Brainwashing Our Children?

December 19th, 2013 Post by

reading-to-son-1151008-mAre 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
http://seelsorge40.com/






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  1. Lesa Mabry
    December 19th, 2013 at 14:39 | #1

    It was refreshing to read your post. I’ve found that support for homeschooling is hard to come by in the LCMS. I especially liked your comment, “I would rather “brainwash” my children by teaching them to confess Christ than to let the culture brainwash them into becoming pagans.” Amen! – “If salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” Religion IS being taught in the government schools, and what is being taught, even if inadvertently, is often in opposition to what we teach at home.

  2. Kathy L.M.
    December 20th, 2013 at 05:06 | #2

    Pastor Andersen, from one homeschool parent to another…”Yay.” I have two graduates and a 14-year-old; seems like I’ve been “doing this” forever. I so value the years I spent with the older boys and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Likewise, they are happy to have been schooled by me. I definitely see a difference between our church youth and my kids. However, we have some parents who public school but are very involved in their kids’ faith teaching and that makes a difference. If parents aren’t the main spiritual influence for their kids, the public schools and school peers will be, not the church.

    Also, as commented above, I don’t see a lot of support for homeschooling in the LCMS – I’m looked at more as a radical/rogue/troublemaker. But then again, I am.

  3. helen
    December 20th, 2013 at 08:41 | #3

    My children, with the exception of pre-school/kindergarten, when the Pastor’s wife taught the pre-school class and couldn’t have been better, went to public schools.

    Parents have to be aware of what goes on in school (and I do not except Lutheran schools) and sometimes say, “Well, the teacher/book may say… but we believe….” The child may respond, “What do I put on the test; she will expect her answer?” I have told them to write, “We learned in class that…” If they wanted to, they might go on to explain that they were taught at home/church… this last depended on the courage (and age) of the child, and how we thought the teacher might react.

    I was a certified teacher for 7-12 subjects; I would not have tried to teach elementary, formally.

    You may be surprised to know that many teachers do not believe “the book” either and are happy to have contrary opinions expressed, although they may not be allowed to teach what your child brings to their classroom.

    (And then there was the year in public school when I had confirmation prep in one study hall for Lutheran jr. hi., and another one for Catholic sophomores! And nobody complained.) :)

  4. helen
    December 20th, 2013 at 08:48 | #4

    @Kathy L.M. #2
    Also, as commented above, I don’t see a lot of support for homeschooling in the LCMS – I’m looked at more as a radical/rogue/troublemaker. But then again, I am.

    Perhaps you aren’t as good an advertisement for home schooling as you could be?

    Then again, I’m sure more than one principal had a label for me. I am not satisfied with incompetence if anything can be done about it. ;)

  5. Kathy L.M.
    December 20th, 2013 at 09:15 | #5

    Nope, Helen, I’m the “poster mom” for homeschooling success. Son #1 is a physics graduate student at Johns Hopkins and attends an LCMS church in Baltimore. Son #2 is a junior at Washington and Lee and attends Pr. Schroeder’s church in Lexington, VA. Lest anyone be intimidated by me, I always say, “Don’t do what I do. Do what works for you.” I have mentored and helped many young homeschoolers.

    I find lots of non-denominational homeschooling families who are concerned about their children’s education and spiritual growth. In Lutheran churches, I usually hear, “The public school was good enough for me…”

  6. December 20th, 2013 at 13:18 | #6

    If by “brainwashing” we mean training children in the Christian faith, then by all means I do brainwash!!

  7. December 20th, 2013 at 13:25 | #7

    @Kathy L.M. #5
    To be clear, my second job is as a public school teacher (I prefer to think of my “author” status as primary, though my checkbook would argue otherwise :( ), so I need to preface what I say with that disclaimer.

    For the record, it’s not so much about whether or not the child attends public school, private/Christian school, or home-schooled, so much as it is about a real and vibrant faith being taught AND consistently lived in the home. I’ve seen good Christian kids in public schools, and I’ve seen bad kids from private/homeschooling backgrounds. What the parents emphasize at home is what matters in pretty much every case, and when kids have consistent Bible reading and catechesis at home, even if only at bedtime, makes all the difference in the world; even more so when the parents practice what they preach (not in a perfectionistic sense, obviously, but in a genuine and truthful manner that encompasses all of life).

  8. Kathy L.M.
    December 20th, 2013 at 15:01 | #8

    I agree, J. Dean, and said something in my first comment about the importance of the parents’ influence on their children. My theory in why it’s easier in homeschooling…by homeschooling, we really step out of the paradigm that society has put us in. Many, many times I’ve questioned myself about my past beliefs with, “What was I thinking?” Taking charge of your children’s education is an eye-opener and life-changing, in many ways. I have known parents who think they can’t or don’t want to consider homeschooling…and then they do it. They have the same reaction, “What was I thinking? Why would I ever do anything else?”

  9. CJ
    December 22nd, 2013 at 14:21 | #9

    Sometimes we need to be careful about who gets the brainwashing. As young homeschool parents we did not get a lot of support from our congregation so we left and after going to both Baptist and Reformed churches, homeschooling 16 years and then sending kids to Reformed day schools we are finally coming back to our Lutheran roots. The long story would bring some people to tears. I know that this is a topic about the public education system and raising our children up in the Lord, so I know I’m taking a little different twist here.

    It would be nice to see a united front either for homeschooling or support for local day schools among the Lutheran congregations. Yes there is liberty to choose for homeschooling, public or Christian day school. However with Christ as vine and we as branches, my personal opinion is that the branches need to be so intertwined that nothing can come between them. One person was not meant to stand by themselves without the support of the others. The thing that is greatly needed for the homeschool parent in Lutheranism is curriculum development from a Lutheran perspective, especially since most of the material is either Fundamentalist or in other ways not in sync with Lutheran doctrine.

  10. Kathy L.M.
    December 23rd, 2013 at 06:28 | #10

    CJ, I agree with what your saying and also recognize that this is a bigger topic regarding education. I would like to see support for homeschooling in the Lutheran churches…many, many of the non-denominational churches around here are extremely supportive of other homeschoolers. I think that if the Lutheran churches were more supportive and homeschool “friendly” the homeschool families would “flock” to join our church. Homeschoolers are looking for that conservative and strong Biblically-based church with traditional services.

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