You Can’t Lace Geography Lessons with Jesus: A Response to Israel Wayne

 

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

For Israel Wayne, homeschooling is not about education. It’s about discipleship. His recently viral blogpost, “A Shift in the Homeschooling Movement,” testifies to this fact. In it, he suggests that we “shift” homeschooling towards the “lordship of Jesus.” In order to understand the post, one must understand that, for him, homeschooling must be religious or spiritual in its essence — education, academics, those are disposable accouterments to the goal of evangelizing your children.

Israel Wayne is the son of Home School Digest‘s Skeet Savage and a repeat speaker at the Homeschool Alumni National Reunion. He runs BiblicalBetrothal.com, which features writings from betrothal advocate Jonathan Lindvall and child marriage apologist Matthew Chapman. He himself has written for Above Rubies, Brannon Howse’s WorldviewWeekend.com, and Answers in Genesis, and has authored a number of books, most notably Homeschooling from a Biblical Worldview. You can read his bio at his organization Family Renewal here.

In Homeschooling from a Biblical Worldview, we get a basic picture of Wayne’s perspective on homeschooling and education. Essentially, all education is religious and — as the book’s own summary so neatly states — “Beginning with proper biblical presuppositions will enable students to make sense of the world around them.”

Fail to have the proper biblical presuppositions, and students fail to make sense of the world.

This is reiterated in Wayne’s recent post. The post itself is long and meandering. It addresses a variety of topics, including the history of the modern homeschooling movement and how different “camps” within the Christian Homeschooling Movement have competed and/or cooperated with one another. His post also proposes “new” paths for Christian homeschoolers to consider (though, as I will articulate here, these paths are anything but new). The post has been quite popular and many people have been taken in by Wayne’s rhetoric. (In my mind, however, it should give everyone pause that Kelly Crawford — an outspoken advocate of Patriarchy — thought his article was “very well done”, considering that his article was prompted by the Doug Phillips-inspired “Patriarchy” controversy as of late.)

There is so much one could say about Wayne’s post. But for this response, I want to focus on one particular passage of his. And heads up: I am going to approach this solution of his from a Christian theological perspective. I feel it is important to engage Israel Wayne on his own turf in this instance because it is necessary to show that this turf is incorrectly grounded.

The relevant passage from Wayne’s post is as follows (emphasis added):

If we ever forget that the homeschooling movement is NOT about academics at the end of the day (they are a means, not an end), then Jesus will abandon us to our own devices. The homeschooling movement must NOT become ultimately about methods and tools (curriculum). It must be about Jesus, and His Lordship over our families.

…We need to pick a few hills that are worth dying on, and be willing to allow a few others to fall by the wayside. In my view, the authority of Scripture is a hill to die on… The Lordship of Jesus Christ over every sphere of our existence is another. We cannot merely marginalize the Lord Jesus Christ as an optional plugin to our homeschooling endeavors. He demands supremacy over His people and demands to be recognized as our rightful head.

The leaders of this movement…must continue to hold up these banners as supreme, or else our Lord will leave us to our own devices, and the homeschooling movement will denigrate into another expression of humanism.

To put it simply, Israel Wayne has constructed a false dilemma. A false dilemma is when you present as an either/or a problem that can actually be resolved in more than two ways. Here Wayne presents “academics” and “the lordship of Jesus” as distinct entities (and either we uphold the latter over the former, or the whole world will burn). Why do I say this? Well, because if they are not distinct, then pursuing academics as the end of homeschooling would not necessarily exclude pursuing the lordship of Jesus in one’s life. But in Wayne’s mind, pursuing the former as an end means one is — to one extent or another — not pursuing the latter.

This is a crucial point — Wayne rejects education as a legitimate end in itself. It is so crucial because the Christian Homeschooling Movement’s similar rejection has led to many of the problems we are seeing today. The fact that Israel Wayne continues this rejection, just as his elders did, means that he will not be able to promote any significant change in homeschooling.

This solution — eloquent though it may be — is all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Lana Hope has already articulated one reason why this point is key:

The fact that homeschooling was seen as a Christian method is, in my opinion, what went wrong with baby boomer homeschool parents. It started out as an education model, but when it became about religion and the preservation of a Joshua generation, it went [sour]… The Christian homeschool movement, because it was all about religion and not academics, became about censoring certain information and stuffing Christ into other information.

Lana is spot-on here: the Christian Homeschooling Movement, as a movement, has used education to indoctrinate, not to empower. And when education becomes a tool of indoctrination, rather than being valued as an inherently empowering process, it gives rise to exactly what we at Homeschoolers Anonymous have called out for the last year: twisting homeschooling into an ideology-first movement, rather than a children-first movement.

I am not interested in debating a definition of “indoctrination” here. That’s not the point. What I conceive of as indoctrination is not limited to Christian education, Buddhist education, or even “secular” education. It is simply when education is used to pass on an ossified set of ideologies (a closed system) as opposed to being an embraced process whereby all children freely, enthusiastically, and wisely discover life on their own terms and at their own pace (an open system).

Israel Wayne clearly has no interest in education as an open system. This is evident in his “you must start from ‘proper biblical presuppositions’ or you have no chance ever of understanding the world” mindset; these so-called presuppositions automatically ensure a closed system. Yet in order to reject the concept of open system, notice what he has to do: he has to argue that education is not in itself an end. In other words, to Israel Wayne, education is not inherently valuable. It is only valuable insofar as it furthers “the lordship of Jesus” (whatever that means).

Wayne does this — and so have many others in the past and so do many others today — because everything is supposed to be subsumed under his idea of a “Christian Worldview.” Wayne’s Christian Worldview is a giant sucking sound, a Total Institution under which everything must be subjugated. It therefore sets up all other ends — in this particular case, the end of education — in diametric opposition to his end, the end of the Christian Worldview, e.g., lordship of Jesus.

Here’s the irony: the whole concept of “Christian Worldview” originated primarily with Francis Schaeffer, who wrote in Escape From Reason that this dualism — the very species of dualism Wayne advocates for, while saying he advocates against it — was causing the downfall of Christianity in the West. Schaeffer’s project — indeed, what the whole project of the “Christian Worldview” movement was supposed to be — was to cast aside the dualism and opposition between “faith” and “reason.” But whereas Wayne and others think this means “sell reason as a slave to faith,” Schaeffer meant it as embrace the entirety of the world as inherently valuable, informative, and empowering. This is why Schaeffer could boldly declare that, “Man is something wonderful.” Obviously that’s not what the Worldview Studies Movement has become within American evangelicalism or homeschooling curriculums. But that was Schaeffer’s goal.

When you begin with this closed system of presuppositions, you lose the very idea that human beings are made in God’s image.

You lose the fact that, no, you don’t have to start from any presuppositions at all because God gave each and every individual the same insatiable curiosity, rational thinking processes, emotional receptors, and desire to figure out life. You deny this fact and you deny a cornerstone of the biblical narrative. And doing so leads to (as Lana Hope pointed out) the stilted, articially “religious” environment that the Christian Homeschooling Movement was and continues to be, which denigrates the importance of academics and thus fails at responsible stewardship of children’s education.

There’s another way here, people. Academics can be the end of the homeschooling movement when we conceive of academics as inherently valuable, an end in themselves. Dedicating what resources you have to educate your child as best you can what if this is very definition of making Jesus lord of your life?

There is no need to conceive of “academics” and “lordship of Jesus” as distinct or opposed. In fact, I am just going to call out Israel Wayne as preaching a false gospel here. The Gospel is not about the totalitarian, totalistic imposition of Jesus on every aspect of our lives. The Gospel — as preached by Jesus — is a transformation, a process that becomes radically relevant, informing, and empowering to each individual in each individual’s unique context. In the context of a parent who has the resources to teach a child, that parent has a responsibility — call it God-given if you want — to give that child the very best education possible in the most nurturing and loving environment imaginable.

That is making Jesus lord.

And if that parent hides those educational resources out of fear of what that child may do with them, that is a rejection of Jesus as lord.

To conceive of homeschooling as “discipleship,” and education as inherently “religious,” is to reinstate the dualism whereby you can teach something like geography in a “Christian” way but also in a “non-Christian” way. No. That is pure nonsense. You either teach your child geography or you don’t. There’s no “Christian” way to teach geography, any more than there is a “Christian” way to change a tire. To say so ignores the fact that the simple act of teaching your child geography — in the context of homeschooling parenthood — is the definition of discipleship. You don’t have to artificially force “religion” into a geography lesson, like Kevin Swanson’s bizarre suggestion at the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit that, “We’ll shock everybody when we begin confessing our sins in the geography class.” And note that Swanson gives the exact same reasoning as Wayne, that education isn’t an end in itself:

We need to call [Christians] to use words like discipleship and nurture. Stop talking schools with me. Don’t talk about education with me. Let’s not talk about home education and Christian education, Christian schools. Let’s talk about discipleship. Let’s talk about a focus on faith and character. Let’s focus on the discipling of a child.

Sorry, but you can’t lace geography lessons with Jesus in the hopes of drugging your kids into Heaven.

Teach them geography well, as well as science, math, sex education, and so forth. Show them the world and do not instill fear in them.

That is making Jesus lord.

When you equip your child for life — when you teach them academics as a valuable end in itself — when you empower your child to face the storms that life will present, to wrestle with ideas, to master reasoning and humility — when you protect your child from abuse, and show your child you will protect other children from abuse as well — when you become Jesus to your homeschooling community by standing up for the abused and the marginalized — when you, like Jesus, say “Let the little children come to me,” to be safe, to be educated, to be empowered to succeed —

— that is making Jesus lord.

Homeschool parents who are afraid to educate their children thoroughly, who withhold from their children information about the world out of fear that it might “lead them astray,” need to imagine a bigger God.

When we start imagining a bigger God, when we start prioritizing children over ideology and children’s lives over our so-called “freedoms” — that’s when we’ll actually see a shift in the homeschooling movement.

13 comments

  • Outstanding article.

  • BeenThereDoneThat

    This.
    You spelled out exactly what my issues are with Israel’s article. I hope he will read it.

  • Thank you for this! I, too, found Wayne’s post to be a bit meandering and uninspiring. However, the main topic you pointed out where “the homeschooling movement is not about academics” just blows my mind away! If anything, I think more people are homeschooling today because they are frustrated with the academics that their children are receiving in some public schools.

    I think that if a parent is going to homeschool their child and not focus on academics, that boarders the line of child neglect by not offering a proper education. How are children expected to become the next generation’s leaders without a proper education or knowledge base? But, then again, I was always the “weird” Christian homeschool parent that actually cared about my kid’s education.

    P.S. – You drew me in on the Jesus award figurines!

  • I found this interesting since I am a geography teacher at a private Christian school. I think that religion and worldview should make it into the classroom. I am constantly encouraging my students to be aware of what is going on in the world — because we are all part of it, we all have an impact, we all need to know. So we study current events. What is going on the Ukraine, Syria, and Venezuela, and what are the worldview issues behind these crises? How is a communist government or a socialist government different from a free market society? How does the Hindu religion affect the culture of the society as compared to Islam?
    What effect have missionaries had — good or bad — and why? Which religious systems promote the best education for girls? (I keep hammering into all of them, girls and boys: “Get your education! Keep your grades up. Get your scholarships. You need to go to college!”)

    I’m not saying you shove Jesus down their throats. But I realize that religion is part of culture, and culture is necessarily part of geography. It is to be expected that Christians will teach geography through the lens of the Christian values — which, coming from me, is more about compassion, liberty, and social justice than anything. I was a bit ticked off at the over-the-top “God bless America” patriotism in the A Beka world geography text, and I did tell my students that I thought it was too biased.

    I should also say that four of my five school age children are now in public school (after twenty years of home schooling and five graduates already), and we’ve been generally happy with that choice. However, my second grader has had virtually no history at all this year in public school. They are too busy test prepping. I appreciate the emphasis on basic skills, but I would have liked to see a comprehensive age appropriate history education, too. I know that the teachers are already overworked and doing they best they can, so I’m not blaming them. However, she’s been begging me to home school her again, so I’m bringing her home for another year or two before sending her back. I’m going to work on a good balance of everything and give her a little more personal attention than she’s been getting.

    For the record, I have written “Patriarchy, Scandal, Abuse… and Grace” this week here: http://watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com/2014/04/on-patriarchy-scandal-abuse-and-grace.html

    I also just posted, “Bonding and Bondage in Abusive Relationships”: http://watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com/2014/04/bonding-and-bondage-in-abusive.html

  • Here is another pertinent link addressing the tendency of Christian home school speakers to downplay academics and insist on complete wifely submission:
    http://watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com/2010/10/honesty-respect-leadership-and-academic.html

  • Pingback: Teaching Our Kids Religion | Wide Open Ground

  • Reblogged this on temporary and commented:
    Faith AND reason: perfect together! Reblogged.

  • I have been following your blog for a while now, but this is my first time commenting on one of your posts. (Disclaimer: I was homeschooled through high school graduation, I wasn’t thrilled with everything about my experiences, but I take responsibility for most of the things that went wrong.)

    When Mr. Wayne defines academics and following Christ as two distantly separate entities, the premise he is writing under is why I believe that he is correct in making the distinction. The premise is this; as Christians everything that we do in our lives must be done to glorify Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31). Academics are one of all areas of our lives that come under the “umbrella” of Glorifying God. Now with that being said, academics and glorifying Christ are not opposed at all, in fact given the huge role academics play in our 21st century lives, excellence in academics is one of the biggest ways we can glorify Him (Colossians 3:23).

    The point being that I don’t believe that academics are an end to itself, but rather as a means to glorify Christ; along with everything else in our lives. One more point on a side note; I believe that most Christian Homeschooler leaders have it wrong on “discipleship.” The goal of discipleship is to have your disciples making new disciples of their own. If the only disciple making going on is biological, then you probably are not doing it right.

    (This is written to those who identify as Christian and I apologize for its’ preachy nature.)

  • I believe you have read into Israel’s narrative what you wanted to see and thus misrepresented him. Israel says,”If we ever forget that the homeschooling movement is NOT about academics at the end of the day (they are a means, not an end).

    In “calling out” a so-called “false gospel”, you have failed to acknowledge his very important parenthetical qualifier. Israel clearly stated that academics are a means, and not an end. A means to what? A well-rounded, informed (i.e. “smart) graduate that embodies certain convictions that would make Jesus proud. That is what I read into his statement.

    Is Israel implying that academics should be a lesser priority than the instilling of character and appropriate conviction? If so, then I say “Amen!” But Israel knows that we can have both, and that we don’t need to suggest there is one “biblical” way to teaching geography or changing one’s motor oil – the man is just too practical for that concept.

    Not sure, but seems that “indoctrination” is sort of a four-letter work to you. All students, regardless of the pedagogical drivers they are exposed to, will be indoctrinated with something; it might as well be truth – empowering truth about the importance of embracing an appropriate worldview, knowing Jesus as revealed through scripture, and most of all, how to impact this world for eternal good. If our children gather a solid understanding of basic geometry and auto mechanics along the way, all the better.

    • Thank you for this response. I was already forming my reply to this article when I scrolled down and saw that you had already done so in the way I had intended.

  • This is a phenomenal article. Very, very well said!

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