Down by the school yard
In October a friend organised a trip for our congregation to tour the Houses of Parliament and then spend an hour with our MP. I would recommend the exercise. The decor of the building is beautifully steeped in Christian tradition and the MP emphasised that she was glad to meet us be-cause Christians need to make their voices heard much more. (Perhaps she says that to all her visitors?)
However, in passing, the MP mentioned that when she is asked to go into schools to speak about her work to teenagers she often finds herself having to talk about sex and drugs. The implication was that this is the only way to get the youngsters’ attention; much else would be dismissed as boring. This is not the first time that I have run into the idea that to make young people sit up and take notice something salacious or even shocking must be presented.
As part of the history curriculum in secondary schools the students rightly have to do an exercise in reading and assessing evidence from original documents. In one school the teacher put before the class the authentic police reports from the case of Jack the Ripper. Again, it would appear the motive for choosing such documents was that unless kids are shocked they won’t be interested. Having read the first piece from the Ripper case one young Christian girl, in year 9, simply got up and walked out. She did not see why she should have her mind so sullied. Later another pupil came to her and confessed that he wished he had walked out too. ‘I already have nightmares’, he said. Her parents took up the situation with the school. The teacher subsequently fully apologised for the manner in which the lesson was conducted, but the issue of this material being in the syllabus still remains.
Perhaps those in education would answer by saying that you have to start where the majority of the youngsters are, not where you would like them to be. Blame is then, perhaps to some extent rightly, shifted towards parents and the media. But it is not as if our education system is doing much to raise the moral outlook of students. This autumn the daughter of American friends living in this country switched to a British university having previously studied at Wheaton College. They reported that the contrast between the ‘welcome’ in each place could not have been more stark. In the US there had been a welcome meeting for the parents of new students, with a lot of warmth towards family and family values. In this country the daughter simply found a ‘welcome pack’ in her room containing, among other things, condoms and a leaflet about nightclubs and where to get cheap booze. In other words the university was simply assuming and promoting a lifestyle of decadence.
No more than animals
But this is where postmodern secular education must end up. (Remember Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall?) With no absolute moral framework or integrated worldview which can raise human beings above the animal, it is inevitable.
However, this is not only inevitable, it is dangerous. The great theologian John Murray wrote: ‘It is not to be questioned that culture, however highly cultivated, has failed of its chief end if it contributes to the promotion of evil rather than good. The more highly educated the boy or girl becomes, the more dangerous the education acquired becomes if it is brought into the service of wrongdoing.’ Without the ‘fear of the Lord’ we are raising a generation of dangerous fools.