Are parents- especially Christian ones- brainwashing their children? Dr. Chester M. Pierce, Emeritus Professor of Education at Harvard Medical School and Psychiatry, thinks so. When speaking as at the 1973 International Education Seminar, he said:
“Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well by creating the international child of the future,” (http://www.gospelweb.net/CultureWar/childrenmentallyill.htm).
Now I know this quote is about 40 years old and not every educator shares this philosophy, but it is ultimately the God-given responsibility of parents to educate their children (Deuteronomy 6:7, Ephesians 6:4; see also Luther’s heading to each of the 6 chief parts, “As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household”). Schools can be a helpful resource in this endeavor, but they often reflect cultural values, values which are often incompatible with a biblical worldview. Surely there are some godly schools out there, but they are getting harder and harder to find these days (here’s one I know of: http://www.wittenbergacademy.org/). Even where parents utilize schools to aid them in the task of educating their children, the primary responsibility for education still falls to the parent.
Luther concludes his Large Catechism by saying:
Let this, then, be said for exhortation, not only for those of us who are old and grown, but also for the young people, who ought to be brought up in the Christian doctrine and understanding. For thereby the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer might be the more easily inculcated to our youth, so that they would receive them with pleasure and earnestness, and thus would practise them from their youth and accustom themselves to them. For the old are now well-nigh done for, so that these and other things cannot be attained, unless we train the people who are to come after us and succeed us in our office and work, in order that they also may bring up their children successfully, that the Word of God and the Christian Church may be preserved. Therefore let every father of a family know that it is his duty, by the injunction and command of God, to teach these things to his children, or have them learn what they ought to know. For since they are baptized and received into the Christian Church, they should also enjoy this communion of the Sacrament, in order that they may serve us and be useful to us; for they must all indeed help us to believe, love, pray, and fight against the devil.
I want my children to be brought up “successfully, that the Word of God and the Christian Church may be preserved.” Most institutions these days have a different standard of success than God. This is one of the reasons why my wife & I homeschool: we want to ensure that our children are properly catechized. The culture can accuse me of perpetuating mental illnesses all they like! God has given me the responsibility of educating my children, and if faith in Christ and trusting parents is a mental illness, it is one I will gladly perpetuate! I would rather “brainwash” my children by teaching them to confess Christ than to let the culture brainwash them into becoming pagans.
In the first of his 5-1/2 Sermons on Catechesis, Kenneth Korby said:
If you stand on your head long enough, you will get dizzy. I think the church has gotten dizzy with regard to Christian pedagogy and catechesis because we have stood things on their heads… If you practice a perverse notion long enough, you will think it is the only way to do things because it has become the accepted wisdom of the day and of the times.
The perverse notion that Korby has in mind is precisely what Dr. Pierce was advocating, that parents ought to get out of the way, stop perpetuating the “mental illness” of their children, and leave the task of education to the “professionals” so they can “make all these sick children well.” Korby continues:
It is too plain everywhere that we should [teach our children], both from the Scriptures and common sense. But I am raising the question, “Who does this teaching? Who teaches our children?”
We have adopted the silly notion of the public educational system. That’s why we don’t talk about catechesis or pedagogy anymore. We talk about “religious education” and “Christian education.” The teachers—and not so much the teachers, the administrators—are the professional educators, and they will gladly take our children away from all of the dunces to whom God has given them—mothers and fathers who are ignorant and incompetent and have the evil of their children in mind, and THEY will teach our children and then they will ask us to do two things: pay the bills and join them in their endeavor. And we have mimicked them. We think pastors and teachers and deaconess and Sunday school teachers and youth ministers and directors of Christian education are the ones who do the teaching and we try to badger and to persuade and to promote the parents to help us IN OUR TASK. No wonder we’re dizzy; we’re standing on our heads.
Lord, have mercy! May God grant all parents to be invested in the education of their children, that they might diligently teach them God’s Word (Deuteronomy 6:7) and fathers bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
+Pastor Eric Andersen
Tuesday of Gaudete, 2013