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Values Clarification, Humanism, and Morals Education in Public Schools


People who doubt God and the Bible, also generally reject absolute values in favor of situation ethics. A favorite method used to influence students away from absolute values is "Values Clarification," sometimes called "Decision Making," "Values Education," "Moral Education," or "Critical Thinking." Sometimes it is not called anything; it is just used. To people not familiar with the technique, it may seem confusing and perhaps harmless. But serious consideration gives understanding of the method and its consequences.

Here is the typical approach:

(1) The students are assigned an exercise involving a questionnaire, role-playing, or class discussion.

(2) The exercise involves difficult or controversial moral or personal issues. Unusual hypothetical situations are often invented that make it appear that absolute values are unworkable or fanatical. Issues may be highly personal, private, or even embarrassing to some students.

(3) Students may be told that "there are no right or wrong answers."

(4) Decisions are reached, not on the basis of research to accumulate and evaluate evidence, but on personal opinions, feelings, and peer pressure. This amounts to "pooled ignorance," yet is done in the name of teaching kids better ways to "make decisions" and "think critically."

(5) Appeals to the authority of the Bible, religion, or parents, are discouraged or even disallowed. If a student appeals to these authorities, he may be asked, "But how do you think it should be?" It is assumed throughout that the students are capable of reaching the right decision on the basis of their own current information and opinions without any outside source of factual information or guidance.

This technique may be used in any subject for any grade level. Common themes of discussion are death, sex, drugs, abortion, suicide, parenting, career choices, etc. Death education is one favorite topic for discussion because humanists believe there is no life after death, and they justify abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. They can use Values Clarification to indirectly undermine students' beliefs about these matters.

Hundreds of examples could be cited. The book Child Abuse in the Classroom, edited by Phyllis Schlafly, cites documented testimony of numerous examples of such exercises that have actually been used in schools. Some time ago I was sent a copy of a death education survey that was used in an Indiana high school health class. Most questions required the students to state their conviction about some idea or action (strongly agree, agree somewhat, no opinion, etc.). Here are a few of the 57 questions in the survey:

7. How much of a role has religion played in the development of your attitude toward death? ...

8. To what extent do you believe in life after death? ...

9. Regardless of your belief about life after death, what is your wish about it? ...

10. To what extent do you believe in reincarnation? ...

12. If you could choose, when would you die? ...

14. Has there been a time in your life when you wanted to die? [possible reasons are then suggested] ...

19. How do you rate your present mental health? ...

20. Based on your present feelings, what is the probability of your taking your own life in the near future? ...

24. When you think of your own death ..., how do you feel? A. fearful B. Discouraged C. Depressed D. Purposeless [etc.] ...

25. What is your present orientation to your own death? A. Death-seeker B. Death-hastener C. Death-accepter [etc.] ...

29. If you had a choice, what kind of death would you prefer? A. Tragic, violent death ... F. Suicide. G. Homicidal victim [etc.] ...

30. Have your attitudes toward death ever been affected by narcotic or hallucinogenic drugs? ...

31. If it were possible, would you want to know the exact date on which you were going to die? ...

35. To what extent has the possibility of massive human destruction by nuclear war influenced your present attitudes toward death or life? ...

37. How often have you seriously contemplated committing suicide? ...

38. Have you ever actually attempted suicide? ...

39. Whom have you known who has committed suicide? ...

40. How do you estimate your lifetime probability of committing suicide? ...

41. Suppose that you were to commit suicide, what reason would most motivate you to do it? A. To get even ... G. Family strife H. Atomic war [etc.] ...

42. Suppose you were to commit suicide, what method would you be most likely to use? A. Barbiturates or pills B. Gunshot C. Hanging [etc.] ...

43. Suppose you were ever to commit suicide, would you leave a suicide note? ...

44. To what extent do you believe suicide should be prevented? ...

45. What efforts do you believe should be made to keep a seriously ill person alive? ...

51. What kind of a funeral would you prefer? ...

The survey has a total of 57 such questions, all about death, generally about the student's own death.

A few of the problems created by such surveys are:

(1) They pry into personal, private matters, which the school has no need to know about for the normal student.

(2) They involve teachers in practicing "amateur psychology," delving into problems that they are untrained to handle. If a child needs counseling, it should be done only for problem children, only with the parents' knowledge and consent, and only by a trained counselor of the parents' choosing.

(3) Some questions put ideas in kids' heads. They may create unnecessary fears or preoccupations with death. They may lead kids to think it is normal to consider and plan a suicide.

(4) Some questions cause a child to psychoanalyze himself or to think he needs continual psychoanalysis. This may cause a normal child to think maybe he is mentally unbalanced, or to be overly preoccupied with his problems.

(5) Some questions cause a student to challenge or disagree with the religious views he has learned from God and the Bible.

(6) Much of the discussion is just plain depressing, morbid, and unnecessarily negative and fear-producing.

Usually, after students answer the survey questions, the answers are discussed by the whole class. But remember all this happens in the public school setting in which the teacher must not introduce or defend the Bible, and often school rules discourage or even disallow any discussion of the Bible or religious authority. Further, schools advocate the concepts of "diversity" and "multi-culturalism" in which everyone is supposed to "tolerate and accept" everyone else's views. In practice, this means no one is supposed to take a strong stand for morality and faithfulness to God, because that might offend other students. And any child, who does speak out firmly for Biblical morality, is likely to be "put down" by kids (and maybe teachers) who do not live by that standard.

Combine this public school environment with the nature of Values Clarification exercises, and the result is just what the humanists want. On other subjects, the teacher is the adult leader or authority figure, and the textbook is the official written source of truth, so the teacher and text state what is right or wrong (2 + 2 = 4 not 5, etc.). But on these moral issues they refuse to defend Biblical morality as right and other views as wrong. In fact, they often say "there is no right or wrong," in plain contradiction to clear Bible teaching. So students conclude it is all a matter of opinion and personal preference.

If anyone in the class defends Biblical absolutes, it must be the students. But they do not have the experience that the teacher or text has in clearly presenting and defending the facts, and the nature of the exercises does not allow students to research and carefully prepare a reasoned defense. Further, the issues discussed are often very difficult and are slanted to make Biblical absolutes appear unworkable or fanatical. And some subjects are discussed that are so personal or private that students may hesitate to expose their personal views to the criticism of the group.

Furthermore, when it is not teachers but only students who defend the truth, they will not appear any more likely to be right than other students. And there will be other students, often even a majority of the class, who speak up defending views contrary to the Bible. Students who defend Biblical views will often be mocked, ridiculed, and ostracized, especially after the students have left the classroom. After a few such experiences, students who believe Biblical views simply will not speak up in class.

The end result of all this is that Biblical views are often not defended at all; and when they are presented, it is often not done effectively and appears to be a minority view. So, many students conclude that Biblical values are just opinions some people happen to hold, but they are not capable of being persuasively defended, and other views are just as good. Biblical absolutes are not classed with the certain and sure truths that the teachers and the text present as fact. All these conclusions are exactly what humanists hope kids will reach.

We grant that adults should be able to defend and maintain their convictions despite the opposition we often face in the "real world." But the issues here are:

(1) Is it right for our government to demand that all children attend school, and then when parents obey the law and send their kids to the supposedly "fair, unbiased, and religiously neutral" tax-supported schools, the kids are subjected to such pressures as these? Is that "justice"?

(2) Are our children really ready to handle such unfair, biased pressures? We are not talking about mature adults, but undeveloped, immature children in their formative years - these are the ones who are being subjected to these pressures by the government-run schools. If kids are ready, by themselves without their parents, to handle all the pressures, burdens, and responsibilities of the world, why did God put them in families? Too many children forsake faith in God or give in to a life of immorality after facing pressures like these year after year.

(3) Is it fair and unbiased education to disallow a major source of information before the discussion even begins? The issues discussed inherently involve religious or spiritual significance - subjects that the children of God-fearing people have been taught to resolve by appealing to the teaching of Bible and religion. Yet students are not allowed to introduce God, the Bible, the church, or even their parents' views as evidence in the discussion. The result ties the hands of students who respect God, placing them at a seriously unfair, biased disadvantage, because their most powerful evidence is disallowed from consideration.

It is true that children need to learn by experience how to face the pressures of the world. But this should be done when the parents decide the children are ready for it, not when the government says they should face it. And the government should not place God-fearing children at a disadvantage by disallowing the evidence that is the basis for their beliefs.

For further study I encourage the reader to go to https://www.gospelway.com/instruct/ and  study our online article about Biblical principles for raising godly children.


(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2/5/2005

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