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Homeschool vs. Public School

Homeschool vs. Public School

At some point, you’ve probably heard the question asked (or maybe you’ve asked the question): why homeschool when your child can go to a public school funded by the government?

But perhaps we should flip that question around. Homeschooling has grown in popularity with families throughout the United States. Several studies suggest that between 5 and 6 percent of school-age children are homeschooled (that’s about three million kids), and this number increases year by year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents found themselves homeschooling either outright or de facto—and that only increased the popularity of homeschooling!

So what is it that makes homeschooling increasingly attractive and public schools so unattractive?

Why Homeschool?

There are more reasons to homeschool than ever.

Religious Freedom

Religious freedom is one of the most repeated answers offered by parents when making the decision to homeschool their child. Public schools don’t incorporate religious studies into the classroom. Public school curricula may teach a different set of values and beliefs than what parents believe and want to instill in their child.

Homeschooling, on the other hand, affords parents the opportunity to incorporate Bible studies, prayers, and values throughout the lesson plan.

Safety and Security

Concern over a child’s safety is another reason why parents choose to homeschool. Some children are subjected to negative influences such as bullying and the presence of drugs and alcohol in public schools. These negative influences can affect a child’s academic performance in the classroom.

However, in a homeschool environment, parents are able to watch over their child and help them develop without those stressors and dangers.

Personalized Learning

In a homeschool setting, parents are able to offer more personalized learning for their child. Public school teachers have a classroom of students with different abilities and levels of learning.  The lesson plans won’t be tailored for each individual student.

Homeschool allows for the parents to assess their child’s strengths and weaknesses and help build lessons around their needs. This type of teaching provides flexibility to give the child what they need to learn and skip ahead if they grasp the subject.

Family

Homeschooling is a family effort. There is collaboration between siblings and parents to come together and share knowledge and experiences. This level of connectedness goes beyond what can be provided in public schools.

The opportunity to reinforce family values and beliefs while developing a stronger sense of self is why many families choose homeschooling over public schooling.

Want more reasons to homeschool?
Read: “The Benefits of Homeschooling: A Graduate’s Perspective

Why Not Public School?

These are a few reasons why homeschool parents often decide to homeschool their children rather than send them to public school. Here are two such reasons:

Lower Academic Outcomes

Studies have revealed that homeschool students typically score higher than public school students on standardized tests. Parents’ level of education does not change the student’s success.1

Homeschool students also typically do better in college. Homeschool students have a higher rate of graduating college than students who attended public school. One study revealed that homeschooled students graduated with an average GPA of 3.46 while their public school peers graduated with an average of 3.16. The same study also showed that homeschooled students graduated from college at a higher rate (66.7%) than their peers (57.5%).2 3

Poorer Social Environments

Contrary to the popular misconception, homeschool students are often better socialized than their public school counterparts. They are more likely to participate in political drives, sports teams, church ministries, and community work.4

Public schools, meanwhile, often present challenges for social development, such as bullying, discouragement, and negative peer influences. For example, according to one study, 5% of students between the ages of twelve and eighteen reported that they had been afraid of attack or harm at school in 2019.5

That’s 1 out of 20 students, and the average class size in the USA is 20.3.6

The evidence is abundant and the collective experience of homeschoolers shows that homeschooling works. Public schools, on the other hand, afford poorer outcomes all around.

Why send your child to public school when you can homeschool?

Written By: Classical Conversations®

Homeschool Resources

Gluten-Free Table At A Potluck – Homeschool Resources

By Lauren Gideon

As I travel from state to state, I find two tables of homeschool resources: those that are total free-market options and those that are fully or partially taxpayer-funded. These resources could include tutoring services, classes, extracurricular activities, sports, fine arts, and so much more. What I have found remarkably interesting is that just like a gluten-free table, free-market options are either sparse or plentiful, bland or diverse.

An Illustration From My Gluten-Free Friends

Nearly every potluck I attend anymore has an accommodating table, based on the reality that a large segment of our population has chosen to abstain from gluten. We know there is a spectrum of reasons. Nearly every gluten-free consumer has some moderate to severe negative consequence they try to avoid, yet others take a proactive approach.

I also bet some are on the train because…well, they get on all trains.

Motivations aside, in my lifetime, the potluck scene has completely changed to accommodate this demographic.

Ok, nothing against my anti-glutenomist neighbors…If I still have you, follow me with the illustration.

The gluten-free consumer made a decision (forced or voluntary) that altered a major portion of their life. They have their position prior to any potluck. Once there, they are either delighted or depressed with the variety of gluten-free options. The most strict in this demographic choose only from this table. Rarely, in their disappointment, do they ever compromise and decide to browse the non-gluten-free selection. (If you have ever hung out with someone like this who has had accidental gluten contamination, you know why.)

Specifically, if there is no cake on the GF table, the consumer does not reluctantly go to the other table to get their cake; they simply go without cake. If this happens enough times, one of two things will probably happen. The friends and family of this individual will have compassion and bake a diet-friendly cake, or the consumer will get frustrated enough to bake their own cake.

How In The World Does This Intersect With Homeschooling?

As we evaluate options on the two tables, we must first step back and evaluate our commitment to the homeschool resource “diet.”  What are the pros and cons of only consuming free-market options? Are there any consequences to sampling options from the subsidized table if you don’t find what you like in the free market? Some states provide an “all or nothing” choice. In these states, no state-funded options are available for those who have chosen to homeschool.

Do you know what they DO have? They serve a feast of quality, diverse, competitive, free-market services. How do they have such options? There, you will find a rich legacy of groups and individuals who found a way to make a GF cake—by that, I mean a robust free-market buffet because the consumers in the state required that accommodation. In other circumstances, we find that families solved their own dilemmas with conviction and creativity.

In Many States The Free-Market Table Is Lacking

If you are in a state like mine, the free-market table is lacking. One reason this is true is due to the fact that the other table is easily accessible. Families discouraged by the free-market are welcome to browse the state-funded options. At first glance, this seems warm and hospitable. Consumers say things like, “I do not have a choice; the option I wanted (or a quality version of this option) was not available on the free market.”

Do you know what happens to our table when this is our outlook? Nothing. It stays sparse and bland.

What will drive change? The options are the following:

  1. Families will set their “diet” and commit to it before they ever attend the potluck
  2. Families will ONLY chose the bland options, or…
  3. Families will create better options, and more homeschool resources for the next generation

We all have a choice, and as we all know; all choices yield outcomes.

Lauren is a regular contributor. You can find Lauren’s other blogs here.

Lauren Gideon profile smiling at the camera

Lauren Gideon is the Director of Public Relations for Classical Conversations®.  She has been a home educator since her first student was born 18 years ago. She came to Classical Conversations for support when the student count in their home grew beyond what she thought she could navigate on her own. In addition to homeschooling her seven children, she co-leads community classes that unpack our nation’s founding documents and civic responsibility. However, she is happiest at home, preferably outside, with her husband of 18 years, tackling their newest adventure of building a modern homestead.

Joint Ownership and Your Child’s Education

By Lauren Gideon

Many people in America own timeshares or at least have been to one of those awful presentations. The concept is simple. Merriam-Webster defines a timeshare as “an agreement or arrangement in which parties share the ownership of or right to use property (as a resort condominium), and that provides for occupation by each party, especially for periods of less than a year.”

The concept at hand regards how investors share ownership and rights to property. For many Americans, this is a tolerable relationship where all parties get pages of fine print and give their informed consent. 

Does Joint Ownership Actually Exist?

Here is my question, though: Does joint ownership actually exist? In 1828, in the first edition of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Languageownership was defined as “property; exclusive right of possession; legal or just claim or title.”

The difference here is collective ownership vs. individual ownership. They sound similar, but they are, in fact, mutually exclusive. Once a collective owns something, the individual does not. And once an individual owns something, the collective does not have ownership. 

Culturally, we like the concept of collective ownership. Why? Vacations are both valuable and expensive. They are genuinely beneficial to relationships, mental health, and stepping away from life to gain perspective, see new places, and gain education. 

So many good things come from vacations. If time and money allow, one could say vacations are essential. For most families, the friction comes not from whether we should take a vacation but from the question: “How are we going to pay for a vacation?”

Enter the timeshare industry, which has capitalized on the strain between the value of vacation vs. the expense. The presentations capitalize on this tension and propose a solution: shared ownership. This proposal stems from the relationship between investing and ownership. (I don’t know of any timeshare holder who actually thinks they have exclusive right of possession.) 

A Multiplicity of Ownership Means No Individual Ownership

This leads me to my point: multiplicity of ownership means no individual ownership. Collective owners or investors are merely stakeholders. They each have a vote and a voice but are still subject to the collective’s will. 

The unfortunate consequence with outside investors is that—by definition—you have forfeited exclusive ownership. Individual ownership and collective ownership are mutually exclusive.

The stakeholder relationship works in many common relationships where responsible parties can tolerate giving up individual ownership. Roads, city ordinances, and vacation abodes are some of our collectively shared possessions.

But what about those central responsibilities we possess? When is deferring to the stakeholder option an abdication of responsibility? For instance, scripture indirectly warns about having outside stakeholders in a marriage (Gen. 2:24). No outsider should have a vote in your marriage. The couple answers to God alone; therefore, it is imperative that they do not sell out to other investors who do not share in their unique and personal responsibility. 

This same idea can apply to very private matters of the human experience. As James Madison said, 

“More sparingly should this praise be allowed to a government, where a man’s religious rights are violated by penalties, or fettered by tests, or taxed by a hierarchy. Conscience is the most sacred of all property; other property depending in part on positive law, the exercise of that, being a natural and inalienable right. To guard a man’s house as his castle, to pay public and enforce private debts with the most exact faith, can give no title to invade a man’s conscience which is more sacred than his castle, or to withhold from it that debt of protection, for which the public faith is pledged, by the very nature and original conditions of the social pact.”

To summarize, there should be no stakeholders in someone’s religion or conscience. Madison repeatedly warned against trampling the private property (exclusive, individual ownership) of someone’s conscience.

How Do We Categorize Our Family’s Education?

Here is our closing question. How do we categorize our family’s education? Is it common or sacred? Is it public or private? Referring back to the vacation dilemma, education is also an essential commodity. It is more essential than a vacation, and given our budget limitations, the appeal to invest with multiple investors is strong. 

The unfortunate consequence with outside investors is that—by definition—you have forfeited exclusive ownership. Individual ownership and collective ownership are mutually exclusive. Moreover, stewardship of your family’s education belongs to you at the end of the day; it cannot be outsourced. Our ownership in this field is sacred, and we all bear personal responsibility. This is the message we should aim to communicate to future generations.

  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

Read other articles written by Lauren here.

Lauren Gideon profile smiling at the camera

Lauren Gideon is the Director of Public Relations for Classical Conversations®. She co-leads and teaches through an organization committed to raising citizenship I.Q. on U.S. founding documents. She and her husband homeschool their seven children on their small acreage, where they are enjoying their new adventures in homesteading.

looking through a magnifying glass lens at the first words of the Declaration of Independence, "We the People"

9 Resources for Learning About the U.S. Constitution

By Lauren Gideon

There has been a revival among conservatives to improve our functional U.S. Constitutional literacy. It’s only natural when things devolve into disorder and chaos to wonder, 

“What happened?” 

“How did we get here?”

“Where did we get off course?” 

To answer these questions, one would have to learn what the course was and where the course came from before one could assess the deviation from that course. This curiosity to rediscover the “course” is a good thing. The human experience is full of good things, and like all good things, achieving or acquiring them requires of us the same weighty virtues of ownership and discipline that Classical Conversations® highlights for students in the Challenge programs. 

Thus, before proceeding to the following list, heed this disclaimer: 

If you want a “quick fix” for improving your U.S. Constitutional literacy…. this is NOT the list for you. 

The U.S. Constitution

When learning about something, one should always start with the thing itself. It’s interesting that when you finally meet someone that you have heard much about ahead of time, you can’t ever really unhear those things or unknow them. 

For better or for worse, you will (at least initially) always see that new person through the lens of what you heard about them. The same is true of ideas and documents. This is one of the reasons why classical educators are so passionate about reading source texts before we turn to functional summaries or commentaries. 

Webster’s Dictionary 1828

Inevitably, you will run into words that are outside our modern vernacular. Look them up! And look them up in a dictionary completed in close chronological proximity to the document itself. 

While you are at it, pick up a good biography of Noah Webster for a fascinating window into how unique and essential this dictionary was for the formation of American culture.

The Declaration of Independence

After reading the U.S. Constitution thoroughly, you might be disappointed. Let me explain. No one gets through reading the rules of Monopoly and says to themselves, “Wow, that was profoundly inspiring!” Rule books, by nature, are quite dry and boring. The point of the rule book is not the rule book itself, but the rules allow you to play the game! The game of Monopoly is enjoyed by many families for something other than the excitement of the rule book. 

The U.S. Constitution is merely the rule book. The Declaration of Independence articulates so beautifully the “why.” These documents are so intertwined that they ought never to be divorced. The U.S. Constitution is the manifestation, the conduit, and the protection of the truth claims spelled out in the Declaration of Independence.

The Articles of Confederation

It is important to remember that the U.S. Constitution was a “do-over.” It was not the first attempt to make manifest the principles of the Declaration of Independence. However, there was enough unfavorable public sentiment surrounding the Articles of Confederation and the perception that they had missed the mark, to tolerate what was called the Second American Revolution. 

The new form of government created was literally illegal under the Articles of Confederation. 

While this may cause internal conflict for those with warm affection for the rule of law under the U.S. Constitution, it is something worthwhile to wrestle with. It’s important to remember that things haven’t always been the way they are, nor is there any assurance that they will stay this way if the public perception and sentiment wills otherwise.

Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787

In modern America, there is debate on whether we can know what the Constitutional Convention meant by the words and phrases they used. This question is only tolerated by those ignorant of James Madison’s exhaustive notes on every conversation that transpired. 

What was included, what wasn’t included, why did they choose the words they chose; all this and much more give us the conversational context to every element debated. The fewer the debates, the more unanimously certain positions were held by the convention. 

Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers

Beyond the internal debate, a national debate transpired as well. The Federalist Papers argued for the U.S. Constitution, while the Anti-Federalists opposed ratification. More important than the sides men took are the ideas they unpacked. Often, these papers hospitably acknowledge the weakness of their positions while confessing the limitations of a free society.  

By reading these papers, we can deeply dive into the comparison, circumstance, relationship, and testimony of these ideas.

Discourses Concerning Government—Algernon Sidney

Like people, ideas have family trees and ancestors. While the ideas that shaped the U.S. Constitution are as old as time itself, curious observers have done their part to articulate what previously lived outside of the body of human discovery. 

Algernon Sidney was one of those discoverers. His thoughts ultimately cost him his very life when his own unpublished writing was used against him as a second witness to convict him of treason. Sidney’s writings, though written about 100 years before the American Revolution, were so influential that Thomas Jefferson had this to say about them in a letter to Henry Lee:

Two Treatises of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration—John Locke 

The other modern author named by Jefferson was John Locke. His Two Treatises of Government was published around the same time that Sidney was alive. These two men pioneered ideas such as “just power being derived through the consent of the governed,” which flew in the face of the Divine Rights Theory. So, it is plain to see how the Declaration of Independence did not invent any new ideas. The Declaration merely served as an inventory of collective sentiment shaped by the ideas discovered and shared by brave men who gave their lives for the transcendental ideals enumerated in our Declaration and consequently informed and transformed our form of government, the U.S. Constitution.

The Bible

It cannot go without saying that the U.S. Constitution is not divinely inspired. Only one text can make that claim. So, when looking at anything else in the created order, we must consider the authority of Scripture. 

We began this conversation considering “the course” or “how things ought to be.” While the Scriptures may not explicitly say how humans ought to form a good human state, it does teach us about spheres of authority, the principle of justice, the idea of having multiple witnesses, the image-bearing nature of humanity, and other building blocks. 

While we may often wish for a cookie-cutter example that we could cut and paste, there is no quick fix for searching out the mysteries of Scripture either. Let us remember Proverbs 25:2 (ESV), “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” 

It is our joy and responsibility to bring everything under the dominion of Christ’s authority: to discover, to name, to identify, to compare, to understand, to inform, to discern. In this discernment of revelation through Scripture and the created order, we, too, can wisely participate in this enduring classical conversation. 

Read other articles by Lauren here.

Lauren Gideon profile smiling at the camera

Lauren Gideon is the Director of Public Relations for Classical Conversations.  She has been a home educator since her first student was born 18 years ago. She came to Classical Conversations for support when the student count in their home grew beyond what she thought she could navigate on her own. In addition to homeschooling her seven children, she co-leads community classes that unpack our nation’s founding documents and civic responsibility. However, she is happiest at home, preferably outside, with her husband of 18 years, tackling their newest adventure of building a modern homestead.

Electoral College Map

Electoral College—The Purpose & Process

By Elise DeYoung

Let’s examine the purpose and process of the Electoral College. For several decades, there has been a simmering debate over whether or not we should abolish the Electoral College. Especially since the 2000 and 2016 elections, when the Electoral College elected President Bush and then President Trump despite losing the popular vote, this debate has become increasingly mainstream.

In fact, a clear majority of Americans support replacing the Electoral College with a popular vote, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center.

However, before we can even consider abolishing our system of presidential elections, we must be sure that we understand its process and purpose.

The Process of the Electoral College

The US presidential elections have two stages: the primary and the general. You can find more information about the primary here. The general election commences once each party has chosen a nominee at the conclusion of the primary.

Similar to the primary system, the general election is composed of three rounds:

  1. The Campaign
  2. The People’s Vote
  3. The Electoral College

The Campaign

Campaigning during the general election is different than the primary since voters are now familiar with the candidates. However, this is still an essential aspect of the process since it’s the candidates’ final chance to persuade the public.

So, once more, they perform interviews, participate in political debates, and present speeches to maintain the support of their political base and persuade others of their position to win states.

The People’s Vote

As established in the Constitution, the people’s vote officially takes place on the Tuesday following the first Monday of November.

The standard voting method, in general, is very similar to the primary voting system. Americans gather at the ballot boxes to cast their vote individually. In addition, the concepts of “early voting” and “mail-in ballots” have been introduced in recent decades. No matter how you vote, election officials count the votes at the end of the Tuesday following the first Monday of November.

If you want to learn more about the voting laws in your state, read an article by USA Facts, How Do Voting Laws Differ by State? or refer to your state constitution.

However, the people’s vote does not determine the result of the general election. This is because American elections are not conducted by a popular voting system. Rather, the founders designed a system called the Electoral College.

The Electoral College

Briefly put, the Electoral College comprises electors from all fifty states that convene every election year to cast their votes, directly electing the President.

Who are these electors?

The Constitution provides only two stipulations when it comes to the electors. Article II, Section One, Clause Two states that an elector may not hold another office of Trust in the U.S. government. Furthermore, Section Three of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution says that no individual who has engaged in an insurrection may hold any office in the U.S. government, including the position of elector. Any further rules that apply to who can be an elector and how they are elected are left up to the states to decide.

How are the electors chosen?

The parties in the general election choose potential party-approved electors. Then, the people elect which electors they would like to represent them.

How many electors are in each state?

The number of electors in a state equals the number of Senators and Representatives in that state.

For example, Iowa has seven electors, while Wisconsin has ten, and Florida has twenty-seven. The Library of Congress has a country map showing the number of electors per state.

How many electoral votes are needed to win?

The winning candidate must receive at least 270 electoral votes, a clear majority. Suppose there is a tie, or the majority is too slim, which happened in the case of Thomas Jefferson versus Aaron Burr in 1801. In that case, Congress resolves the vote.

When does the Electoral College assemble to vote for the President?

They meet in mid-December after the popular vote has taken place. So, while we often celebrate or mourn the results of the people’s vote, the election is still not over for another month.

The answer is the same as the delegates in the primary. Depending on the party and state they represent, some must align their vote with the results of the popular vote in their state. Others can vote for whomever they see fit.

The Process & Purpose of the Electoral College

This process is more complex than most election systems in other countries. Why did the Founders establish this system with so many steps when they could have established a popular vote?

There are two main reasons why the founders were wise to create the complex system of the Electoral College.

First, they rightly feared the tyranny of the majority. Alexander Hamilton said it well when he wrote, “The people is a great beast.” They knew that the people had to be controlled by a system that was out of their control.

The people is a great beast.” —Alexander Hamilton

Second, the founders also knew that the federal government could not control the system that controlled the mob of the majority. An election system that was in the hands of the federal government could, and probably would, be manipulated by those in charge. They would secure power for themselves by silencing the people’s voices and disqualifying the opposition.

This is why the Constitution includes so many checks and balances. It distributes power among all fifty states rather than centralizing it in the office of the President alone, and why the Founders avoided settling for overly simple systems.

Electoral College—Still Relevant Today

The Electoral College is a firm institution that holds both the tyranny of the majority and the power of the government at bay. It does not allow for either of these groups to ultimately corrupt elections because neither group has the final say.

It is no surprise that those with political power do not like the system, it stops them from securing ultimate victory for their party. Neither is it surprising that the majority dislike the system, it doesn’t bow its knee to them. All in all, I would say that the Electoral College is doing exactly what it was designed to do.

And as the cliché saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Elisa DeYoung explains the purpose and process of the Electoral College.

Elise DeYoung is a Public Relations and Communications Associate and a Classical Conversations graduate. With CC, she strives to know God and make Him known in all aspects of her life. She is a servant of Christ, an avid reader, and a professional nap-taker. As she continues her journey towards the Celestial City, she is determined to gain wisdom and understanding wherever it can be found. Soli Deo gloria!

Chernobyl meltdown

Meltdown: A Reflection

By Paul Bright

The Worst Meltdown in History

Recently, I had the privilege of watching the dramatic miniseries Chernobyl, an interpretation of the events surrounding the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl. The series is a horrifying presentation of the arrogance of man, not in the pursuit of science, but in the self-deception of his own pride at pushing the limits of known quantifiers while placing a false faith in a failsafe that can be readily pushed at any moment if something goes wrong.

The Critical Moment of Explosion and Meltdown

As the personal ambition of men pushed a dangerous test, administered by unqualified persons with incoherent instructions, the moment began when the reactor surged out of control. The nuclear engineers, thinking that the boron control rods could instantly be lowered into the out-of-control mix of xenon gas, radioactive uranium, and superheated water, pushed the failsafe button, AZ-5. All the control rods, which should have instantly stopped the nuclear reaction, caused it to explode. The reason? The boron rods themselves, were defectively made. The result was an explosion of the nuclear core, the ejection of nuclear material and radiation, and death and destruction, which no words in a simple paragraph could describe. Obviously, this article will use “meltdown” metaphorically, not literally.

The Arrogance of Unbounded Liberty

All motives and decisions of life individually and together are driven, it seems, by what is uncritically defined as a yearning for liberty. Assuming that the yearning itself is always good, the human spirit pushes ever closer to the edge of every limiting agent to find its ultimate expression of freedom.

“It is unbounded, uncontrolled, and uncontained. It is radioactive libertinism.”

It is unbounded, uncontrolled, and uncontained. It is radioactive libertinism. Whether this occurs in an individual’s mind, the family unit, in church, or in government and culture, the pursuit of liberty for liberty’s sake is justified, celebrated, and pursued. Slogans abound as eternal testaments to liberty, in Declarations of Independence, in state mottos, on statues, in art, and by echo chamber populists. While simultaneously praising liberty, these depictions are flooded with the vilification of authority. And thus, over time, in the conscience of man, in the family, in the church, and in the government and culture, the building up of heat and friction, hatred, anger, vainglory, and self-centeredness start emitting as radioactive fuel, damaging rather than energizing. The control rods of authority are unnecessary, unneeded, unwanted, and counter the nature of the progress of liberty.

The Deception of Instantaneous Authority

And once the danger of the radioactive liberty is seen, the voice of men start calling for instantaneous solutions to halt the ever-growing, out-of-control trend. Demagogues and autocrats rush down into the mix. They present themselves as the only ones who can stop the destruction, and capitalize on every misfortune and evil deed to expand even more influence and power for themselves. Churches become dominated and ruled, not by those who understand the words of Christ that the greatest of these are the least of all and a slave, but the greatest of these are those who are like the gentiles, ruling and reigning and exalting themselves over others. Because God needs His strong leaders on earth, not an absent king in heaven. Families are no longer examples of sacrifice and voluntary submission for the nurture, admonition, and edification of all, but an extinguishing experience of excision from all relationships that exasperates everyone.

“Families are no longer examples of sacrifice and voluntary submission for the nurture, admonition, and edification of all, but an extinguishing experience of excision from all relationships that exasperates everyone.”

Man replaces general welfare for others with the false righteousness of self-love, self-care, and self-rest under the auspices of self-improvement while at the same time being overly critical about other’s selfishness and never understanding why self-inwardness never satisfies. 

The Explosion

But, just like Chernobyl, the authorities operating as independent instantaneous solutions are defective themselves. When Israel wanted a king like all the other nations after centuries of direct salvation by God through judges against the “liberty of man” for idolatry, He warned them how the king would abuse his authority and consolidate riches, power, possessions, and glory for himself at their expense. Everything God said came to pass exactly and repeatedly. The results were a divided kingdom, war, generational animosity, violence, and the final covenantal curse of the discipline of losing their nation. This explosive ejection and meltdown are the inevitable ends for the present course of our country, churches, families, and ourselves. 

The radioactive liberty in the heart of man is not squelched, but instead, the authoritarianism accelerates the whole toxic and heated and destructive mix of rebellion. The explosion, ejection, and meltdown happen once the unconstrained pursuit of liberty is pushed to its very edge as a human right. At the same time, the desire for immediate, instantaneous authority slams down into the whole reactor of men’s hearts. Boom!

“The radioactive liberty in the heart of man is not squelched, but instead, the authoritarianism accelerates the whole toxic and heated and destructive mix of rebellion. The explosion, ejection, and meltdown happen once the unconstrained pursuit of liberty is pushed to its very edge as a human right.”

How to Prevent a Meltdown

What can stop the explosion, ejection, and meltdown of all good things that one receives from the image of God in oneself, in families, in churches, and in government? The answer seems easy, but requires an impossible work that one cannot achieve for oneself.

The first answer is not to pursue liberty as the most basic of all human rights. The great lie from the enemy of all is to pursue liberty because it is good and beautiful and true, and the only One who is worthy of all authority is none of those things and should never be trusted, loved, believed, and obeyed. Changing that in the heart of man is not a human work. It cannot be achieved by a desire for self-improvement. It is not natural to humans. To liberate oneself and enslave others is human; to serve others and enslave oneself is divine. Therefore, repent from the idea that the purpose of man is liberty uncontained.

The second answer is to understand that liberty and authority are interrelational and interdependent. The cultural tenet that liberty and authority are mutually exclusive and should only be used as such is a faith in a failsafe that does not exist. Liberty drives invention, imagination, and service towards a progress of edification and unity. Authority regulates the tendency of liberty to go beyond the beneficial into self-determinationism. Liberty challenges the tendency of authority to go beyond the protection of all to willful edicts and aggrandizement. This is what checks and balances should mean.

Finally, the third answer is that the solution itself might be slow. Patience in re-establishing the balance between liberty and authority might take time and effort. Instruction in the nature of liberty and authority in all spheres of the image of God (conscience, family, church, and nation) should be intimately connected with a biblical anthropology and a robust understanding of hamartiology.

The divine work of balance between liberty and authority will happen in one heart, one family, one church, and then one nation.

Paul Bright profile headshot

Paul Bright currently works in the field of Biotechnology. He is a native of Evansville, IN, and an alumnus of Purdue University and The Master’s Seminary. Paul was a Systematic Theology and Ancient Hebrew professor in Samara, Russia. He and his wife, Jennifer, homeschooled their daughter all the way through high school and currently reside in Covington, Louisiana. You can read Paul’s other contributions here.

How to be an American Citizen

By Lauren Gideon

The original article, “How to be an American Citizen: The Relationship between the Represented and the Representative,” was published in The Cultivated Patriot.

There is a lot of confusion these days (and dare I make us all nauseous and use the word “misinformation”), drowning the American citizen. We don’t always know what is going on, but even more than that, we haven’t been trained in what to do about it. The battle cry of our generation is “Just DO something!” If that doesn’t make you snicker a wee bit, this installment might be for you.

Republic or Democracy—What is the difference?

As American citizens, we live in a republic, meaning we have a representative government. Most often, though, the United States is falsely described as a democracy. This distinction could fill up this entire paper, so instead, I will summarize. In both systems, the ultimate power is held in the hands of the voter.

Direct Democracy

In a direct democracy, however, the voter would literally vote on every issue. There is no assurance that what the voter votes for is moral or just. It is truly an expedient representation of the will of the people. Thomas Jefferson, who was initially endeared to this style of governance, was disenchanted by it over the course of his service as Governor of Virginia. While unverified, he is credited with saying, “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%.” So, while mob rule is expedient and gives ALL the “power to the people” ALL of the time, it can potentially be very dangerous. Consider the unbridled mob-like mentality of the past several years on ALL sides of the political arena.

“Democracy is nothing more than mob rule,
where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%.

Republic—Representative Government

A republic is still organized with the citizen as the highest authority. However, a republic is less efficient and expedient. Our power as citizens is vested in those we choose to represent us. We vet, we interrogate, we debate, and then we select. Our selection is our seal that the individual we’ve chosen is the best person for the job that we could find within the population for that office. This process is THE exercise of the citizen’s authority in the framework of a republic. This description is by no means a marginalization of the citizen’s role. In the “Just DO something” age, it’s essential first to define what we should be doing.

The exercise of this role is much more complex than scribbling in an oval with ink a few times a year (much less every four years!).

Who are our Representatives?

Our representatives represent us in the office and exercise authority on our behalf.

Ideally, how should you select a representative?

Find someone with sufficient knowledge, who understands that knowledge, and has wisdom in applying that knowledge. Another way of articulating the qualifications: do they possess true principles? Building on those principles, can they reason well? Lastly, could they strategically apply those principles to any potential circumstance? That is how we ought to select our representative.

Two Seasons of a Representative

This process has two seasons: first, the selection (a primary and general election), and then the term in which they do the representing.

During the representative’s term, we should support and encourage the candidate the majority thought was best suited for the role.

Support means we consider the principles we base our decisions on. These become the mechanisms of conversation and sometimes persuasion. We winsomely advocate for applying these principles on issues based on the merits of goodness, justice, and wisdom (or lack thereof). We thereby partner with those representing us.

Terms have different lengths, but they all have limits. Like all healthy assignments, there are seasons of assessing, or “performance reviews,” if you will.

Who performs the reviews, you ask? The voters. Can we all agree that there are qualifications for the heavy responsibility of giving performance reviews? You would need to know the standard or “ideal,” and you would need to know the merits on which the representative was selected in the first place. And you would also need to be engaged enough to know what transpired during the term and WHY. The assessment is a layered puzzle that will take more than a yard sign, a piece of literature, or a social media post to perform. But as the sovereign in this great nation, “We, the people,” have this high calling and responsibility to rule our country well. We need to hold ourselves individually accountable to the measure this office deserves.

“We, the people,” have this high calling and responsibility to rule our country well.

Our Responsibility as an American Citizen

Juxtapose the calm, calculated, time-consuming, discipline-requiring paradigm as stated above with the suggested playbook of our age. Verbs enlisted to the cause include yell, scream, e-blast, force, fight, rally, bully, protest, and “make your voices heard.”

If you don’t join the mob, this will mean to others that you aren’t yet awake enough. If the wicked have succeeded in this vein, isn’t it time we “borrow a page from their playbook”? And if your representative doesn’t bow to your beck and call, he’s “forgotten who he works for.” After all, “We the people” make our demands. If enough people want something, a representative should be bound to give it to them. And if our representative doesn’t, we choose vindication over virtue.

Which Playbook do we use?

If the stakes are high (as the last commentator I listened to told me they were), ought we use the most effective playbook for the task? Yes and no. I am not confident we have a modern example of a diligent, virtuous approach to politics by which to form a fair comparison. Perhaps there still is wisdom in the path of diligence, and, to a degree, we can generally anticipate that we will reap the seeds we sow.

Additionally, the wicked have always prospered, and they will until the end of this age. So, to take a page from the wicked’s playbook to achieve a moral end is inconsistent and incompatible. Also, is it just those “other” people who are tempted to be tiny tyrants?

Tyranny is All Around Us

If dominance is how the team moves the football down the field, would they give up their tyrannical ways once they reach the end zone? Victory would mean nothing less than a regime change where one tribe steals the scepter to wield how they see fit. To quote my colleague, “Tyranny is awful except for my tyranny… which is ok.

To get back on track, I am not assuming that we will always see eye-to-eye with those who represent us, especially if we are “on-ramped” into this cycle somewhere in the middle. It would be imperative that we identify what season we are currently in with each individual representative.

Do our Research!

As an American citizen, we need to do our research, and then enter into a relationship with these civil servants who represent us. We can get to know them, their background, and their priorities. Like any new relationship, we ought to find what principles we have in common. Then, when we meet a division of opinion, we appeal on the merits of goodness, justice, and wisdom. We build our reasoning on something timeless, outside of mere opinion, on some truth that both can identify. Provide authoritative sources. And then be professional!

When this fails, it will, at some point—we need to evaluate. What level of division is it? Is it a deal-breaking disagreement? Should it be? Or is it an area of minor consequence? Review season is coming, and you will take your role more seriously this time. After you have made your appeal to your representative, and once primary season is at hand, it’s time for the community to reevaluate if they (and, more importantly, truth) are best represented by the current representative. This can not happen in a vacuum.

The constituents must compare notes, events, circumstances, choices, and actions. They must focus on winsomely persuading their neighbors to vote based on what is good, just, and wise. They must consolidate their voting power to find the best representative for their community.

We will Reap what we Sow

As American citizens, we vet, we interrogate, we debate, and then we select our representative. We remember that our selection is our seal that the individual we’ve chosen is the best person for the job we could find within the population that is being represented by this office. And from the last term, we realize we will reap what we sow.

When the primary season is over, what’s done is done. And it’s back to the season of civil relationships.

Read other articles written by Lauren here.

Lauren Gideon profile smiling at the camera

Lauren Gideon is the Director of Public Relations for Classical Conversations. She co-leads and teaches through an organization committed to raising citizenship I.Q. on U.S. founding documents. She and her husband homeschool their seven children on their small acreage, where they are enjoying their new adventures in homesteading.

Nuclear Family

The Necessity of the Nuclear Family

By Elise DeYoung

Many say we are living in an age of progression. However, our modern age could accurately be titled “The Age of Regression.” Morally, socially, economically, globally, educationally—we have allowed the poison of individualism and secularism to sweep across our nation, removing tradition in its wake.

Possibly the most invaluable tradition that the Left has banished from its self-proclaimed “progressive utopia” is the family—specifically, the nuclear family. This has resulted in extreme social consequences because the family is the fundamental building block of society.

How did we get here?

George Murdock

George Murdock reached this exact conclusion in his book, Social Structures, published in 1949. His work studied hundreds of diverse civilizations across time in order to understand the “science of human behavior.” Even today, it is considered one of the most comprehensive works on the subject.

The first chapter deals specifically with the nuclear family, which he defines as “a married man and woman with their offspring.” In it, Murdock observes that “the nuclear family is a universal human social grouping… it exists as a distinct and strongly functional group in every known society.” He concluded that after examining over 250 cultures, no other social structure could replace the nuclear family on a fundamental level. 

How does Murdock measure the success and strength of this family structure? He evaluates the four vital functions of the nuclear family: the sexual, economic, reproductive, and educational functions.

The Sexual Function

The sexual function, fulfilled through the sexual union (marriage) of spouses, aligns sexual desire with morality and decreases cultural perversion.

Regrettably, we now live in a deleterious society that shames all sexual restraint and celebrates sexual promiscuity. Murdock warned against forsaking the sexual function, saying, “Sex cannot safely be left without restraints.”

Clearly, we are suffering from the consequences of disregarding this warning. Whether it be the entertainment industry, sex education for minors, pornography and prostitution, immodesty, reproductive control, LGBTQ+, or the internet, sex is being promoted without restraint and consequences, completely divorced from marriage.

What were the results?

  • In 2015, the Supreme Court enshrined the contradiction “gay marriage” into law with Obergefell vs Hodges.[1]
  • 60–71% of children have sex before graduating high school.[2]
  • 15.2% of young adults aged 18 to 24 identify as LGBTQ, a stark contrast to older generations who rank below 5%.[3]
  • In 2017, OnlyFans had 100,000 users, and in 2021, the number skyrocketed to 187.9 million users.[4]
  • 45% of American adults are married, down from 50% in 2015.[5]

This is an extreme problem, not only for the poor people who have fallen prey to these statistics but also for the overall health and sustainability of our society. We have ostracized sexual restraint through marriage, and instead, invited both sexual perversion and promiscuity to rule our minds, lives, souls, and civilization.

The Economic Function

The economic function establishes the division of labor and ensures that each family member is fiscally cared for. Murdock describes the division of labor as follows: the husband takes care of the wife, the wife takes care of the husband, and together, they take care of their children until they are old enough to take care of the parents. This charitable model creates a “gridlock of caretaking” where each member’s needs are accounted for.

This gridlock does not ensure that the nuclear family will be wealthy. However, the statistics prove that it is more likely for a nuclear family to be better off fiscally compared to single-parent homes. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) found, “Children in single-parent families are more likely to live in poverty.” In 2021, 9.5% of children living with two parents lived below the poverty level, compared to 31.7% of children living with a single parent.

However, if American leaders, laws, and voters are genuinely interested in solving poverty or helping young people reach success, they must return to promoting and protecting the nuclear family.

Let me clarify that these general findings are not meant to discourage single mothers or fathers in America. However, if American leaders, laws, and voters are genuinely interested in solving poverty or helping young people reach success, they must return to promoting and protecting the nuclear family.

Melissa Kearney said it well in Time Magazine, “The economic data is clear: to make our nation’s economy stronger for all men, women and children, marriage and family structure must be acknowledged as a driving force of economic well-being. And we must promote positive, shame-free ways of changing our social and economic views on marriage to make improvements that help the nation now and, in the decades, ahead.”[6]

The Reproductive Function

The reproductive function replenishes society by procreation.

It is no secret that for a society to survive, let alone flourish, the members of that society must make more babies. This is arguably the most important aspect of the nuclear family, because it’s the only family structure that can naturally result in the reproduction of children. But, what happens when we abandon this model?

Having children is not only a matter of their own flourishing or society’s; this is about survival.

The immediate effect is birth rates plummet. The birth rate in America has dramatically decreased from 14.3 births per 1,000 people in 2007 to 11.1 in 2021.[7] This is partially due to the decreasing pregnancy rates which, in 2017, reached an all-time low among women aged 24 and younger. This decline has been consistent since the 1980s.[8] Furthermore, since the 1970’s, millions of babies have been murdered in the womb through abortion. In 2021 alone, 626,000 unborn babies were killed.[9]

These two factors result in a rapidly declining birth rate. These numbers are clearly not sustainable for any civilization. Once again, the solution is clear. We must stop killing babies, and encourage young people to get married and have a lot of children. This is not only a matter of their own flourishing or society’s; this is about survival.

The Educational Function

The educational function, fulfilled when parents teach children values and ideals, will result in their flourishing.

We’ve established that the nuclear family provides children with the best fiscal position in society. Not only this, but children within the traditional family structure statistically perform better educationally.

“A new study finds that that by the age of 24, individuals who live in single-parent families as teens received fewer years of schooling and are less likely to attain a bachelor’s degree than those from two-parent families.”[10]

This fact is undeniable in our current age. However, while graduating high school is invaluable in society, it is not the main purpose of the educational function of the family. This is because graduating with a piece of paper does not equate to a good and true view of the world.

This is clear in our current age with the poison of progressive ideology seeping into our schools and corrupting the minds of our youth. It not only leaves destructive effects on the children, but it also threatens to derail our society at large.

Because of its ties to tradition and reality, the nuclear family is the family model best equipped to teach children ideas that will help them flourish in society. The values of marriage, love, charity, hard work, and child-rearing—among many others—are all fundamental to the four functions of the nuclear family.

The Necessity of the Nuclear Family

“In the nuclear family or its constituent relationships, we thus see assembled four functions fundamental to human social life—the sexual, the economic, the reproductive, and the educational. Without provision for the first and third, society would become extinct; for the second, life itself would cease; for the fourth, culture would come to an end. The immense social utility of the nuclear family and the basic reason for its universality thus begin to emerge in strong relief.”

The nuclear family is the fundamental building block of society. It is not only essential for our society’s survival, but is also the best solution to the problems of sexual promiscuity, economic collapse, declining birth rates, and other harmful ideas permeating our current climate.

Murdock said, “No society, in short, has succeeded in finding an adequate substitute for the nuclear family.” I suggest that we not even try.

Read more of Elise’s blogs.

Elisa DeYoung headshot smiling at the camera

Elise DeYoung is a Public Relations and Communications Associate and a Classical Conversations® graduate. With CC, she strives to know God and make Him known in all aspects of her life. Elise is a servant of Christ, an avid reader, and a professional nap-taker. As she continues her journey towards the Celestial City, she is determined to gain wisdom and understanding wherever it can be found. Soli Deo gloria!


[1] “Obergefell v. Hodges,” Oyez. www.oyez.org/cases/2014/14-556. Accessed March 21, 2024.

[2] Ethier K. A., Kann L., McManus T. “Sexual Intercourse Among High School Students—29 States and United States Overall, 2005–2015,” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 20, 2024, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm665152a1.htm

[3] Flores, A. R., Conron, K. J. “Adult LGBTQ Population in the United States,” The Williams Institute. Retrieved March 20, 2024, from https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/adult-lgbt-pop-us/

[4] Daniel, C. “OnlyFans Users and Revenue Statistics (2024),” Sign House. Retrieved March 20, 2024, from https://www.usesignhouse.com/blog/onlyfans-users

[5] Han, Z. “Fewer than 50% of U.S. Adults are now married. It’s time to give more legal and financial breaks to single people, a law professor says,” Market Watch. Retrieved March 20, 2024, from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/fewer-than-50-of-u-s-adults-are-now-married-its-time-to-give-more-legal-and-financial-breaks-to-single-people-law-professor-says-11664992681#

[6] Kearney, M. “The U.S. Economy Needs More Two Parent Families,” Time Magazine. Retrieved March 20, 2024, from https://time.com/6317692/u-s-economy-two-parent-families/

[7] Fitzpatrick, A., Beheraj, K. “The birth rate ticked up in 2022. Can the reversal last?” Axios. Retrieved March 20, 2024, from https://www.axios.com/2023/10/04/birth-rate-fertility-rate-decline-data-statistics-graph-2022

[8] Maddow-Zimet, I., Kost, K. “Pregnancies, Births and Abortions in the United States,1973–2017: National and State Trends by Age,” Guttmacher Institute. Retrieved March 20, 2024, from https://www.guttmacher.org/report/pregnancies-births-abortions-in-united-states-1973-2017

[9] (n.d.). “Number of legal abortions reported in the U.S. From 1973 to 2021,” Statistica. Retrieved March 20, 2024, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/185274/number-of-legal-abortions-in-the-us-since-2000/

[10]Harrison, R. “Teens From Single-Parent Families Leave School Earlier,” NYU. Retrieved March 20, 2024, from https://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2015/february/teens-from-single-parent-families-leave-school-earlier.html

School Choice has Come to Louisiana

School Choice Has Come To Louisiana

By Jennifer Bright

Each year, more and more states are embracing school choice options through education savings accounts (ESAs) and school voucher legislation. Alabama was the first state to pass a universal school choice bill in 2024! Louisiana will not be far behind as it is being debated this week in the Louisiana Senate.

As private homeschoolers in Louisiana, why should we be concerned about ESAs or school voucher legislation? Statistically, Louisiana has always been near or at the bottom in education as compared to the other fifty states. For example, in 2023, Louisiana ranked 46th. The question that is often asked is, why wouldn’t we support these school choice options? Wouldn’t ESAs help lift Louisiana students from the bottom?

School Choice

‘School choice’ is often referred to as educational choice, educational options, parent choice, etc., in which taxpayer-funded monies are channeled through school vouchers, educational savings accounts, educational empowerment scholarships, tax credits, etc., (which sound and look enticing) for parents to choose the educational option that they believe is best for their child(ren). Louisiana’s version, the Giving All True Opportunity to Rise (LA GATOR) scholarship program, is being decided this week at the capital.

Government Monies—Government Regulation

As with all government monies, there will be regulations, rules, accountability, and control. Currently, 13% of Louisiana school districts receive their funding from the Federal Government, and the rest is divided between the state’s budget and our local sales and property taxes.

How will this new legislation affect private homeschoolers in Louisiana? From HB 745, section 4037.5. (Schools and service providers; eligibility; participation), private homeschoolers who register either as a home study program or a nonpublic school not seeking state approval are not eligible to participate or concurrently enroll in the LA GATOR scholarship program. The LA GATOR scholarship program sets up a new class of government-funded students, just like Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. So currently, private homeschoolers will not be affected.

            “When parents take these funds, they sign a statement that they are no longer homeschooling, even if they may be educating at home. As a result, accepting ESA funds places the student in a new category as an ESA student. Because students are no longer privately funded homeschool students, but instead publicly funded ESA students, government regulation inevitably follows and impacts the education these students receive.”[1]

It may not affect private homeschoolers today, it could in the future. The current bill requires all students who participate in the LA GATOR scholarship program to comply with all program requirements (including yearly testing). But what about next year or the year after, how will the government change or modify the program requirements?

Other States’ ESA Programs and Problems

Let’s look at a couple of other states that have drunk from the well of ESAs, like  Arizona and West Virginia. Budgets have blown up! There is an administrative nightmare and a lack of accountability. Politicians and educational leaders are looking for solutions to fix the failed experiment.

Resist the Temptation

As Leigh Bortins shares in this article,

            Parents are presented with “choices” that aren’t really choices at all.” And “Receiving one-time government money with no strings attached makes the second, third, and fourth times easier with strings attached. With the shekels come the shackles.” So, “we must…resist the temptation posed by government funding.”

Educate Yourself

Think through these questions from Classical Conversations® Educational Freedom website, as you consider who do you want to control your homeschool—you or the government?

  • Do you want the state involved in your homeschooling on any level?
  • Is accepting any financial assistance from the state a slippery slope?
  • Where does the money come from?
  • Would it be more beneficial for homeschoolers to keep their education tax money rather than fund the Department of Education with that money?
  • In your state, are you still classified and protected as a homeschooler if you receive government funding?
  • Is making your own curriculum decisions important to you, or would you prefer the Department of Education to assume oversight in those decisions?
  • What historical examples can you think of where the government was involved in decisions like this? What were the initial intentions? Were the outcomes positive or negative, and how accurately did they reflect those initial intentions?

In Louisiana, there are currently over 45,000 children being home educated. If we were our own school district, we would be the second largest in the state! Just remember, the state government (and federal) will do whatever it can to bring us under its control, and ESAs are just one of their avenues. We need to stand firm against any governmental encroachment on our freedoms to direct our children’s education. We, as parents, know what is best for our children.

The Homeschool Freedom Action Center website is here to help you stay informed and to help families educate themselves on what true educational freedom is!

Jennifer Bright profile headshot

Jennifer Bright is the Communication Manager for Research and Quality Assurance for Classical Conversations. Jennifer’s passions are classical Christian education and discipling the next generation to live for Christ. She supports homeschool families by tutoring their students with the classical tools of learning. Jennifer and her husband began their homeschool journey almost 20 years ago in Russia while serving as missionaries, and currently, they reside in Covington, Louisiana.


[1] “Educational Savings Account.” Accessed 4/15/2024. https://classicalconversations.widen.net/s/swkgl26rw7?__hstc=87463879.1d548548b58a4ef2d8bb0d564a005567.1638826400930.1670868123213.1670943201710.270&__hssc=&__hsfp=&hsCtaTracking=d9ec90d4-0a2d-4d25-bcbb-c8c3b64bb33d%7Cbc6a2c98-eeed-4bdf-adba-2ef77c9a312a

Indoctrination

What is Indoctrination?

By Olivia Abernathy

Olivia Abernathy is a current Challenge III student in Classical Conversations®. She has been a part of CC for over a decade. Olivia enjoys books, writing fiction and nonfiction, theatre, and the mountains. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of her community newsletter. Olivia hopes to own and run her own creative arts magazine. Ultimately, she will go where the Lord leads her.

People often use the word “indoctrination” in our culture today. Democrats say that Republicans are indoctrinating children with conservative beliefs, and the Republicans throw it right back at them. What do we mean when we say somebody’s “indoctrinating” someone else? What makes us dislike the idea of indoctrination?

Where did the word “indoctrination” come from?

According to the American Enterprise Institute, when the verb “indoctrinate” first appeared in 17th-century writings, it merely meant “to teach.” Its meaning came from the Latin “docēre,” “to teach” or “to instruct.” It wasn’t until the 19th and 20th centuries that the modern connotation entered our language. “During the early part of the 20th century, the word’s pejorative meaning entered common parlance as a synonym for ‘brainwashing,’ especially regarding the inculcation of sectarian and partisan doctrines,” 1 says the aforementioned article.

Today’s meaning of indoctrination

Indoctrination, defined by the Random House College Dictionary, means “to instruct in a doctrine or ideology” or “to imbue a person with learning.” This definition intends to instill in someone certain principles or beliefs, specifically those that are not universally held. Imbue” is also interesting because “imbue” means inspiring someone with knowledge or saturating them with feelings.

Today, indoctrination has a negative connotation. CNN says, “…there’s a growing political argument on the right that children must be protected from ‘indoctrination’ by the government in schools…2 In this example, people usually use the word about children in the public school system. We say children are being “indoctrinated” with things we disagree with as part of a plot, that they’re being “conditioned” to accept certain things as fact whether or not they are factual. Is this true? Possibly. Is this a bad thing? Yes, but not for the reason you think I’m about to say.

The consequences of indoctrination

To indoctrinate someone is to instill in them the beliefs of your religion or social group. When you firmly believe something is true, it’s reasonable to want others to come to know the truth (or what you believe the truth is). However, if we genuinely want to have an open mind and exercise critical thinking—if we want that for our children as well—we must expose our children to all sides of an issue, even the parts we might disagree with.

In his book Why ProLife?: Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers, Randy Alcorn shares how he once presented the pro-life case to a class of high school students. After Alcorn’s presentation, the teacher admitted that he had never actually heard the pro-life case. His exposure had only been to the pro-choice point of view. Alcorn states that the teacher “had uncritically accepted the pro-choice position from others, and his students had done the same.3 Is this the kind of nation we want to live in? I’m not even talking about pro-life versus pro-choice. I’m talking about a nation where a 55-year-old social studies teacher was only exposed to ONE point of view on a very controversial topic.

Another possible consequence of indoctrination is that children may not learn to question perspectives. In indoctrinating children, educators often teach them to accept a perspective as fact. Students need to develop the skills of thinking through what they see and hear and conducting more in-depth research to discover the truth. No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, you don’t want to accept things unquestioningly without thought or research.

Did someone make the moon out of cheese?

Children are naturally very trusting. When I was a child, it would never occur to me to question anything my parents said was fact. If my mother had told me the moon was made of cheese, I would probably have believed her. As I’ve moved forward in my classical education, I’ve been taught to look at all sides of an issue, to question the things I’m taught, and encouraged to do research. I’m grateful for the education I’ve received, which regularly involves engaging in difficult conversations and researching many points of view. But only some children have this opportunity.

“Teach” vs. “Indoctrinate”

The definition of “teach” is “to impart knowledge or skill.” What is the difference between “teach” and “indoctrinate?”. The difference is that “indoctrinate” means you only present the thoughts and ideas of a specific group or system. In contrast, the word “teach” imposes no limit on the type or amount of ideas that one can teach.

In essence, we don’t want to merely indoctrinate our children. We want to teach them, give them the freedom to think their thoughts, and use critical thinking skills to carefully ponder both sides of an issue. People should think freely. They should not feel wrong for challenging previous teachings. In a recent podcast, Robert Bortins discussed the results of a survey showing how Gen Z males are fighting indoctrination.

In Conclusion

Indoctrination is filling a child’s mind with a specific belief system or ideology—almost always while condemning other points of view. Are we called to raise our children this way? It may be easy to teach them only what we believe, but it is far better to expose them to all sides of an issue and how to think about it for themselves. Let us be teachers, teachers of critical thinking, teachers of open-mindedness, teachers of brilliant young minds, and let us not be advocates of indoctrination. The American Enterprise Institute says it best: “The educational system is key to the modern state’s human and social infrastructure, and schools must fulfill their responsibility…”4

Olivian Abernathy

Olivia Abernathy is seventeen years old and a current Challenge 3 student in Classical Conversations. She enjoys books, writing fiction and nonfiction, theatre, and the mountains. Olivia is the founder and editor-in-chief of her campus newsletter. She hopes to one day own and run her own creative arts magazine, but in the end, she will go where the Lord leads her.

Footnotes

  1. Ben-Chaim, Micheal. “How Schools Indoctrinate and How They Can Educate.” American Enterprise Institute, https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/how-schools-indoctrinate-and-how-they-can-educate/. Accessed 22 February 2024. ↩︎
  2. Wolf, Zachary B. “The growing movement to protect children from their government.” CNN, 9 March 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/09/politics/education-government-role-what-matters/index.html. Accessed 22 February 2024. ↩︎
  3. Alcorn, Randy. Why ProLife? Sandy, OR. Eternal Perspective Ministries, 2004. ↩︎
  4. Ben-Chaim, Micheal. “How Schools Indoctrinate and How They Can Educate.” American Enterprise Institute, https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/how-schools-indoctrinate-and-how-they-can-educate/. Accessed 22 February 2024. ↩︎