In the education issue of Christianity Today (2-27-61) Dr. Calvin Seerveld, professor of philosophy at Trinity College, is quoted at such length as to practically make up the editorial, “Marks of Christian Education.” This long quotation is from Dr. Seerveld’s convocation address. One sentence that impressed me reads: “Secularism stands to gain more suppression and fragmentation of truth than Christianity.”
This statement has been amply verified during the last hundred years of public school education. Secularism has gained; Christianity has lost. We have now reached the stage where Bible reading, prayer, and Christmas carols are outlawed from public schools. This loss has not been good for America. Both law enforcement agencies and university professors tell us that the retreat of Christianity from our schools has effected a tragic and steady growth in crime. It is also producing a lost generation drifting more or less helplessly before the dynamic advance of communism. “Youth: The Cool Generation,” a Gallup Poll survey, published in the Saturday Evening Post (12-30-‘61 ), reflects well the destitute barrenness of the soul of American youth. Near the close of this article we read, “Will they (youth) do as well as their fathers did under the pressures of war and economic slump? A college girl says they will. ‘All we need is motive; then you’ll see.’”
This college girl’s answer is supported by Professor Philip E. Phenix of Columbia. In his book, Education and the Common Good (Harper) he writes that the schools heighten “a gnawing sense of meaninglessness.” Strange as as it may seem, coming from Columbia’s Teachers College, we read that “the central task of education is religious conversion.” What does Phenix mean by this? He means that public school education must become religious. He holds that it can become religious without violating laws or liberties. Professor Phenix says that schools should emphasize and demonstrate “That the world, man and his culture are neither self-sufficient nor self-explanatory, but are derived from given sources of being, meaning, and value.” Supporting Dr. Phenix’s position is Dr. Christopher Dawson from Harvard. In his book, The Crisis of Western Education (Sheed & Ward ), he makes a brief for the restoration of Christian culture in learning.
David Lawrence through his syndicated columns has repeatedly spoken out for religiously oriented schools. In his column of January 15, 1962, he refers to a legal analysis of all the decisions of the Supreme Court touching on the powers of the states and the federal government as they are related to education in religious and non-religious schools. It was written by Philip B. Kurland, professor of law at the University of Chicago, and published in the university’s law review. He says that the question of whether the national government can contribute financially to parochial education, directly or indirectly, is a continuing one. He concludes: “Anyone suggesting that the answer to the question, as a matter of constitutional law, is clear one way or the other is either deluding or deluded.”
It is no secret that President Kennedy’s federal aid to education bill failed to pass mainly because the American public was not ready to give federal aid exclusively to secular education. Also at the grass roots level a more tolerant and sympathetic attitude is developing in the matter of tax money and Christian education. The inroads made by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare have already accustomed the American public to certain types of aid for non-public school children. What is the difference between providing a seat on the bus or a seat in a building? Is it not time too that American Christians update their attitudes by favoring the appropriation of public funds for religiously oriented schools as well as for secularly oriented schools? Is not the soul of our American youth, swept clean by secular education, being rapidly filled by the seven devils of Communism? It is generally conceded that America, if she falls, will fall not into the hands of Russian communists, but of American communists. Should not, then, our witness that life is one whole and that religion is at its very center also be reflected in our vote for any kind of government aid to education?
In the recently adopted constitution of the Association for Reformed Scientific Studies we find this significant statement in the educational creed (Article III) that posits a position exactly opposite to secularism. This article is prefaced as follows: “Believing that Scripture reveals certain principles intensely relevant to education, we confess…” The first confession which follows is probably the key sentence in the constitution of this Association. It reads, “THAT human life in its entirety is religion.” Note carefully that it does not say that human life is “religious” but that it is “religion.” This confession tolerates no secularism, no area or thing that is not sacred. It reminds one of Zechariah 14:20, “In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD.” How many of us are perhaps already so victimized by secularism that it is almost impossible for us to conceive that there should be upon the doors of our cars, “HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD.”
It is indeed encouraging that an increasing number of Americans are developing a new appreciation for the inescapable role of religion in education. American Calvinists of Dutch descent too are letting their voices be heard. In the December issue of the Christian flame and School we read about the work of NUCS District number 2. This district appointed a committee to formulate and to bring to the attention of the Michigan Constitutional Convention a statement in regard to Christian education and state constitutional law. Principal E. R Post represented this committee before the Con Con Educational Committee. The following suggested constitutional article was submitted, “No school child in the state shall be discriminated against in provisions established by law or by school districts for services guaranteed for the benefit of said child.”
The fact that we now have a president who is the product of a parochial school system dramatizes the fact that religiously oriented schools graduate something more than second class Americans. “In God we trust” is stamped on our money. Certainly our tax money can justifiably be used to implant this concept on the hearts of youth.
One of our Calvin professors pleads in the Reformed Journal (November, 1961 ) for an earnest discussion by our school societies of the problem of federal aid for (Christian) schools. “Is there another question of like import for the next quarter century?” he rhetorically asks. Now is the time to talk about this. “Secularism stands to gain more from suppression and fragmentation of truth than Christianity.” Secularism is being challenged today. Nowhere is this challenge going to be more painfully and effectively met than on the tax front. America will take our witness much more seriously when we insist that taxes also be used to educate religiously.