The Power and Peril of Education
Matthew Cochran has just published an extremely important article exposing the subversive indoctrination tactics being used in current sex education programs in public schools today. According to its publisher, the specific curriculum which he investigates is being used (as of 2017) by over 50 school districts across the country, including 11 of the largest 25. As Cochran details in his article (please read it), the program adopts a tone of innocuous impartiality in order to subtly indoctrinate students with a pro-LGBTQ and pro-abortion worldview. Astonishingly, it begins in kindergarten. And most parents have absolutely no idea that this is going on.
The sea change in modern morality, and the resulting wave of virulently anti-Christian attitudes and policies, did not come out of nowhere. Obergefell and the subsequent wave of transgender activism may seem to have happened overnight, but they did not. This radical social transformation did not come from the government. It did not even come from the media. It came from our schools and universities.
And it is scarcely possible to underestimate the power of the schools and universities to shape and influence the worldview of a child. Such a grave threat to faith and piety cannot be countered merely by an hour or two of Church on Sunday morning, and a few minutes of prayer each day at home. We need far more. We cannot afford to settle for some of “bare minimum” of Christianity in our lives; indeed, we cannot afford to settle for anything less than to “attain to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
A reader recently posed this question in the comments section of my last article:
What vision in your view could the Orthodox Church offer to people who are seeking life? …Many parish churches that are filled with pious families with the best of intentions occupy such a small fragment of parishioners’ lives that they stand little chance against the array of forces pulling us downwards. At what point would it be wise for those of us who have the means to seek to disengage from modern society and reconstitute a community along more traditional lines, where church, work, and family are more integrated?
Although at times, seeing the vast forces arrayed against us, it can be tempting to head for the hills, still we must keep in mind the words of Christ: “Ye are the salt of the earth.” Again, it is vitally important to remember that the forces opposing us are largely composed of good people with good intentions. They are people who, in many cases, are deeply dedicated to fighting for what they believe to be true and beautiful and good. They are starving for love, and that is why they are so dedicated to the cause which they believe represents love. And of all people on this earth, we Christians alone can show them Love. We Christians alone can show them God. And to do so is the sacred commandment given to all Christians by our Savior. It is our mission to fulfill this commandment so long as we are in this life.
But we cannot show them what we ourselves do not know. That is why Cochran’s message, with which I opened this article, so is vitally important for Christian parents to hear: government schools are no longer neutral institutions to which it is safe to send our children. The demonic assault on their faith and on their souls now begins in kindergarten. The assault is subversive and sophisticated, and in most cases neither the children nor their parents will have any idea what is happening until it is far too late. Take note of the opening paragraph of Cochran’s piece:
A new study from the Public Religion Research Institute reveals just how badly social conservatives are losing the battle over marriage and sexuality. Not only do two-thirds of Americans polled support so-called gay marriage, but even among evangelicals, support is rapidly growing. The majority of evangelical youth now reject Christ’s teaching on the subject.
And Orthodox Christians fare even worse than evangelicals.
Even if Orthodox parents seek to pass along the authentic teachings of Christianity to their children, in many cases they will fail. This is because, as Cochran points out, these issues go far deeper than mere end-result opinions. The government schools are laying the groundwork for an entire worldview in the minds and hearts of their students, and this worldview is one which is fundamentally opposed and profoundly hostile to Christianity — it is, in fact, Antichristianity. And in such soil it is exceedingly difficult for the truth to take root and grow.
Until the 1950s and 1960s, the Catholic Church in America was remarkably successful in preserving itself culturally and spiritually from the mainstream society surrounding it. But since then, assimilation has been widespread and devastating. And that catastrophe can be almost perfectly correlated with the decline of the Catholic school system in this country.
The most important thing that Orthodox Christians can do to protect themselves from the apostasy which is engulfing the modern world, and from the Antichristianity which is rising from the ashes, is to teach themselves — and their children — the truth of the Faith. In the words of St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov):
Apostasy is permitted by God; do not be tempted to stop it with your feeble hand… Distance yourself, and preserve yourself from it; and that will be sufficient for you. Know the spirit of the times; study it, so that you may avoid its influence as much as possible.
It is for precisely this purpose that I have begun, in obedience to my abbot, to write these articles. We must begin with ourselves. We must first put our own house in order. But at the same time, we cannot do it alone.
More than almost anything else, Orthodoxy in America desperately needs Orthodox schools. We have reached the point where this is neither a luxury nor an option. It is an absolute, existential necessity. I cannot say that it is impossible for someone to go through the public education system and remain an Orthodox Christian — with God all things are possible. But what I can say is that such an outcome in today’s world is nothing short of a miracle. And as the Arab saying goes: “Trust God, but tie up your camel.”
In my view the ideal would be to establish an Orthodox educational system on a national, or at least a diocesan, level. But we must begin where we can, and that is almost always at the parish level. Please seriously consider this possibility. Many are homeschooling, and while this is certainly better than sending our children to state schools, at the same time it is simply not possible for many families. And homeschooling carries its own risks as well: children, and especially teens, need community. And if they are deprived of an Orthodox community of peers in childhood, then they will likely find it quite difficult to resist the pressure to conform with the secular communities which they inevitably encounter later in life.
In the meantime, besides articles and advice I can also help to offer the most precious thing which God has given to me in my own life: monasticism. Visiting Orthodox monasteries, and making such visits a regular part of your family’s life, will bring incalculable spiritual benefit. Even a few days can make literally a world of difference. And thanks be to God, there are now both men’s and women’s monasteries across the country which lead a traditional Orthodox monastic life while speaking the English language. Such monasteries are oases in the spiritual desert of modernity.