By David Seibel, Head of School
This article is an adaptation of the talk given at Grandparents Day on November 4, 2022.
Is Coram Deo Academy trying to win the culture war?
Someone recently called me a culture warrior, and I did not really know how to respond to that. Part of me was confused because I do not watch the news, and I am largely disengaged from the public battles in politics. Another part of me rejoices because I am really interested in living out this quote from GK Chesterton:
The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.
Since becoming a Christian my Junior year at Wabash College, I have been really interested in ‘having the back’ of the next generation. In this sense, Coram Deo Academy is very much engaged in the war for the hearts and minds of the next generation.
Our twofold strategy for winning this war:
1) Taking Back the Culture’s Supply Lines, and
2) Winning the Culture War.
In this post, I’ll share my thoughts behind the first one. I draw inspiration in varying degrees from a few sources: The Battle for the American Mind by David Goodwin, this talk by former US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoss, and this post by educator Dr. Christopher Perrin.
Our 16th president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) said,
The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation becomes the philosophy of the government in the next.
Our involvement at CDA in the culture war in many ways comes back to applying this quote in a Christ-centered and classical fashion.
Part One: Taking Back the Culture’s Supply Lines
Supply lines are the routes that are used to deliver food, equipment, etc., to soldiers during a war. Education is a sort of supply line for human civilization. If you want to know what a culture will be like in 30 years, go check the supply lines in the schools.
Horace Mann, the inventor of America’s public schooling model, wrote, “We who are engaged in the sacred cause of education are entitled to look upon all parents as having given hostages to our cause.” Mann borrowed the Prussian industrial model and brought it to the United States, because it was not mother who knew best how to educate the children–mother government was needed for that.
By God’s grace, many parents during the pandemic saw what was happening in schools through computer screens on kitchen tables. Covid-19 laid bare that maybe kids were not actually learning and that maybe the parents’ best interests were not what kept the local superintendent up at night. Many parents in Indiana would resonate with the book title: Hostages No More: The Fight for Education Freedom and the Future of the American Child.
The fact of the matter is that Horace Mann’s factory model of school and John Dewey’s anti-god and anti-tradition philosophy of education has been unveiled the past two years. Hoosiers are seeing that progressives have controlled the supply lines of education for 100 years, which is why we have seen a change in direction in government the past few years. The philosophy of the classroom in one generation is the philosophy of the government in the next.
Education throughout History
Throughout human history, there has been a form of education that has challenged the status quo by creating independent thinkers. This form of education was the background of Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and Hamilton at the time of our country’s founding. At the time our nation was formed, our population stood at around 3 million. And we produced out of that 3 million people perhaps six leaders of world class: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and Hamilton. Today our population stands at around 330 million, so we might expect at least 100 times as many world-class leaders: 300 Jeffersons, Madisons, Adams, Washingtons, Hamiltons and Franklins. Where are they?
Thomas Jefferson’s education was classical – Thomas Jefferson received early training in Latin, Greek, and French, and then continued his formal education at a classical academy in preparation for attending the College of William and Mary, where his classical education continued, along with his study of law.
Thomas Jefferson suggested the following seal for the United States– rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God. He saw King George as an unfit shepherd and he was not going to go along as a sheep with England’s program. Where did this critical thinking and independent thought come from? What were the supply lines for the battle for independence in the 18th century? Jefferson’s freethinking shows that the philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation is the philosophy of the government in the next.
Is it not the great defect of our education today that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils “subjects,” we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think? They learn everything, except the art of learning. (Dorothy Sayers)
For Jefferson and CDA students, classical education is what teaches them how to think and how to learn the art of learning. For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain (Dorothy Sayers).
For a civilization to flourish, the supply lines in the schools must work effectively, and individuals must be able to think for themselves. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is that 80% of today’s jobs will be gone in 10 years. The schooling supply lines should be focused on building strong foundations of independent thought so that students can specialize much later in life.
Removing the supply lines is actually one of the cruelest things you can do to your enemy, because you essentially win the war by starving them.
Losing Sight of our Purpose
In Germany, the schoolroom lost sight of what was foundational and what was secondary. Hitler’s right-hand man looking back on pre-holocaust schools wrote, “Germany had specialization and technical skills in schools but lacked the adequate foundations.” Rome ultimately crumbled because it had drifted from its stabilizing foundational ideas. If you want to know how the Germans became a people that could support Hitler, it was the factory model of education with a curriculum focused entirely on workforce development, not the development of a human being. It was all vocational and technical training so that Germany could be great again – they did not want to fall behind the other European countries.
The problem with this is that children are viewed as a pair of hands rather than human beings. This philosophy that was in the schoolrooms was what made their culture vulnerable to the pernicious philosophy in the government – they had no foundations (supporting structure). Their lives were built on shifting sand and their purpose did not go beyond the physical and material and sensory world.
What is a child and what is a child for? Are the boys “frogs and snails and puppydog tails” and the girls “sugar and spice and everything nice”? Is a child just a pencil to be sharpened? A bag to be filled with information pellets? A blank slate to be written upon? Are children just a pair of hands for the national citizenry?
At Coram Deo Academy, we believe that children are heirs of the King and their true citizenship is in heaven. Not to engage in the pursuit of ideas is to live like ants instead of like men. If you want a brief summary of classical education, it is this: “in the world’s field of battle, be not like dumb driven cattle,” as our 6th grade recited dramatically for us! (from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow).
80% of the jobs will be different when these kids graduate, so we are developing intellectual athletes who will be able to play a wide array of positions on the field of life. This is different than kids who live at school and are addicted to degrees. China has most PhDs but no Nobel Prizes because they specialize too soon – they’re narrow and don’t see connections.
When Lincoln said that the philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation is the philosophy of the government in the next, he is describing how long it takes for ideas to take root in a culture. If it takes a baby 9 months to be formed in her mother’s womb, it takes one generation for the ideas to grow in the womb of a culture before they are born in the government. This is simply the law of cause and effect with a minor lag time. We can see evidence of this principle right now in culture!
The Decline of Families
Diaper sales are down and the number of kids claiming to be socialists, atheists, and gay is up. Kids today are twice as likely as your own kids to choose a homosexual or atheistic lifestyle. If you look at the children in your neighborhood or in your church or around your Thanksgiving table, they are more likely to get married in their late 30s and become DINKs – dual income no kids.
In 1979, the world’s fertility rate was 6.0; today it’s 2.52. This means that our population over time will shrink and age which is not politically or economically sustainable. Christians in the days of Johnson, Nixon, the Beatles, and the Pink Floyd saw Bible and prayer leave the schools, but in the days of Trump and Biden and Kanye West and Miley Cyrus, we are seeing new God-substitutes enter the schools.
What philosophy of the schoolroom has been taking place that has caused us to not value the family anymore? Has our country’s vision for the traditional family been deconstructed? Progressive ideology has been controlling the supply lines of education and we are finally seeing the fruit of that. In the 1970s, if a young man went to the doctor and said that he thought he was a girl, the doctor would have said, ‘Young man, there is something wrong with your head.’ Now, if that same young man goes to the doctor with a problem of gender identity, the doctor might very well say, ‘Young lady, then there must be something wrong with your body!” Kids are growing up in a culture without traditions and foundations.
Public school leaders (influenced by Mann and Dewey’s thinking) thought that dropping these traditions and ignoring history would be liberating, but it is actually turning children into driven cattle who think the universe started spinning when they were born. Cicero wrote that whoever does not know what happened before he was born will perpetually remain a child. Tradition is not the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire! By erasing our civilization’s memory and canceling everyone we disagree with, kids have no heroes to look to, and they are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
This is only the beginning of Coram Deo Academy’s plan to combat the prevailing culture of our day. See our next post to read Part 2: Winning the Culture War. If this topic interests you, check out these stories about community leaders that are shaping our world with Christian values in mind:
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