Today, I will confront the last two of four question-points in this current series (which interrupted another series). These are the questions I’ve been addressing in answer to a reader’s inquiry about an extended quotation I presented by Dr. A.A. Hodge regarding the impact he foresaw back in 1887 that secular, public education would have on America.
The previous two posts considered the first two points listed below. Now, let’s consider the latter two.
- What is pluralism and what is a pluralistic society?
- According to the U.S. Constitution, what is the role of government in education? What/who is responsible for education?
- In our Constitutional Republic, how are individuals nurtured, and how is our culture nurtured?
- What are the roles of the Bible and a “Judeo-Christian” heritage in our current “pluralistic society”?
Nurtured. Nurturing individuals. Nurturing cultures. What is nurture? What does a country’s form of government have to do with the nurturing of individuals and cultures?
Of course, I can’t fully answer these questions, but I can present some ideas pertinent to our times for you to ponder.
Nurture, “to nourish,” comes from the same Latin root as “nurse.” To nurture is to feed, to promote growth through diet. Another usage of “nurture,” a metaphorical extension of the first, is to educate, to bring up or train. Webster’s original dictionary includes a biblical reference: Ephesians 6. Verse 4 of this chapter references bringing up children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Nurture (to nourish) and educate (to lead) have become synonyms. Education, explains the original Webster, “is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations.”
We have observed that in our Constitutional Republic, the education and nurturing of children are responsibilities not given to the federal government, but are the responsibilities of families and local communities within each state. Note the Supreme Court cases listed in the last post as a sample delineation of legal authority.
Our freedom of conscience, speech, religion and our unalienable rights necessitate that educational opportunities maintain ample space from diversity of thought and worldview. Other diversities (such as ubiquitous fixations on race, gender, and ethnicity) are anemic, misleading, and pretentious without respect for diversity of thought. This does not mean that all ideas are equally good, but that people with differing ideas need to be able to hear, converse, appreciate, and challenge one another.
Because religion is a worldview, a way of interpreting reality, parents within their communities need to exercise their responsibility to pass on their worldview and heritage to their children, while also incrementally exposing their children to other ideas, religions, and worldviews. In our pluralistic society where opposing views can be relentlessly “in your face” via media, social media, educational settings, and employment environments, clarity of message from one’s family is essential.
I ended my previous post this way:
“As I see it as a Christian parent and educator, the heritage I want to pass on is a heritage that nurtures in parents, teachers, and students a heart-orientation that, as Joel Belz articulates, “naturally thinks of their Creator God as the center of their existence.”
A thoroughly secular education opposes such a goal. Therefore, under the American system of government, a thoroughly pluralistic educational system is needed in order to protect my freedom and in order to protect the freedom of those who oppose my views.”
You (most likely) and I find it precariously difficult to pass on our heritage (our worldview, faith, understanding of history, purpose for living) through a commitment to public school education. Supplementing learning and contradicting conflicting ideas through family dinner discussions and church involvement seriously helps, but still leaves us weak. Look around. How has this approach worked over the past century?
So, “In our Constitutional Republic, how are individuals nurtured, and how is our culture nurtured?”
To nurture – to feed our children a nutrient dense diet that will promote their growth, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, and in every way — requires that we join with like-minded people (God has given us one another) to provide our children with an array of educational opportunities — creative, focused, goal-oriented, and flexible.
We need to pray and pray. We need to think both in and out of the box. First, no matter one’s worldview, the home is the first nurturing center and school. This is a huge “how to nurture” topic of its own. We also need to examine the multiple, educational approaches of many groups over the centuries: tutoring, apprenticeships, clubs, homeschooling, scouts, classical education and curriculum, traditional approaches, formal and informal approaches, on-line classes and group cohorts, and so on.
How is our culture nurtured? Our culture is nurtured through the nurturing of ourselves and our children. Remember that the root of the word, culture, is cult. This word has been reduced in meaning for most of us. We tend to think of fringe, crazy-thinking, religious groups as “cults.” And, there are such groups. The word’s root is in the Latin word, “cultus” which means worship, cultivate, to care for, a word describing devotion to something or someone.
The word, culture, has many applications, but when we think of a culture, such as the American culture, an ethnic culture, a group culture, we are thinking of shared attitudes, values (anchoring principles), and practices. These shared attitudes and values are cultivated. A culture cultivates its identity. As a farmer cultivates his field, we need to cultivate our culture, and this begins with our family culture, moves to our church culture and community culture. Our schools have their culture.
At the heart of all culture is worship — our devotion to our purpose, our source, our god/gods/God.
So the question, “In our Constitutional Republic, how are individuals nurtured, and how is our culture nurtured?,” I have to say that I can only begin an answer. Our form of government (“If you can keep it,” Ben Franklin chides us) recognizes our freedom to form and cultivate our own cultures. Lord, we thank You!
If “to nurture” is “to feed,” then it appears that, for the most part, we’ve been feeding ourselves and our progeny a SAD Diet: a Standard American Diet, that is, a Secular American Diet. Many of us try to drop dollops of our biblical perspectives into this mix. Hmm. Maybe we need to plow our own fields, plant our own crops, harvest them, and share the harvest with all who will come to the table.
Our last question:
What are the roles of the Bible and a “Judeo-Christian” heritage in our current “pluralistic society”? The roles of the Bible and our “Judeo-Christian” heritage depend upon the attention we give them. If they are acknowledged, retained, and respected within a subset of our culture — if we within that sub-culture till their teaching, wisdom, and examples into our soil — then, to mix metaphors, they will be a voice and will become a nurturing food available to many others in our society, outside of our own sub-culture.
A pluralistic society does not exist without conflicting and competing voices and ideas. Our Founders expected a pluralism of Christian denominations and Judeo-Christian perspectives to compose the majority of our diversity. In the 20th century the pendulum swung toward a nearly total secularism, but it has now swung past secularism toward zealous ideologies of a humanistic-naturalistic, religious nature (filling the religious and spiritual void). By God’s mercy. many people sense discomfort and danger in this direction. The God-formed conscience is aroused.
Most Americans have noted that we are a divided country. Many cry for unity. To understate, I don’t recommend this. We cannot find unity with a relentless, secular, humanistic worldview-way, reordering culture and humanity. If we do or if we try to, we lose our souls. I recommend separating from it and continuing to cultivate a God-honoring sub-culture in which Christ is the orienting center of our worldview-way. I believe this is God’s calling on us.
Those of us who desire to hold to a biblical worldview-way will discover in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 a lifestyle way of nurturing and passing on of our heritage. (This is a deeper excursion of thought that I’ll set aside for another post.) Read Deuteronomy 6:6-9: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy%206%3A6-9&version=ESV).
Those who hold a secular worldview-way have secular schools and universities to support them. If their teaching represents your worldview-way, support them. Give your children to them. If not, then don’t.
Forums for exchange of worldview-way ideas should be the places of intersection and influence. (This would require another discussion to explain.)
But for me, for the heritage from which I was nurtured, for my family, for Christ’s body — I pray:
In all spheres of life, may Christ’s kingdom come and His will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
May this peace-filled unity come. In Your time and way.
Note below an article from the recent NEA convention. This is just a sample, but reports on the proposals and expectations NEA holds for America’s public schools.
I drafted this post several weeks ago. I’m sorry that I don’t post more often. Such is life. I believe that, in another post, I should comment upon the Bible Readings for Schools reader I presented in my photos above, along with some other textbooks I have that were used in the 1700s and 1800s. Such history offers us perspective and direction.