In recent decades, modern educators have seen a dramatic change in schools. Violence and disrespect often play a larger role in a student's life than study and discipline. Why has this change occurred, and what does it portend?
What is the real significance of the growing problems afflicting our schools and our children?
In the last 30 to 40 years, startling changes have dramatically transformed schools in America and other Western countries. In many classrooms, discipline and order have vanished, and learning simply does not take place. British television recently screened footage taken secretly by a substitute teacher showing students wandering into class late and intentionally disrupting and distracting other students. Most students were uninterested and unwilling to do assignments. Some hurled obscene insults and threats at the teacher, physically or verbally assaulted other students and stomped out of the room when challenged or corrected by the teacher. After her first day on the job (after a 30-year gap from the classroom), this teacher returned home and "sobbed her heart out," wondering, "Is this what education has come to?" (The Daily Telegraph, April 27, 2005).
Another article described a couple from New Zealand who came to Britain to teach, yet left the country after less than two months in the classroom. The wife wrote, "In six weeks, I had more abuse hurled at me than I had encountered in 25 years back home… [Students] showed no respect for authority, no respect for adults… reason, pleasantness and courtesy were wasted on these insolent arrogant children… girls were obsessed with their looks… and sex… pregnancies… were frequent… boys talked only about football and sex. Few of them had any ambitions; most were totally disaffected" (The Daily Telegraph, June 12, 2005). Similar reports of chaotic classrooms and turned-off students surface regularly in the English and American press.
In recent years we have watched playgrounds become killing fields as disgruntled students systematically shot teachers and other students. Drug dealing is rampant on many school grounds, and bullies—both boys and girls—intimidate whomever they please. Each day a growing number of children take knives and guns to school—for protection. Uniformed policemen patrol the hallways of many schools to keep order—and to protect children from other children. Twelve-year-old girls prance about like miniature streetwalkers with skimpy clothes, tattoos and nose rings, while boys with dyed and spiked hair shuffle about in baggy jeans that are in the process of falling off. Many children in their "bizarrely cool" outfits look like they have arrived from another planet!
What is happening to schools in our modern Western world? Why have discipline, order and respect disappeared from an increasing number of classrooms? Why are sexually transmissible diseases skyrocketing among teenagers, and why is suicide a leading cause of death among young people? While parents and educators bemoan these sobering developments, few understand the real causes of the troubles so evident in today's schools. Fewer still grasp the real significance of the dramatic changes we are witnessing among today's youth. However, the Bible and history provide important insights on our present state of affairs—and the Bible alone reveals where these startling changes are taking our youth and our society. Chaotic classrooms and disrespectful students are symptoms of powerful forces building to a climax that will surprise and shock the world in the years just ahead!
Today's schools offer a sobering case study of what is wrong with modern culture. The United States spends more money on education (more than $350 billion per year) than any other nation on earth—yet its students rank near the bottom in math, science and geography. Many students emerge after twelve years in public schools as functional illiterates—unable to read or spell properly and unable to solve simple problems. This has led to the "dumbing down" of education and society (America in Crisis, Bohannon, p. 20). Why is this happening in one of the most affluent nations on earth? Why are many children not learning anything solid in school today? Why is almost everything about school boring to young people today? What has generated this crisis in modern education?
It used to be that schools supported and reinforced the moral and intellectual values promoted by churches and taught by parents in the home. However, in recent decades, schools and educators have been leading the attack on traditional Bible-based ideas, moral values and behaviors. Recently in Massachusetts, a parent was hauled into court for challenging a school's attempts to promote ideas about homosexuality and same-sex marriages to children in kindergarten! Twenty or 30 years ago, this episode would have been unheard of, yet today schools assert that it is their right to expose children to such ideas. What caused this dramatic change? Why are children taught how to have "safe sex" yet remain unable to do simple math? Why have classrooms become a battleground for promoting alternative lifestyles and aberrant ideas?
When children are unruly in classrooms, lack motivation and are unable to learn, the blame often falls directly at the feet of their parents. Though many parents are conscientious and dedicated to transmitting solid values to their children, others fail to understand or fulfill their role as parents. Many abdicate their responsibilities to schools, relatives or social workers. Today, many children grow up in single-parent homes where discipline is scarce and respect for authority is never taught. With the explosion of teenage pregnancies, we have a burgeoning phenomenon of children rearing children. The insecurity created by rampant divorce, parental alcohol and drug abuse, the endless parade of live-in lovers, and the constant use of foul language by violent and abusive adults, saddles children with mental and behavioral problems that seriously interfere with the learning process.
When both parents work outside the home, there is little supervision of children. Television and video games are used as babysitters, and children become accustomed to entertainment and constant stimulation instead of learning to enjoy reading and thinking creatively. The rapid scene-shifts on television and videos foster a short attention span that severely inhibits a child's ability to concentrate long enough to learn effectively in a classroom. Academic classes are boring to children who have grown accustomed to being entertained and who have not learned to think. Parents who spend hours watching sports, soap operas and bizarre characters on talk shows are unlikely to rear children with high aspirations toward academic achievement and excellence. Many children are unable to learn at school because they have not developed the prerequisite skills necessary for learning—self-discipline to sit quietly, respect for older people who teach them, the ability to follow directions and finish a task and the ability to concentrate long enough to begin the learning process. Many parents have failed to transmit these fundamental values and skills to their children, who then contribute to the chaos in today's classrooms.
Popular culture has also contributed to the crisis in education. Modern mass media exert a powerful and negative influence on children today. Television programming, the lyrics of rap music and the content of pulp fiction novels attack and ridicule traditional Judeo-Christian values of decency, honesty, faithfulness, chastity, beauty, compassion, sacrifice and hard work. Instead, children are exposed to a constant barrage of angry, vulgar and obscene song lyrics, while films and television glorify violence, promote immediate self-gratification and constantly portray divorce and illicit sex as normal and exciting! With such trash filling the minds of young people, there is little room for academic learning. Sadly, parents who desire to equip their children with sound, Bible-based values must do so in a hostile environment created by our secular culture, which is simply not conducive to the development of Judeo-Christian values.
Governments and churches have contributed to the crisis in modern education, and to the moral chaos that pervades many schools and classrooms. Historians recognize that in America, court decisions banning the Ten Commandments from public places and "the court-mandated removal of prayer, devotionals, and any exposure to religious values from our schools [have] been the major contributing cause of the moral breakdown of our society" (When Nations Die, Black, p. 87). Permitting violence and sexually explicit entertainment under the guise of freedom of speech, and allowing discussions about witchcraft and homosexuality in classrooms—then claiming that talk about God and religious values in school is illegal indoctrination—is one of the grand illusions of our modern age! Court decisions that legalize abortion—the murder of unborn children—do not foster a respect for human life. Churches that condone adultery, same-sex "marriages" and the ordination of homosexuals—all of which the Bible labels as sin—contribute to the erosion of basic moral values in today's youth and society. It is amazing how liberal educators, politicians and theologians are reluctant to make a connection between these laws and trends and the crisis in the classrooms. This kind of episodic thinking—the inability to see cause and effect—is actually a symptom of mental retardation and an indication of a sick society (see Isaiah 1:2–6).
Teachers and educators enthralled with misguided ideas have fanned the crisis facing schools today. Well-meaning individuals have mistakenly reacted to child abuse cases by banning nearly all methods of discipline. Instead of issuing firm guidelines and using discipline wisely, liberal educators try to negotiate and reason with unruly children, which only adds to classroom chaos. Today, students clamor about their rights, and threaten to sue if they are corrected or dismissed from school. Parents even threaten teachers who attempt to discipline their children. Not surprisingly, many teachers fail to report assaults, and school administrators cringe in fear of lawsuits as discipline and order evaporate!
For decades, liberal educators have tried to stem the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies by reasoning with kids, teaching increasingly explicit sex education classes in ever-lower grades, and providing free birth control devices and confidential advice about abortion to children. Yet sexual activity, disease and teen pregnancy have continued to increase! Statistics show that these "progressive" methods simply do not work. Trying to discourage sexual activity in 13-to-16-year-olds with classes that show them "How to be Good at Sex" is like pouring gasoline on a fire, then being surprised by an explosion (see "This is the mother of all failures," Mary Kenny, The Times, June 13, 2005). Researcher Valerie Riche has observed, "Sex education bears the same relation to education as voodoo bears to medicine. It rests on faith, not facts."
Many educators have swallowed the politically correct yet naïve notion of multiculturalism—that all cultures are of equal value. Yet cultures that condone oppression, murder, rape, ritual killings, voodoo, mysticism, ignorance and corruption are not of the same value as a culture that prizes honesty, reason, freedom, progress and informed faith in a real God. Terrorist bombings in London have alerted the British public that "multicultural Britain is not working" (The Daily Telegraph, August 3, 2005). Teachers who claim that all values are relative—that there are no absolutes and no right or wrong, and that people create their own truth—are simply spouting nonsense! Long-time educator Vincent Ruggiero bluntly states, "When young people are denied meaningful moral education, the consequence is moral illiteracy" (see Warning: Nonsense Is Destroying America, Ruggiero, p. 132). Teachers who ridicule, refuse or are prohibited from teaching religiously based moral values actually create a moral vacuum that leaves students without any solid moral foundation for making decisions or guiding their lives. This leaves today's students without any direction or purpose in life. Students who are not given a solid foundation in the lessons of history will repeat the mistakes of history. Young people who see no purpose in life, and find that living in the "fast lane" turns out to be empty, are prime candidates for suicide, unless they can see there is a better way.
The Bible admonishes parents, "Train up a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6; see also Deuteronomy 4:1–9; 6:1–9). Children are commanded to "honor" their parents (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1–4). When children are given this fundamental preparation at home, they will behave and learn in the classroom.
The Bible explains that adults should be "teachers of good things" (Titus 2:1–8) who clearly explain the "right" way (Isaiah 30:20–21). Teachers also have a vital role to play in the education of children. To enable young people to develop and thrive, parents and teachers need to set clear goals and reasonable limits. Young people need to know where the danger zones are, and how they can avoid serious consequences. Children who are told that all values are relative are being shortchanged. Young people who never learn to respect authority wind up in prison. Those who treat promiscuous sex as fun without consequences eventually contract diseases that can be fatal, or can prevent them from ever having children. Parents and teachers, if they truly care, set limits and provide consequences so valuable lessons can be learned. These are biblical concepts that are still valid today (see Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:13–14). Discipline is a vital aspect of the educational process and it must be administered with consistency and with love (Proverbs 22:10; Ephesians 6:4).
Governments can have a powerful effect on the education and development of children through laws affecting what messages are conveyed through the media. Educator Vincent Ruggiero comments, "If we are ever to solve this country's social problems, we must acknowledge the moral bankruptcy of our time and the culpability, not only of the parents and teachers, but most of all the media. We must take responsibility for creating an environment that nurtures morality in children and adults… To pretend the Ten Commandments are somehow irrelevant to moral living is a violation of common sense" (Ruggerio, p. 152). When the laws of government support the biblical laws of God, the positive results will soon be evident in our schools and in our children!
Religion also has a crucial role to play in shaping the educational environment—a role that needs to be explained without apology. The Bible contains divinely revealed laws of morality, and answers to life's big questions. Historians understand that "religion is necessary to morality" and that, "There is no significant example in history… of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion" (The Lessons of History, Durant, pp. 50–51). The values of true biblical religion (that we must not lie, kill, steal, commit adultery, etc.) are absolute, not relative, and they are universally applicable. The Bible reveals the true purpose of life (see Genesis 1:26–28; Romans 8:14–17; Revelation 5:10). When young people are deprived of an understanding of the purpose of life, they often see no reason to live. The Bible reveals that God has predicted, and is guiding, the outcome of history (Isaiah 44:6–7). Dr. Carl Henry points out that when educational institutions "forsook God as the integrating factor in history" they lost the Christian world-view of life (Twilight of a Great Civilization, Henry, pp. 88–89). This loss of essential knowledge is why many today have no idea why we exist, why our children are so angry and confused, why we are awash in social problems and where we are heading as a society.
The chaos we are witnessing in classrooms today is no great mystery. Unruly, disaffected, self-centered and over-sexualized students are the direct result of policies pursued in the last 50 years by liberal educators who have attempted to discredit and discard the traditional Judeo-Christian values that provided the moral foundation of Western civilization. This liberal secular agenda has had disastrous consequences and underlies a myriad of social problems that now confront our culture. Misguided educators have removed the religious foundation that underlies morality, and have abandoned education's traditional emphasis on building character and developing the intellect. In doing so, they have succeeded in producing a generation of students who have no morals, no character, no aspirations toward excellence, no respect for law or authority, no respect for adults and no real hope in the future. While intellectuals puzzle over what has gone wrong, the Roman scholar, Pliny the Elder, observed nearly 2,000 years ago, that "what we do to our children, they will do to society." Liberal educators have discarded the foundational values of western civilization and created a rebellious and amoral generation that now threatens to destroy what is left of western culture! We have forgotten the warning of the Roman philosopher Seneca who said, "the time will come when our successors will wonder how we could have been ignorant of things so obvious" (Ruggiero, p. vii). All this has a sobering historical and prophetic significance!
In recent decades, historians have pointed to the disturbing parallels between the signs of decadence that appeared in the declining stages of ancient empires and the growing signs of decadence in our own culture. These signs of decline include rising crime and lawlessness, growing immorality, rising materialism, the declining influence of religion, "a preoccupation with self… the rise of 'liberal opinion'… the loss of economic discipline and self-restraint… the decline in quality and relevance of education… a weakening of the foundational principles that contributed to the greatness of the nation" (When Nations Die, Black, xviii). Focusing on America, Professor Black writes, "America has turned its back on its fundamental beliefs and its civic virtues… we are confronted by a level of social disintegration that exceeds anything we have ever experienced in this nation… we are being pressured by educators, intellectuals, and political elites into experimenting with new ideologies that are not only revolutionary but alien to our fundamental beliefs" (Black, pp. xix, 3). He continues, "We have every reason to worry about such things as multiculturalism, diversity, and political correctness… rising immorality and the signs of growing disrespect for human life… the collapse of law and order… Conditions like these have contributed to the demise of nations throughout history… Once, America was a beacon of integrity and virtue… the envy of the entire world… Today America is more of an object lesson to the world—an example of what happens to great nations when they lose their vision and moral restraint" (Black, pp. 3, 5). The same could be said of Britain and other nations of the western world.
What many do not realize is that these very conditions were prophesied long ago in the pages of the Bible. Just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God inspired Moses to warn the elders of Israel, "I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days" (Deuteronomy 31:29). The Bible explains that God gave His laws to Israel so the nation could be a "light to the world" (see Deuteronomy 4:1–9). God said that if the Israelites obeyed His laws they would be blessed, but if they rejected His laws, they would suffer serious consequences (Deuteronomy 28). Regrettably, the Israelites repeatedly sinned and turned from God and His laws. The prophets catalogue their sins: forsaking God, despising His laws, drunkenness and debauchery, corrupting justice, and calling "evil good and good evil" (Isaiah 5:18–25). God warned that as a consequence of rejecting His laws, "I will give children to be their princes… the child will be insolent toward the elder… children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths" (Isaiah 3: 4–12). Hosea foretold, "My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge… because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Hosea 4:6).
The moral chaos in disorderly classrooms today is a consequence of erroneous ideas that have permeated Western culture. In schools across our nations, we are reaping what has been sown, because we have forgotten the real God and drifted away from our Judeo-Christian foundation. Bible prophecies warn that God will correct His backsliding peoples severely in the years just ahead. Chaos in classrooms is the handwriting on the wall for our degenerating culture, because we have followed the wrong path laid out by misguided educators who despised the word of God. The challenge facing Christian parents and educators today is to recapture true values that will provide the moral foundation for building Tomorrow's World in the coming kingdom of God.