Christian Education Awareness Network (CEANet)

Presents a Book:

The Harsh Truth About Public Schools

by Bruce N. Shortt

ISBN 1-891375-23-7

Chalcedon Foundation
Vallecito, California



"I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth."
-- Martin Luther

Itís a familiar routine: Roughly 180 days a year millions of Christian families begin their day by waking their children, giving them breakfast, and helping them wash their faces, brush their teeth, get dressed, and collect their schoolbooks. They then deliver their children by car, bus, or foot to a seemingly benign, ubiquitous, and familiar institution: the government school. Today this ritual seems unexceptionable. Most of us, after all, went through it as children. The vast majority of parents do it, and, in the publicís mind, attending government schools is virtually synonymous with getting an education.

Yet, this has not always been so. For most of Americaís history, including the colonial period, education was provided primarily by families and the church. To those earlier Americans, the notion of entrusting their childrenís education to strangers in a secular institution would have been unthinkable. When the government school movement began to emerge in the middle part of the 19th century, it was strongly resisted by many parents and clergy, enough so that government schools could not fully triumph over Americaís original educational traditions until the early part of the 20th century. We are now several generations removed from that controversy; and, unfortunately, very few even know it existed or why.

This transformation of American education has had profoundly destructive consequences. The most obvious has been the epidemic spread of ignorance and semi-literacy. Contrary to the happy-talk from the education industry and media that todayís children are the best educated ever, few public school children can read or write proficiently, let alone do mathematics or science at an advanced level. Indeed, many schoolchildren would have trouble finding Chicago on a map, and by the 12th grade American children are math and science dunces by international standards.

For Christian parents, however, this is far from the most serious problem with government schools. American education is now aggressively anti-Christian, both spiritually and morally. Government schools have effectively become parochial schools for secular humanism and many varieties of New Age spirituality. Moreover, for decades the unacknowledged moral code of government schools has been moral relativism. While the general cultural toll inflicted by the social and moral values propagated through government schools is reflected in levels of violence, drug use, and sexual immortality that would have been almost unthinkable before the 1960s, the damage to American Christianity has been far more profound. That damage has occurred primarily because the vast majority of Christian parents permit government schools to "educate" their children.

Research by the Nehemiah Institute shows that children from Christian homes who attend government schools are five times more likely to adopt such anti-Christian dogmas as moral relativism than those who attend Christian schools.[1] The damage is also painfully evident from the fact that a substantial majority of children from Christian homes stop attending church within two years after graduating from public high school.[2] In fact, teenagers today are the least likely in twenty years to continue attending church once they leave home.[3] More generally, the number of Americans who identify themselves as Christians dropped from 86% to 76.5% between 1990 and 2001, and by late 2001 only 22% of Americans believed that moral absolute truth exists, down from 38% at the beginning of 2000.[4] None of this bodes well for the future of our children and grandchildren.

At points this book may seem harsh. If so, it is only because the truth about government schools is harsh. As you will see, I have drawn upon the research of many authors who have carefully examined such issues as the infiltration of government schools by secular humanists and New Agers, the academic failings of government schools, how government schools have effectively become the nationís largest drug pusher, and how government schools discriminate against boys. I encourage you to go to those sources so that you can draw your own conclusions. But if you do, I think you are likely to conclude that the problems are even more acute than I have described.

The fact is that government schools are killing our children spiritually, morally, and intellectually. But most of us donít even see the problem; we simply assume that all is well with our childrenís education as long as our children seem untroubled and bring home "My Child is on the Honor Roll" bumper stickers. In essence, we have abdicated our responsibility to educate our children. As a consequence, we have simultaneously put our children in harmís way and have failed to notice that the "little red schoolhouse" has effectively become a pagan seminary nurturing our children in alien creeds and infusing them with false values. This, in turn, is transforming our families, our churches, our culture, and our society.

Are we doing this on purpose? Not really. Most of us attended government schools. They are what we know, and because they are familiar we tend not to think much about them, let alone closely scrutinize what they are doing. Giving our children to "experts" for their education seems to be a reasonable division of labor -- an arrangement we are also not prone to question because it is convenient. Frankly, we have been led to think that the education of our children is somehow someone elseís responsibility and that, in any event, we arenít quite up to the task ourselves. And, if we are willing to be completely honest, many of us shy away from asking awkward questions about what government schools are doing because we fear the responsibility
that knowing more would force upon us.

To some this picture may seem too "dark." After all, arenít there still Christian teachers and administrators in government schools? Of course. But the mere presence of some Christian teachers and administrators doesn'tít mean that our children are receiving a Christian education. For those who care to look carefully, it is plain that the curricula, the institutional rules, and many of those working within government schools are aggressively promoting anti-Christian values and an anti-Christian worldview. In fact, government schools have become so hostile institutionally to Christianity that Christian teachers and administrators who actively profess their faith within government schools will be dismissed or disciplined if they are "caught." Moreover, the number of good teachers and administrators, whether Christian or not, has been dwindling as a result of retirement, frustration, and an institutional structure that protects incompetence. The problem we face is not undue pessimism, but complacency and misplaced trust.

So what is this book about? It is about the many ways in which government schools are hazardous to children, and especially Christian children. Christian parents and grandparents need to see government schools for what they really are, not for what they claim to be or for what they once were. This book is also about why government schools are unmemorable -- why they cannot and should not be expected to provide the Christian education that the Bible enjoins Christian parents to provide to their children. Finally, this book is about restoring
Christian educational traditions through Christian schools and homeschooling. In sum, this book is about the future of our children, our families, our culture, and our faith.


1. Daniel J. Smithwick, "A ĎWorldí of Difference in Public and Christian Schools," The Nehemiah Institute, Inc. (Lexington, Kentucky, 1998), p. 13.

2. T.C. Pinckney, "We are Losing Our Children," remarks to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, Nashville, Tennessee, September 18, 2001. Pinckney states that research indicates 70% of teenagers involved in church youth groups stop attending church within two years following high school graduation. If this seems too pessimistic, the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life reported at the Southern Baptist Conventionís 2002 meeting in St. Louis that "88% of the children raised in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18, never to return." Jon Walker, "Council Says Itís Time to Bring Family Back to Life," Southern Baptist Texan, July 1, 2002. Even if these sources overstate the extent of the problem by thirty to forty percent, it is clear there is something very wrong in the way we are discipling our children.

3. "The Yearís Most Intriguing Findings, From Barna Research Studies," Barna Research, December 17, 2001, One more recent and appalling finding by Barna is that only 32% of born-again adults and 9% of born-again teenagers believe that absolute truth exists. "Americans Are Most Likely to Base Truth on Feelings," February 12, 2002, Barna Research, available at

4. The American Religious Identification Survey as cited in Andy Butcher, "America Losing its Christian Faith -- But Finding Others," Charisma News Service, December 28, 2001, available at

Related CEANet Links

The Harsh Truth About Public Schools - Central

Table of Contents, Foreword, Preface

Chapter 1 Part 1

Chapter 1 Part 2

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The Harsh Truth About Public Schools Blog Spot

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