Wow — it has been a LONG TIME since I have written anything out here! And I must admit: I have been enjoying the break. I have certainly had enough going on to justify not spending any time in the blogosphere!
However, this article caught my eye today as I wandered through the day’s news, and I thought it worth a mention, especially with my own experience as a teacher in the Texas public schools.
The article is “Texas Curriculum Review Sparks Debate About Religion” with the subtitle “Does Religion Have a Place in American History?”
The question forming the subtitle is easily answered: Of course. The problem is with how both sides of the issue seem to want to twist the question. And it is an issue with potential nationwide impact since, as the article points out, Texas is the second largest school system in the U.S. and its decisions have a great deal of influence on textbook makers.
Anti-religious fanatics see the inclusion of any talk of religion in history class as a violation of the “sacred” wall of separation between church and state. This is absolutely ludicrous. The fact is that history — even from a completely secular and 100% atheistic perspective — cannot be taught properly unless you include discussions of the religious motivations and worldviews of those who made that history. Frankly, that should be uncontroversial. And I have heard from many who are surprised when they learn how supressed discussion of religion is in some history classes in America. (Actually, it’s usually “social studies” instead of “history” — something I have a strong opinion on, but which I will keep to myself for now.) After all, if an explorer’s motivations for exploring were God, Gold, and Glory, then how accurate is out instruction if we are only willing to teach about the Gold and the Glory? (Or, in a more watered-down form of nonsense: teaching about the Gold & Glory while including a token mention of religious motivations.)
Wouldn’t such an approach communicate a faulty sense of the tides and flows of history? Wouldn’t it hamper the critical thinking and analysis that we are expecting of students, let alone pass along a false history? Should American History be renamed American Fiction?
Now, I admit in this that there are those on the other side of the debate who would take things further than simply discussing and educating about the powerful influence of religious factors in the shaping of history. Some would want to discuss God, Himself, as the Shaper and Shepherd of History. Rather than discuss the religious motivations and ideologies that were actively brought into play in the creation of the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, some would rather the public classroom discuss the motivations of God, Himself, in bringing together the influences that crafted our nation. Or, in a different take, some want to paint the Founding Fathers as if they were a religious monolith, unified in their religious beliefs and convictions as if they had all walked out of a modern Evangelical “worship service” together and decided, “Hey, let’s make a constitution!” I exaggerate, of course, but hopefully the point is still made.
Do I think that the role God has actively played in history is essential to a complete understanding of history and to a full grasp of what history should teach us? Absolutely. But I suspect I would disagree with many a public (or private) school teacher’s ideas about the mind of God and Christ concerning the events of history. That’s one reason, among others, why my wife and I homeschool our children. I want to give them not only the Big Picture, but the Full Picture.
However, history teachers can surely teach about the religious beliefs of the explorers of our world, the kings of our kingdoms, the leaders of our wars, and the founders of our nations — beliefs which had, and continue to have, a POWERFUL influence on the direction of history AND the holding of which are often established historical fact demonstrable in the writings of the individuals involved — without claiming to divine the mind of the Divine, as well. Right? I understand the nervousness of some about the latter — what I don’t understand is the nervousness about the former.
For our family it’s simply an academic matter since, again, we homeschool. But for those who do not, I encourage you to be a very active part of your child’s education: An accurate history education may truly require that you walk boldly in those places where public school administrators fear to tread.
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[In the event someone comes across this and is interested in some free booklets that might help in educating your children — such as our booklets The Bible: Fact or Fiction or The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy — check out our website, www.tomorrowsworld.org.]