November 25, 2004
A researcher has revealed some disturbing trends regarding the sets of beliefs Christian students in public schools have about the most important issues in life.
Dan Smithwick is the founder and president of the Nehemiah Institute, a group that provides a biblical worldview testing and training service to Christian educators. He is the developer of what is called the "PEERS test," a tool to assess the worldviews of young people, and says the majority of public school students from evangelical Christian homes consistently score in the "socialist" category on the test.
According to Smithwick, this outcome should come as no surprise, considering the fact that secular humanists are currently shaping America. He notes that socialism, a political and economic philosophy that commonly emphasizes government control and redistribution of wealth over personal responsibility and private ownership, often goes hand in hand with secularist attitudes and a generally non-biblical worldview.
Smithwick's worldview test consists of a series of statements carefully designed to identify a person's worldview in five categories: Politics, Economics, Education, Religion, and Social Issues (PEERS). Each statement is framed to either agree or disagree with a biblical principle.
When it comes to major moral and social issues, the Nehemiah Institute spokesman contends there is a dramatic difference in thinking between students in public schools and those in Christian schools. This is because, while Christian school students are generally taught curricula predicated on a biblical worldview, students educated in public schools, even when they grow up in Christian homes, tend to a very high degree to adopt the non-biblical and socialistic worldviews of the secular humanists in control of their education.
"In the last hundred years," Smithwick asserts, "and especially in the last 30 years, this is the audience that is shaping the public square in America, hands down. And they didn't really have to fight for it -- we [in the Church] gave it to them. Somewhere along the way we decided that the public square really wasn't our business. It wasn't our playground; they could have it, and they've had their way with it."
As a result, the Christian education advocate says, even Christian students are growing up to become a part of a society with an increasingly secular-humanistic and socialistic worldview. "Now we've got a mess on our hands," he says, "and it's really our fault. So we've got to change that. We've got to repent before God. We've got to go back and understand that worldview means God is interested in everything he created."
Undoing the Damage Done by Dewey
Unfortunately, Smithwick says, many Christian young people today are not being taught to think biblically in all areas of life. That is why he urges parents, pastors and Christian teachers to take advantage of the Nehemiah Institute's worldview testing, training, and resources. And this is why he has been promoting the Institute's programs this week at the Alliance for the Separation of School and State Conference in Washington, DC.
Undoing Dewey -- that's the goal of the program, according to Smithwick. He refers to the secular humanist principles of John Dewey (1859-1952), the philosopher and education reformer whose principles have shaped public education in America. Dewey promoted a philosophy of education with the premise that learning by doing (experimentalism) should form the basis of education, and any idea or concept is validated by its practicality (pragmatism). Some Christian educators consider these ideas to be precursors to "values clarification" and other questionable teaching models that advocate moral relativism, but which are commonly taught in teacher education and used in U.S. public schools.
Smithwick says his program of PEERS testing indicates that Christian students are by no means immune to the secular humanism being taught in public schools, but have in fact been dramatically influenced by it. "The way we got this was by testing youth groups in evangelical churches," he says. "The majority of the kids are in public schools. In many cases, 100 percent of them are in public schools."
The Nehemiah Institute president says many pastors like to call these young people their "best kids" since this group, at least, are involved in a church youth group. Still, he asserts that these kids have not escaped with an intact biblical worldview. "They're in public school," he says, "and they're buying into the philosophy of life that's being put before them five days a week, six or seven hours a day."
Smithwick recommends PEERS testing as an aid for Christians who want to make sure their young people develop a distinctly biblical worldview. He advises Church parents to disconnect from government schooling and, along with pastors and other Christian educators, to engage in worldview assessment and training.
Nehemiah Institute (http://www.nehemiahinstitute.com)
© 2004 Agape Press.