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Misguided Education and the Decline of Western Civilization

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The Western nations are drowning in a rising tide of social pathologies—violent crime, increasing incivility, political corruption, unsustainable debt, widespread drug abuse, depression, and suicide. People are feeling a loss of purpose and of religious belief, as the society around them shows a growing animosity toward the historical accomplishments of Western civilization. Are we truly witnessing the demise of the West?

The West—once seen by millions around the world as a beacon of civilization and prosperity—is now widely seen as a culture in decline and a society gone rotten. Even millions of pampered Westerners are coming to despise and reject their own cultural heritage.

Why is this happening today? And where are these disturbing trends leading?

Many scholars point to alarming parallels between the decline of ancient civilizations and what is occurring in our modern Western world. Social critic Russell Kirk observed that “the analogy between the decadence of ancient civilization and the decadence of our own culture is striking and dreadfully true” (When Nations Die: America on the Brink, p. xi). Author and researcher Jim Nelson Black illustrates this sobering parallel by listing ten warning signs of a culture in crisis, including increasing lawlessness, loss of economic discipline, weakening of traditions and cultural foundations, rising immorality, decay of religious belief, decline in the quality of education, and the devaluing of human life (p. ix).

While many recognize the symptoms of cultural decline, few today understand the historical forces that have contributed to our modern social dilemmas and where these sobering trends are leading. Even fewer realize that Bible prophecies have long foretold that these events would erupt in the nations of the West at a certain point in time—and for specific reasons. The Bible not only reveals the prophetic significance of this surging tide of social pathologies and where they are leading, but also reveals the coming solutions to this turbulent period—solutions that will bring hope for the world.

As we will see, education and educators have played a vital role in shaping and reshaping the values and perspectives of people in the West—both fostering its rise and now feeding its decline. We will see that novel, purposefully engineered innovations have changed the whole direction of Western civilization. You need to understand what is happening to the world you live in and how these issues will dramatically impact your future.

The Vital Role of Education

Why focus on education? Are teachers more influential than powerful politicians, eloquent preachers, Hollywood personalities, or ambitious military leaders? In fact, teachers and education have played a vital and widely acknowledged role in transmitting knowledge and determining the character of individuals, as well as the culture of civilizations.

Nearly 3,000 years ago, King Solomon wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Many observers outside of the Bible agree. Around 400 BC, the Greek philosopher Plato observed, “The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future in life.” The Renaissance philosopher Erasmus stated, “The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth.” Even filmmaker George Lucas has commented, “Teachers are the most powerful individuals in our society.”

The Founding Fathers of the American nation, like so many others who made major contributions to what became Western civilization, understood the importance of education in determining the characteristics and values of a culture—but so have enemies of Western civilization who want to use teachers and education as weapons to radically change the focus and direction of that culture. To grasp the significance of what is happening today, it is important to understand the history and the influence of education in America and the West.

Early Education in the West and America

Education in ancient Greece and Rome was essentially in the hands of pagan philosophers and focused on rhetoric and literature—primarily for select young men of privileged classes. Free and mandatory, tax-supported, public education for all children—girls as well as boys—began with Protestant reformers in Europe and was later adopted in the New England colonies. In the very late 1700s, efforts to teach poor children (who typically worked twelve hours a day, six days a week in mines, factories, and on farms), began to increase—aiming to teach them to read and write so they could read the Bible and improve their lives. Schools for the deaf and the blind, hospitals, and institutional care for the poor were Western developments reflecting Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36–40).

History reveals that the leaders in early Western educational institutions were “ardent believers” in many biblical values and that “students were inculcated with these values” as a fundamental part of their education (Alvin J. Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World, p. 181). With this as a starting place, the progress of education in America mirrors the ways in which educational philosophies changed over the centuries throughout the Western world.

The Bible and Judeo-Christian values played a major role in the development of educational institutions in the early American colonies. This is most evident among the Puritans who settled in New England seeking the freedom to practice their faith. They brought with them a strong commitment to education—and an English translation of the Bible that they used extensively. Within a decade after arriving in the North American wilderness, they established Harvard College in 1636. Each student at Harvard was told that

the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3) (“Shield and ‘Veritas’ History,” HCS.Harvard.edu, original spelling and scripture references retained).

This is hardly surprising, since at least 130 of the first generation of Massachusetts Bay colonists had been trained in a university, and 35 had graduated from a college in Cambridge, England, dedicated to training Protestant ministers (Arthur M. Cohen, The Shaping of American Higher Education, p. 17).

Students at Harvard were required to pray privately, read the Scriptures twice a day, study diligently, and respect parents, magistrates, and tutors. They were taught to avoid profanity, lies, and foolish behavior. The College of William and Mary in Virginia (founded in 1693) and Yale (founded in 1701) also sought to provide an educated ministry for the colonies, and issued similar guidelines that students should “Live Religious, Godly and Blameless Lives according to the Rules of God’s Word, diligently Reading the holy Scriptures the Fountain of Light and Truth” (Edwin S. Gaustad and Mark A. Noll, A Documentary History of Religion in America to 1877, pp. 176–181).

Even though the influence of the secular Enlightenment had begun to lessen emphasis on the Bible as a source of divine revelation by the mid-1700s (The Shaping of American Higher Education, p. 12), these original sentiments concerning God’s word—and many of the principles in it—still in many ways shaped and guided the minds of early leaders of the young United States of America.

The Puritan commitment to education was based on a desire that every child should be able to read the Bible and absorb its contents. Thus, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, every community of at least 50 families was required to employ a teacher, and every community of 100 or more families was required to establish a grammar school. The main focus “in colonial reading and writing instruction was religious and moral,” and this was based on the belief that a “good society could be achieved only through obedience to the word of God” (Joel H. Spring, The American School, 1642–1993, pp. 8, 10). As for American higher education, nearly every college established prior to the Revolutionary War was founded by a Protestant denomination, and churches established more than 90 percent of all colleges and universities founded in America up until the Civil War. Some have noted that “American Christian education was the foundation of our nation’s great growth, progress and success” (Stephen McDowell and Mark Beliles, Liberating the Nations, p. 100).

It was a Presbyterian minister who created the most influential series of textbooks that formed the background of America’s public school system in the nineteenth century. William McGuffey (1800–1873) created the McGuffey Readers, which incorporated personalities, stories, and concepts from the Bible to teach spelling, vocabulary, reading, and public speaking while instilling biblical moral values in the younger generation. McGuffey believed that religion and morality were inseparable, and that public schools were “the proper place for religious and moral instruction” (John Westerhoff, McGuffey and His Readers, pp. 24, 51). The more than 120 million copies of McGuffey Readers sold between 1836 and 1960 provided a unifying frame of reference and value system for generations of American children. Along with the Bible, McGuffey’s Readers “represent the most significant force in framing our national morals and tastes” (p. 15)—and they are still used today. Regrettably, later editions of the McGuffey Readers became more secular to accommodate America’s shifting tastes in education.

A Radical Turn in a New Direction

With each new wave of immigration to the United States, from varied lands and with different religious backgrounds, pressures were felt to “soften” the doctrinal content of public school curricula. Yet there remained a demand for emphasis on basic “Christian” values of honesty, kindness, thrift, industry, and respect for authority—values that formed the basis of what became known as America’s “civil religion.”

However, beginning in the 1850s, several powerful factors emerged to challenge the role of Bible-centered education in America and the Western world. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, cast doubts on the credibility of the Bible, the validity of Judeo-Christian moral principles, and the role of God as the Creator—foundational principles that had long been taught in European and American schools. Also, as the influence of the Enlightenment of the 1700s began to grow and expand, increasing numbers of progressive educators began to believe that human reason and the discoveries of science, unfettered by religious “superstition,” would benefit society far more than biblical truths and values.

Another factor that altered the direction of American education was the influence of John Dewey, widely considered the “father” of progressive education. Working around the turn of the twentieth century, Dewey rejected his childhood Calvinist faith and placed his hope in science, evolution, psychology, and utopian socialist fantasies widely circulated by intellectuals of his day. Dewey developed his educational philosophy around the idea that human reason and behavioral psychology could mold students who would live together in harmony as good socialists—which he believed was a “morally superior” way of life. He “viewed higher education’s main task not as leading students toward the pursuit of truth, which he saw as a shifting construct… but toward ‘socialization’ in order that they might be recruited into the intellectual movement to ‘change the world’” (George Roche, The Fall of the Ivory Tower, p. 188). As a secular humanist, Dewey rejected the idea of a biblical God and universal moral absolutes of right and wrong. He focused on feelings and experience and downplayed the importance of reading, writing, and the facts of history.

Filled with a “vision” for civilization, John Dewey and his socialist colleagues developed a long-range plan “to radically change America by imposing their utopian vision of a collectivist society” using students as the means to their idealistic end (Samuel Blumenfeld, Crimes of the Educators, p. 1). The novel and fanciful ideas of Dewey and his disciples have influenced progressive American and Western educators for the last 150 years—and continue to influence them today.

A third factor that has influenced educators brought with it a distinctly anti-American and anti-Western element. In the 1930s, a group of German Marxist intellectuals from Frankfurt’s Institute for Social Research fled Germany when the Nazis came to power. These theorists, whose ideas came to be known as the “Frankfurt School,” found homes in liberal American universities, where they devised what some now call “cultural Marxism”—a strategy for creating a cultural revolution to undermine Western capitalism and “outmoded” biblical values and bringing about a utopian socialist society. These theorists believed (and still believe) that Karl Marx’s anticipated proletarian revolution failed in the West because of entrenched Christian values of family and morals, individual freedoms, and private property.

To bring about their cultural revolution, these “cultural Marxists” would have to begin a “long march through the institutions,” in the words of one activist, capturing the culture by gaining control of education, the media, the courts—and ultimately the political system. In the minds of many members of this movement, this would require undermining and eliminating the influence of the Bible and Christianity, breaking up the family, upending traditional gender roles for men and women, and discrediting foundational elements of Western history and civilization in the name of multiculturalism—the idea that all cultures are of equal value and that no culture is superior (least of all, Western culture). New values of tolerance and diversity would be introduced, insisting on the acceptance of long-condemned sexual behaviors as normal and even desirable.

In this new world, saying anything negative about another culture is strongly discouraged as “insensitive” or “bigoted”—with the exception of Judeo-Christian cultural concepts, which can be criticized freely (Alvin Schmidt, The Menace of Multiculturalism, p. 3). These insidious ideas have permeated educational institutions in America and the West after being absorbed by student radicals of the 1960s—radicals who are now teachers, administrators, judges, media writers, actors, film producers, and politicians.

Today, the deadly fruits of this “progressive” agenda and its approach to education are on display all across America and in other Western nations. Freedom of speech—even freedom of thought—has given way to continual policing of academic speech to root out “trigger words” and “microaggressions” without regard for the truth of what is spoken. Ideas that do not advance the anti-Western cultural agenda are ridiculed and even suppressed.

The results have been chilling. “Western universities have become places of personal fear and intellectual terror,” noted European observer Giulio Meotti. “If you dissent, educators, political leaders, the media and the mob will try to destroy you” (“Europe’s New Academic Fascism,” GatestoneInstitute.org, February 23, 2020). This is happening right now in America and other nations of the West that once taught respect for authority and cherished the value of freedom of speech.

In addition to the direct attack on Judeo-Christian morality, almost any reference to the importance of American history or the benefits of Western civilization is met with howls of derision in classrooms and by the media. Radical activist professors become successful writing distorted histories that ignore the accomplishments of Western cultures and focus disproportionately on narratives of oppression, exploitation, and extermination. Some of these books have obtained a wide circulation in schools and have soured millions of young people on their own cultural heritage. The amazing irony of our times is that while radical progressive educators are busy demonizing the accomplishments and benefits of Western civilization and the biblical elements in its foundations, many non-Westerners are praising its contributions toward the betterment of humanity (for example, see The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Indian scholar Vishal Mangalwadi).

A State of Degradation Long Ago Foretold

Tragically, many students today—and many adults who are products of this misguided educational system—do not see how they have been conditioned to despise and ignore the one source that warned against what is happening in the modern Western world. That same source also reveals where these dramatic changes are leading and what lies beyond this turbulent period. That unique source is the Bible.

More than 3,000 years ago, God inspired Moses to warn the Israelites that they would be blessed for obedience to the laws of God, but would suffer serious consequences—including national captivity—if they disobeyed and rejected Him (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 4 and 28). Moses even stated, “For 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, because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands” (Deuteronomy 31:29). In the centuries that followed, despite the continued warnings of biblical prophets, the Israelites did turn away from God and His ways, and history records that they suffered the very consequences about which they had been warned.

Many biblical scholars recognize that these prophecies have application beyond the days of ancient Israel and that their ultimate fulfillment will be in the “last days.” Among the reasons for Israel’s turn from God was their willingness to follow misguided leaders—kings, priests, and teachers who promoted lies and false ideas that led people away from God and His word. This is plainly stated in the Scriptures, where God warns the people, “Those who lead you cause you to err” (Isaiah 3:12), and notes that their culture had become so warped that it called good “evil” and evil “good” (5:20). Sadly, we are watching these prophecies being fulfilled in the modern Israelite nations of the West today. (See our booklet The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy for more details about identifying these nations in prophecy.)

The bad news for the nations of the West is that their increasingly godless philosophies and way of life will take them through a period of serious trials and tragedies in the years just ahead. Illiberal reformers will continue to push their equally illiberal educational schemes, among other trends towards political, racial, and economic strife.

However, the good news—the real Gospel that few today hear, understand, or believe—is that Jesus Christ will return to this earth and not only bless the Israelite peoples (Isaiah 11:11–13), but also establish the Kingdom of God, which will bring peace and prosperity to all mankind (Isaiah 9:6–7). At that time, there will be a “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:19–21) as the word of God spreads from Jerusalem around the globe (Isaiah 2:2–4). There will no longer be a failure of education in society, but an effort to rebuild a truly successful, global educational system, built on godly values.

This global reeducation effort will be conducted by teachers who will show the world the right way to live—based on the biblical principles in God’s inspired word (Isaiah 30:20–21). The book that provided much of the foundation for Western civilization—although mocked and rejected today by progressive educators (Hosea 8:12)—will become the foundation for all societies and cultures in the coming Kingdom of God. This is something that you can prepare for and be a part of—if you can see through the fog created by today’s misguided educators and discern the truths they seek to hide.

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