sweetness and light’, keeps the masses from the barricades. He sought total perfection through getting to know ‘the best which has been thought and said in the world’. Jeremy Bentham thought education essential to keeping law and order: “Education is only government acting by means of a domestic magistrate”. It is cheaper to educate than to keep people in jail. Again Horace Mann, and note the quasi-religious language:

“Education is to inspire the love of the truth, as the supremest good, and to clarify the vision of the intellect to discern it. …A love of truth, – a love of truth; this is the pool of a moral Bethesda, whose waters have miraculous healing.”                (cf. Life and Works, Vol. II, p.80, 82)

Could children but be taught in the common or ‘community’ school…

“…nine-tenths of the crimes in the penal code would become obsolete; the long catalogue of human ills would be abridged.” (The Common School Journal, Vol. III, p.15)

Salvation for society through education, education, education!

The independent mind that does not function within the life of the community, over which there is no control, such a mind is dangerous. The success of the experiment is jeopardised where there is any element beyond its reach. Christian belief may be tolerated where it does not threaten or oppose but operates within the circle of the community contributing faith, dignity and morality.

Central to the control of education is the control of teacher training. This training has less to do with maintaining standards than with total social control. This cannot be an infringement of liberty because the state is the vehicle of social redemption and is where the only true order and liberty can be found. Control the teachers, control the classroom, control the children. Teachers are a kind of priesthood and every school a temple.

In recent years here in the UK teacher training colleges have trained at least 85,000 students who have never gone on to teach. Half of those who do begin teaching leave within fewer years than it took for them to qualify. Teacher training establishments today are not renowned for their high academic standards, nor do they seem to be populated by any great intellects. They could easily be scrapped and replaced with an apprentice scheme for new teachers, who would be given genuine positions and learn from more experienced colleagues ‘on the job’. The ‘experts’ from training colleges could then be put out to grass or sent to exercise their avowed ‘expertise’ in ‘failing schools’! Such an obvious plan would never be implemented as it is important to produce not real teachers but functionaries, facilitators for learning, and teacher-training institutions are where this begins. Teachers are an important tool in shaping children in the mould of the ‘common will’ in the form of the state. This has been predestined for them, a goal the educational establishment pursues with evangelistic fervour. Teachers do not need to understand what they are doing or why. They only need to function properly as the whole system demands. Teachers are an instrument more powerful than any other in the hands of government. They sway public opinion, morals, and religion.

Comprehensive, compulsory state education is essential to the preservation of the modern state and its ideals. Only within the ‘community’ of the state can man truly live. It cannot be a free state because no one can be permitted to live outside it. Everything belongs to the state including the children. Children are the future…

“…building a commonwealth whose spirit shall be peace on earth and good will to man” (John Swett, History of Public School System in California,  (1874), pp. 237-246)

Writing in 1865, the Californian schools superintendent, John Swett (1830-1913), says that in state education the teacher takes on the parents’ role.

“The child should be taught to consider his instructor, in many respects, superior to the parent in point of authority. …The vulgar impression that parents have a legal right to dictate to teachers is entirely erroneous. …in the common and public schools they [the parents] are neither his [the teacher] employers nor his master, and it is entirely out of place to attempt to give him orders. …Parents have no remedy as against the teacher” (First Biennial Report 1864-65)    

This is the mindset of all statist educationalists. Give your children up to state-school teachers and you say goodbye to any right over your child and as to what they are taught there. You have no redress.

The belief of many such as the educational administrator, Francis Wayland Parker (1837-1902), was that the true home of the child was to be found at school because the true home for every one was the democratic state.

“The child is not in the school to learn, not in there for mere knowledge; but he is in there to live, to learn to live – not a preparation for life so much as real living.”  (in National Educational Association Journal of 1895)

The unfolding of human freedom finds its fullest expression in the communal life and will of the state. These growth of these schools are an expression of this ‘communal will’ – vox populi, vox dei.

“The republic says to its citizens, ‘You cannot be educated outside of the common school, for the common school is the infant republic.’” (in National Educational Association Journal of 1891)

To oppose state schools, which are the true home of the child, to substitute these for private institutions, amounts to bigotry and hatred.

Professor David Blacker writing in the American Journal of Education (February 1998) echoes Parker:

“In both its spectacular terrorist forms and, perhaps even, more so, in its quieter and currently expanding institutional agendas, what I shall call ‘fanaticism’ challenges the democratic constituted state to its core. Nowhere is this challenge more acute than in the educational arena in which tectonic shiftings in the century–old United States public school movement have given rise to a range of particularist initiatives – charter schools, vouchers, ‘parents rights’, a variety of ethnocentricism, home schooling as a national movement – which provide cover and legitimisation for an array of emboldened fanatical groups…Schools run by fanatics, as I shall argue, act so severely against those democratic premises that, whatever else we decide we want to do or want to try, we must nor permit them in any form..”

These people are blind ideological enthusiasts.

The home and the family are no longer at the centre of the life of any nation. The home is but an adjunct to the school. The source of the people, the family, is to be socialised. Parents need to be taught something called ‘parenting skills’. Guidance is not received from any Word of God but from the state, that is also the fount of relief, health, wisdom, sustenance and faith. We live by the mercy and grace of the state. It is the source of all ‘goodness’. Children belong to the state. What difference is there here than in the frantic cries of Hitler: “Die deutsche Jugend gehört dem Führer” – German youth belong to the Führer?

Anyone exploring the history of educational thinking must eventually meet up with John Dewey (1859-1952). It is perhaps with Dewey that we encounter most clearly the goals of progressive secular education. Apart from founding the philosophical school of Pragmatism along with Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, – although he called his own particular version of it ‘instrumentalism’ – he became a leading figure in progressive education at home in North America and around the world. At the University of Vermont he was influenced by the theory of evolution as expounded by G. H. Perkins and T. H. Huxley. As a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, he came under the influence of George Sylvester Morris, who had studied Hegel in Germany, and also the experimental psychologist, G. Stanley Hall. These were perhaps the two most powerful influences upon him.

Standing firmly in the ‘Romantic’ line, Dewey believed that the individual can only have meaning within the society of which he is a part. Society itself can have no meaning apart from its realisation in and through the lives of the individuals who make up society.

The more radical aspects of Dewey’s brand of progressive education have never been put into practice. Nevertheless, much of his thinking has survived and is an integral part of educational thinking today. Intolerant of all criticism, his devotees have over the years shown themselves to be dismissive of all other ways of thinking than their own and have often engaged in aggressive campaigns against everyone else. Their ‘truths’ are beyond criticism. Dewey is their messiah.

The notion of ‘progressive’ education is based on the idea of continuity. All forms of duality are false, whether this is between the being of man and God, whether between mind and body, or between book learning and play, ruler and ruled. Everything needs to be on the same level for things to progress. There can be no such thing as any authority; this would make change impossible. Authority implies something that does not change. Men and other men, God and men are all on the same level. Everything is always changing. Despite this the truth remains: “For I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). God does not, cannot change. If there is one being such as God who does not change then this whole philosophy falls. Supernaturalism of any kind destroys the concept of continuity. The Christian faith is anti-democratic in that it holds to a God who does not change, whose ways and laws are immutable. The idea of being ‘saved’ or ‘lost’ creates an unacceptable spiritual aristocracy. The whole of humanity is for Dewey one and breaking this up by any distinction is intolerable. There can be no distinction of success and failure, blessedness or judgement. In the end, no group will be tolerated but that of the ‘great community’.

In Democracy and Education, Dewey says that those who withstand change do not believe in progress. Only one thing is certain, that nothing is ever the same. Since the days of Heraclitus  (c. 500), we have been told that continual change is an inviolate law of nature. He said, “You cannot step twice into the same river.” The chair you sit on is in gradual decay, so next time you sit down it will have changed. The single moral end, according to John Dewey, is ‘growth’. Growth is itself the ultimate value and therefore good. This is woven into the woof and warp of out daily lives. We must always move on, ‘move into the 21st century’ – change for change’s sake. This is what is meant by ‘progressive’ education. It must always be on the move. Permanent, immutable, eternal values cannot really exist. Mutability in our world is regarded as an axiomatic principle both in the physical world, in society, and in the individual’s search for salvation. In evangelical circles this pagan doctrine reveals itself in the relinquishing of tradition and the constant renewing first of practice and then the waiting for doctrine to catch up. New bible translations, new songs in place of the old hymns and psalms – perpetually out with the old and in with the new. Change is itself the truth. Evolution by another name!

Darwin’s insistence on continuity and change are reflected in Dewey’s statements to the effect that growth or development in the context of education and the child are ‘one exemplification of the principle of continuity’. One practical outcome of this must be that all children in school are on the same level. They can and will only develop and grow within the community life of the school.

Progress, change, is irresistible and inevitable, that is, at least until the ‘Great Community’ is born! “To exist is to be in the process, in change”, Dewey writes in Living Philosophies (p.26, 1930). One thing is fixed, one principle never changes and that is that all things are always changing. This process of nature is for Dewey the final authority. This doctrine takes the place given by believing Christians to fixed revealed truth in an inerrant and inspired Bible.

The democratic ideal is more than a method of electing a government, a consideration that slips by most people. Carleton Washburne (1889-1968), known for his experiments with progressive education in Winnetka, Illinois, wrote in 1940 in his book A Living Philosophy of Education (p.448):

“Fundamentally, democracy is a way of life that gives every individual the utmost possible opportunity for self-fulfilment as a member of an independent society.”

Democracy is a way of life before it is a form of government. Democracy is not majority rule, but is social integration. There will differences between individuals, but

“…every organism consists of different cells performing their functions differently, and co-ordinating these functions. This differentiation is essential to the life of the organism.” (The World’s Good, p.291, 195)

Democracy is to these men the identification of each individual with the continuum. It means the surrender of all exclusivity – as with a Christian church that believes itself chosen of God. All aristocracy, hierarchy, authority must go. Whilst, according the Dewey, the individual makes his own distinctive contribution, it can only be realised within the community. Teachers should not regard themselves as a professional élite dispensing wisdom from above, but become identified with their pupils in the growing and expanding democratic experience. Gifted children, talented teachers are an anomaly; the trend will always be a downward levelling.

Dewey wrote in Education and the Social Order: “Social planning can be had only by means approaching dictatorship unless education is socially planned” (p.13, 1936).

There are still today plenty of crazed psychiatrists around ready to testify that a child is being abused because he or she is being denied an opportunity to develop properly by socialisation by being kept out of state schools. The ‘right to education’ in this context means that no child must be denied that education the community in the form of the state deems proper. Such a denial is to deprive the child of its rights; to give it some other form of education is abuse. Not only does the individual have rights, but the community’s right is to benefit from the exercise of those rights by the individual.

All must participate; salvation is universal; there are no lost souls.

“We may say that the conception of the school as a social center is born of our entire democratic movement. Everywhere we see the signs of the growing recognition that the community owes to each one of its members the fullest opportunity for development”  (in National Educational Association Journal of 1902)

The community owes the individual the social possibility of ‘developing and growing life’.

Dewey offers no scientific or pragmatic grounds for his assumptions. They take the character of a religious faith, to be accepted not questioned. Progressive education is just that – a pseudo-religious faith.

“The foundation of democracy is faith in the capacities of human nature; faith in human intelligence and in the power of pooled and co-operative experience.”   (Problems of Men, p.59, 1946)

Dewey and his followers offer a substitute way of salvation within which education is an integral part. It is for all of mankind, a salvation in which all must partake.

Dewey’s ‘great community’ is a pseudo-church, a substitute for the biblical idea of the ‘body of Christ’. Mann and Dewey were fully aware of this and often had no hesitation in borrowing biblical vocabulary to express their ideas. In the Church we are members one of another.

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ… From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:13-16)

In Dewey’s ‘great organic community’ we all need each other. The whole functions like a body, each member is necessary to the proper functioning of the whole and so there can be no opting out. If something is missing, the whole suffers.

“In conclusion, we may say that the conception of the school as a social center is born of our entire democratic movement. Everywhere we see signs of the growing recognition that the community owes to each one of its members the fullest opportunity for development. Everywhere we see the growing recognition that the community life is defective and distorted excepting as it does thus care for all its constituent parts.”  (Education and Social the Order, p.10, 1936)

Dewey’s idea of democratic freedom is not the right to do as one pleases, even with the proviso of not interfering with ‘the same freedom on the part of others’. Freedom operates only within the context of society as a whole. Any other manifestation of freedom is “almost sure to result in confusion and disorder.” Dewey wrote:

“The modes of freedom guaranteed in the Bill of Rights are all of this nature: Freedom of belief and conscience, of expression of opinion, of assembling for discussion and conference, of the press as an organ of communication. They are guaranteed because without them individuals are not free to develop and society is deprived of what they might contribute.” (Philosophy and Civilisation, p.328, 1931)

Only within the bosom of society can the individual know and express freedom; only here can he fulfil his own potential, only here can he find his ‘salvation’. It could be said:

“Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.” (1 Corinthians 12:22)

As a direct result of the work of men like John Dewey in the late 19th century a master plan evolved, ideas were put forward for the implementing of concepts of an organic society, populated by the social individual. Dewey may be long buried but his ideas are still with us. If we remove the references to the kingdom of God, couch the whole in today’s  ‘newspeak’, many of the sentiments of his Pedagogic Creed remain alive and well.

“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living; I believe that education is the regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction. …the teacher is engaged, not simply in the training of individuals, but in the formation of the proper social life. I believe that every teacher should realize the dignity of his calling; that he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of proper social order and the securing of the right social growth. I believe that in this way the teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God.” (first published in The School Journal, Vol. LIV, No.3 [January 16, 1897], pp.77-80)

Now you thought children went to school just to learn their ABC!

“I believe that education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction.” (John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed [1897])

Learning is not the main aim of progressive education. The goal is to engender within pupils a consciousness of one world and “membership in a single family” (Dewey, Problems of Men, p.43, 1946). Dewey could not be clearer: “Apart from the thought of participation in social life the school has no end nor aim” (Ethical principles Underlying Education, p.12, 1908). We are created in the image of society and this creation is a process in which we all participate. Man cannot truly be man until reborn in the final realisation of the ‘great community’.

The retreat from government schools is not defeatist or perverse escapism. Quite the opposite. The educationalist establishment is offering a substitute to the kingdom of God. The aims of progressive educationalists are still religious, the religion of humanism. Whereas the secular educational goal is to immerse the individual in the ever evolving community, in a truly biblical educational system the individual remains important in his own right but not apart from the unfolding eternal plan of God. Rejecting secular education is not retreatist, but is a departure from that which is already condemned, that which has already begun to crumble, and that which will eventually be brought to naught by Christ in order that we may already be part of that community which will culminate in the coming of the kingdom God, when God’s will shall “be done in earth as it is in heaven”  (Matthew 6:10). We seek to be aligned with the genuine and authentic kingdom and not to become entangled with any counterfeit.

We must see what we do now in the light of what is to come. It is we who in Christ shall triumph.

“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)

It is the end that gives sense to the present. We may be acutely aware of the depraved culture around us, yet unable to cope with it as we ought because we have lost sight of our sure and certain hope. We can hide ourselves away, take some of it over and live a compromised faith. Let us make no mistake, Christ Jesus is the victor in all things, He is able and will “subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:21)Christ has overcome the world. Let us make sure we are on His side and He on ours.

We are being fleeced by thousands of pounds each and every year to have our own children brainwashed in anti-Christian ideas and manipulated into godless attitudes and ways of behaving and thinking – at our own expense! There is no room for complacency; we must find ways to get our children out of these places, the educational concentration camps they call schools – and we must do so without delay! If in some state schools there is increased danger of serious physical harm to some, injury done to young minds and hearts in schools to all is just as serious.




According to the Scriptures, ultimately there are just two communities in this world and we all belong to one or the other, but not to both. Each community is bound together for a different end and purpose; each is subject to different laws under a different administration. This was ever so. Writing to the Philippians, the apostle Paul describes the larger of the two communities as consisting of  “the enemies of the cross” (Philippians 3:18). The implication of this verse seems to be that many who call themselves by Christ’s name also fall into this category. The much smaller community consists of those whose “conversation is in heaven” (v.20), and are bound by the laws of heaven in contradistinction to a worldly community. They are not the many, but the few, Christ’s ‘little flock’ to whom He said,

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

They are they to whom Christ the King shall say:

“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

Each of these two groups has a completely different orientation, one opposing the other. The reason is that one community has its origin from out of this world, the other functions from a heavenly perspective. The Lord Jesus said to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Literally, my kingdom is not out of this world; that is, it does not have its origin from out of this world. Christians sing heartily: “I’m but a stranger here, Heav’n is my home” and rightly so. Paul reminds us, that those of whom he writes and died in faith:

“…confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”   (Hebrews 11:13-16)

As Christian believers, as inheritors of the kingdom, we feel completely alienated in a world that is contrary to all that we hold dear and dominated by those who are the declared enemy of Christ our Saviour. God has prepared for us a city, a poliς. We should not think of this city as we would one of our own modern cities. In exactly the same way as the word ‘church’ in the New Testament has reference to believing people rather than the building in which they meet, so the idea of ‘city’ is of the community of citizens rather than a place of streets and houses.

Of course, we were all at one time to be found among these enemies of Christ. Only later did we move over to the group of those whose interest is in heaven.

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  (Ephesians 2:1-6)

The kingdom of God has already invaded this world and the power of this kingdom is even now at work.

When the Lord Jesus embarked upon His earthly ministry, He came preaching the kingdom of heaven. His call was: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). The Kingdom is past; it entered the world with Christ’s first advent. It is present, for Christ reigns over those who have accepted His kingship and even now works to the destruction of all that raises itself against Him. But the kingdom is yet future, for not yet are all His foes put down.

The Lord Jesus Himself taught us to pray:

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

The kingdom of God will have come on earth, and we shall know it has come when the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven and for this we are to pray. All other kingdoms, false kingdoms, the kingdoms of this world, offered to the Saviour by Satan during His temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:89); all these kingdoms shall fall and those in them perish. They will not be somehow subsumed into Christ’s Kingdom by a great revival at the end of the age, nor by any human effort on our part, but they all will be brought toppling down in one sovereign act of God by a stone ‘cut out without hands’ (Daniel 2:34), by Christ Himself.

“I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. …I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. …But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.” (Daniel 7:9; 13-14; 18)   

John the apostle writes in the Apocalypse:

“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)

We see then that these two communities shall have very different ends. Paul tells us that for the enemies of the cross, of Christ and all He has accomplished, their end is destruction (v.19). They are good for nothing and like brambles they cumber the ground and are neither useful for growing or burning. For Christian believers the end is very different.

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”  (vv. 20-21)

Because we are Christ’s and seek His will in all things, we live already under the rules and laws of His kingdom, because we say right now “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven”. We can say no other. Can we desire anything other than this? We cannot live for ever under the regime of this world and its godlessness.

However, let us be very clear about this, there are not two sets of rules, one for Christian believers and another one for everyone else. There is one standard of right and wrong for all men, one rule of life, and it is found only in the Christian Scriptures, nowhere else. There is one God, One who is good, One whose righteous being determines what is right and wrong. Apart from Him there is no measure of goodness against which to measure anyone or any thing. Jesus Himself said, “…there is none good but one, that is, God” (Mark 10:18).

The whole universe is God’s creation and therefore all men are subject to Him. Why else would godless men want to be rid of creation? We learn what He wants of us all in the written Word of Scripture. It is for every man the final authority because only One is God and the Bible is His Word. Above all it tells us how we may move from the dark world of nature into which we were born into the light of His Kingdom as a direct result of what Christ has done in shedding His blood on the cross.

“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:  In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”   (Colossians 1:12-14)

The Bible tells us how, living in the community of redeemed men, we are to walk in this world. We will have, for example, a very different view of the place government than do godless men, for even in this we must follow the teaching of the Scriptures. We are urged to pray for those who rule over us and to regard them as God’s servants. The role of human government, according to the Bible, is magisterial. They should not be given to meddling in every detail of the lives of law-abiding citizens. This is because they do not derive power from within themselves and strict limits are set over their powers by God. The fact that rulers do not acknowledge Him makes no difference, God remains God even as the sun keeps shining when we close our eyes! The Scripture teaching is the standard for all men and for all governments and is a mandate from God we all must respect. The state has otherwise no authority beyond that given it by God and we are not obliged to obey its laws in those areas where we would be transgressing God’s Word.

Governments that believe they have the right to make prescriptive laws concerning every, and any area of human life have already begun the long march down the road of tyranny having overstepped the borders of the divine mandate. Governments have no mandate to restrict or interfere with the preaching of the Gospel and there is no necessity laid upon us by God to observe such restrictions and prohibitions. The responsibility for the rearing and therefore the education of children entrusted to us by God lies with parents and not with government. In this modern governments overreach themselves and we must find ways of clawing back that which has been quietly taken from us over the past 100 years or so. State education is thought to be the norm and is rarely questioned. Education is simply no business of government – end of story!


A biblical approach to education


Education is not neutral, because facts and learning do not exist in a vacuum. The way in which Christian believers view reality is essentially different from the way in which unbelievers see it. In the world of humanist education the ‘facts’ of the universe have come about as a result of chance evolution, therefore all that can be known will be solely physical, irrational, and without fixed purpose or meaning.

Facts are to us what our religious faith makes them out to be, be this biblical Christianity, some other religion, or secular humanism (itself a religion). We cannot derive our ‘spiritual’ values from Scripture and our educational values from reason or elsewhere. The world in which we live and all there is to know about it is rooted in the biblical teaching of creation. All things were made by God and so we need His interpretation, His light on all things.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

To abandon the Scriptures in the area of education and vocation replacing them with the so-called ‘neutral’ values of the world around us is to condemn ourselves to a schizoid existence. We shall have a divided rather than a whole heart with which to follow Christ. The real effect is to have chosen stepped into a position of unbelief.

Whilst we applaud those who seek to provide Christian schooling, or to produce Christian educational materials, we are often forced to question the extent to which they are biblically based and therefore truly Christian. Our Saviour is the Lord over all and only He is Lord. Our Christian beliefs will affect not only the way we act and behave, but also everything else from the goals and teaching methods through even to the content of the lesson. What is basically humanistic in character cannot be sandwiched between a hymn and a prayer and pronounced Christian.

A school may claim to be ‘Christian’ but that does not mean that is what it is. If the churches that feed into it are unsound, then those schools too will undermine the faith and not build it up. A quasi-Christian School can be a faith-destroying machine offering little more than ‘baptised’ secularism. Such evil done cannot be so easily undone. Not all ‘Christian’ schools are places to which we can send our children.

A truly Christian education is a Bible-based education. Not that only the Bible is to be read and taught but that central to a unified and integrated educational perspective is the conviction that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the infallible, error-free, inspired Word of God. Furthermore, that in our day special revelation from God is found only in its pages and nowhere else. There is no other source of authority for us than this. That Christ Himself is the supreme revelation of God, God incarnate, the effulgence of His glory, the express image of His being, does not diminish Scripture. Only through Scripture do we learn who Christ is; only through Scripture do we learn of our need of salvation. No one comes to Christ without direct or indirect contact with the written Word of God. Child-centred education must give way to Christ-centred education.

An educational perspective ­ –­ aims, methods, content, ­– when based on the Scriptures will evidence the characteristics of a unity, an integrated whole. In 1537 Martin Luther said:

“I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the gates of hell unless they diligently labour in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place their child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.”

The Bible teaches that the human soul is satisfied only when our whole existence is given over to glorifying God. In the well-known words in answer to the first question of the Westminster Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever.” It is this goal that must be at the heart of a Christian educational programme. If our life’s aim is to seek satisfaction and happiness for its own sake, it will elude us. That which appears sweet and desirable will turn bitter and dry on our tongue and eventually become abhorrent to us.




The Heidelberg Catechism of 1563 opens with these beautiful words:


What is your only comfort in life and in death?


That I with body and soul, both in life and in death (Romans 14:7-8), am not my own (1 Corinthians 6:19), but am my faithful Saviour’s own, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:23), who with His precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19) has fully paid for all my sins (1 John 1:7; 2:2) and has redeemed me from all the power of the devil (1 John 3:8) and so keeps me (John 6:39), that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair of my head can fall (Matthew 10:29-31); Luke 21:18), but that everything works to my salvation (Romans 8:28). Therefore He has also made certain my eternal salvation through His Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:20-22; Ephesians 1:13-14) and has made me from henceforth ready to live for Him from my heart (Romans 8:14-16). (ed. translation ours)

Catechisms have their problems, as do all man-made statements of faith, but what a wonderful confession this is to be able to make! It is difficult to improve on these words as a personal statement of our educational task. Our goal must be nothing less than to teach children that which will encourage them to belong to Christ with all their hearts and minds. It must be that they become conscious Christians aware of who Christ is and what He has done for them. These few words alone are enough to make the goals of godless educators appear shabby and disreputable.

Children must be brought to know the redemption that is in Christ Jesus from the wrath of God that rests upon all men because of sin. Then they must learn to relate all that they do to that redemptive work of Christ and develop their God-given gifts, using them constructively to the glory of God.

The goals of Christian and of secular educationalists are opposed to each other. There is no point at which either meet. To give children from Christian families into the hands of secular education is to set them up to oppose the Gospel and we should not be surprised as time elapses that this is precisely what happens.

Some would say, quite wrongly, that we go to Church to learn about salvation and to school to learn how to earn a salary! Christian education begins with a firm and uncompromising belief in creation as recorded in the early chapters of Genesis.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3)

Nothing exists outside the eternal God Himself that He has not created. Nothing originated or originates of itself. All reality of our everyday life must begin with this fact that God made all things. Therefore everything we do, without exception, involves our faith.

It is often claimed that a ‘scientific’ view of life is based on fact and Christianity on faith, faith being the acceptance of something that cannot be, nor necessarily ought to be proven by evidence. The reality is quite different. The ‘scientific’ – or better, pseudo-scientific – and the biblical or Christian views of the world are two opposing belief systems. Faith is not that which gives access to that which reason cannot reach. Faith is required for both positions, but faith in what? Facts are not facts apart from the interpretative assumptions behind them. The difference is where do we place our faith in order to access an understanding of the facts of the world around us to give them meaning and to make them facts at all in the first place? Faith turns into substance and evidence both things intangible and tangible.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11:1-3)

Faith deals in fact not fiction. The question is how do we come into possession of an understanding of those facts? Do we consider our own senses and our reason more reliable than the knowledge and wisdom of God? Do we trust what our senses tell us without reference to God or do we submit first to what God has revealed seeking in Scripture an explanation of what we discover all around us? After all God is more in a position to know about things than we are. We were certainly not there when the worlds were formed, how could we otherwise know what went on without the testimony of someone who saw it all? Surely that is not scientific?

“ And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

Both non-Christian pseudo-scientists and Bible-believing Christians believe in miracles. One says God wrought them, the other claims they were brought about by Nature over billions of years. At its heart, the difference between the ‘scientific’ explanation and the Genesis account of origins is: who did it and how long did it take? What we are discussing here amounts to two rival faiths. One is false if the other is true. Secular education denies what the Scriptures affirm and so looks at the world in a completely different way. Nature is god and not God. The interpretation of everything learned in a state school is therefore going to be very different. The attributes of God are transferred to Nature. Matter is eternal and the universe created itself. Nature is all-powerful and sustains itself. For the Christian, Christ ‘upholds all things by the word of His power’ (Hebrews 1:3). For the non-Christian, there is no God who created; there is no God who preserves. Nature and storms, earthquakes and plagues are all due to the forces of Nature. Nature keeps the stars from falling from the sky, keeps the world going round and sustains all life on it. The world runs itself by natural law inherent within itself. Many evangelical Christians have compromised by restricting God to things ‘spiritual’. They have given ground to ‘natural law’ and in so doing have given away all real reason for a distinctively Christian schooling.

For the Christian the whole world groans under the curse of God because of human sin. The non-Christian sees nothing wrong; the present situation is normal. For the Christian, all men are in alliance with Satan. The non-Christian does not believe in Satan. For the Christian, the world has been redeemed and Christ shall reign. For the non-Christian, all things continue as they were from the creation (2 Peter 3:4). For the Christian, all things are God’s and created for His glory (Revelation 4:11). For the non-Christian, the world belongs to no one in particular and we can all help ourselves.

God made all things and man in His own image able as a result to receive His revelation. There is nothing that does not reveal God. Every fact of nature is part of God’s revelation to men. Man as the image bearer of God also shows forth His glory. It was Adam’s task to subdue the earth to God’s glory. This remains so – can only be so.

The supernatural revelation of Scripture is a supplement to God’s revelation in creation. Only when we have both are we able to see things as they truly are. On a non-Christian basis man cannot live and interpret the world as he ought. Lives are lived after an illusion and purposeless chance. There is no connection between related facts. God’s plan is ultimate. Where this sovereignty of God is denied or diminished, the realisation of what can be done is dependent on what millions of men or things possibly might or will do. God has no ultimate control or even sanction. Only a completely sovereign God can realise His purposes in history.

The standards Christians seek to live by are irreconcilable with those of secular education. In the non-Christian’s world everything must be done according to human laws and standards not one over which they have no control and to which they are themselves subject.

In all its varied aspects a biblical view of education will be based exclusively on the teachings of Scripture. From the Bible we see that the creation and the providence of God originate and arrange all the facts of the universe. This arrangement is according to a logical above that of man, but it is still logic. To be right what we think and know must reflect that which God thinks and knows. God speaks to us authoritatively through His Word. There can be no real meeting of minds with unbelievers. In any non-Christian system man is the final reference point, not God and certainly not the Bible. Much that claims to be Christian strikes a compromise somewhere in the middle and so is bound to be wrong. The biblical position is that human experience is intelligible only in terms of the teaching of the Bible, whereas the non-Christian position is that human experience is intelligible only when man himself is made ultimate.

The biblical position rests on the absolute truth of the statements of Scripture. The teacher must instil this into the minds of his or her charges. The Bible alone is the Word of God to us all, believer or unbeliever. Here is the only final standard for a truly Christian education.

We can never reduce Christian education to a choice between the Christian and non-Christian positions from the vantage point of a third ‘neutral’ position. In this case, the Bible must first be demonstrated to the pupils to be the proper criterion for human experience by being tested by some other standard. This makes the Bible no real authority at all. If human experience must interpret – as many evangelicals claim it must – then why do we need the Bible at all? The Bible must determine for us what is a godly education and what is something else.

Liberal statist educators and politicians find any other higher motives than their own deprive them of a supine population. Our motivation is and remains faith and leads to a genuinely ‘liberal’ education. State educators, on the other hand, need to cultivate enlightenment man and the self-sufficient free human personality. Non-Christian schooling aims to glorify man according to the laws of men. Christian schooling demands all be done out of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, as the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6). What we do in faith is not in vain in the Lord.

Progressive educationalists to a man deny the biblical teaching of the inherent depravity or sinfulness of man. They believe that man is capable of working towards perfection by his own efforts. We are thus presented with a choice: do we accept the best that man can achieve or those works that come by faith?

Again, we turn to the Heidelberg Catechism.


Which are good works?


Only those done out of true faith (Romans 14:23) according to the law of God (1 Samuel 15:22; Ephesians 2:10) and to His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) and which are not grounded in our own judgement or human rules (Deuteronomy 12:32; Ezekiel 20:18-19; Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:9). (ed. translation ours)

Such works as these are only to be found in the lives of those who truly know Christ. The opposite of faith is not reason but sin! That which is not done in faith, for “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). That which does not come out of faith is sin. It is actually quite simple:

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

There can be no compromise. Those who are relying on their own abilities and works must be called upon to acknowledge God in all things. King Solomon got it right:

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7)

The only motivating principle we can acknowledge in education is faith in God through Christ Jesus as revealed in Scripture. Where faith is placed in men, pupil and teacher sit in darkness. Where faith rests in God men walk in light and are in touch with truth.




It is both mistaken and short sighted to imagine that there is any common ground between Christian and secular education. There is no way in which there can be a kind of ‘ceasefire’, still less a synthesis of both positions. We have left the world and we are not about to brave the flames in order to rescue any valuables.

The essential flaw in much that is seen as ‘Christian’ education is the belief that worldly culture can somehow be conjoined with that which is Christian. Roman Catholics and many evangelicals believe that all that Christians need to do is to add to the work done on neutral ground by believers or unbelievers. Reason apart from revelation can produce a true view of the world and provide a perfectly adequate basis for education. All men being created in God’s image, there being a light  ‘which lighteth every man that cometh into the world’ (John 1:9), there is therefore common ground between us. There is a shared ‘natural law’ within all men whatever their culture or faith by virtue of being human. This is how the argument runs. All that we need to do is to add a Christian perspective to that which is already there. What the world has is fine but it needs supplementing and a Christian school can provide this. In his book The Problem of Pain written in 1940, C. S. Lewis says, “In all developed religion we find three strands or elements, and in Christianity one more” (p.4, London 1945).

According to Lewis there is an underlying common goal, standard, and motivation between Christians and the best non-Christians. Christians just bring along a little extra to the party. An ungodly view of the world, and sadly one adhered to by many evangelicals, says that science begins with human experience and is self-explanatory. 

Believer and unbeliever are said to have generally the same interpretation of the universe. Mathematics is, after all, the same for one as for the other. This view, or one much like it, is held by many involved in Christian education. Looking at things the other way round, the answers to life’s questions may be sought in the Bible and these answers, in turn, may be enlightened by thoughts from modern science, philosophy or art – they will shed light on the Bible. After all, it is said, Christians and non-Christians agree as to what nature is. All that Christians need to do is to supply the spiritual or supernatural element, the miraculous. This is their justification for Christian education. However, a truly Christian view of education is thoroughly biblical. It provides a unified perspective on the whole of life in terms of the Bible. It challenges men to forsake death and embrace life in Christ.

Such an attempted synthesis is wrong for many reasons. It leaves unchallenged the pretended autonomy of godless men. In fact, it is not bound in any way to God. Furthermore, only if men are not dead in trespasses and sins can men without God come up with the right answers. No, they come up with answers that exclude God altogether. Every effort will be made to chase God out of this world and to avoid having to submit to Christ as ruler of all things. Unless we begin with Christ and the Scriptures we have no basis for truly knowing anything.

“Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-21)

Paul did not look for compromise, nor for synthesis, nor even for dialogue – but for replacement. God judges the wise of this world along with their thoughts and their deeds. His wrath remains upon them. Men must first come back to God, back to Christ as redeemer. When they repent, they and what they do will be saved, inasmuch as what they do is motivated by faith and brings glory to God’s Name.

“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:20)




 We are and shall be victorious over Satan and the kingdom of darkness.

“Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

The whole of human history is a record of the life and death and struggle between the powers of darkness and Christ. Indeed, it should be taught in this way. History describes the fight with those whose intent is nothing less than to destroy the faith. Our weapons are spiritual not carnal. We do not need to descend to physical warfare.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)

We engage with our foes in order to make them brethren not to destroy them. There is no way that the powers of hell can prevail against us in the end.

Let us entertain no fond illusions; our opponents claim every inch of ground for themselves. Agree with them and you are sane and rational and deserving of a Ph.D. Disagree with them and you are a social deviate and a candidate for the funny farm. A school that is in every sense truly Christian and biblical will be recognised immediately by humanistic rulers as divisive and hostile to their ideals –which it most certainly must be.

But the real battle is between Christ and Satan. And Satan to win? No chance! His present apparent successes are but made to serve Christ’s cause;  in the end, he is fighting a losing battle! There is not an inch on earth or in heaven where there can be peace between them. The claims of both are total and the battle will be particularly intense in and for the hearts of men. Through the testimony of the Scriptures and the preaching of the Word of God, the allegiance of man is turned from Satan to God.

The battle rages as much in the teaching of reading, writing and arithmetic as it does in the teaching of science or history and geography. Our enemies’ argument is that knowledge and learning are areas of neutrality. All hypotheses are as good as each other, so the idea is to see which best fits reality. This is utterly false. There can be only one true interpretation of all things and it is this we must strive to know.

We are all involved in this battle. To assume no battle is going on in school is to be deceived. Christ is Lord, but not only in the Church.


There is a total antithesis between all that is Christian and all that is not. No one is half dead. Having said that, the non-Christian can teach much that is true. A non-Christian teacher cannot teach without borrowing significantly from the truth of God as revealed in Scripture. The teacher by assuming whilst teaching that to be true which his or own worldview says is not true. A non-Christian teaches by accident.

For the Christian believer, the common goal of all men must be to live for God’s glory, although all fall short of it.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

The non-Christian finds no unity, consequently no real sense, in the universe only diversity. Non-Christian education is marked by its common revolt against God. This revolt is certain to be put down. Men are all equal, but only as sinners before God. Satan is bound to fail. By contrast, Christ has saved the world.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Salvation is offered universally, generally, and indiscriminately. Salvation is offered conditionally. Those who would be saved must accept Christ by faith, those who do not will be lost.

David W. Norris