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Education Reporter


Psychobabble and 'Edufads' Invade the Church

Audrey McKeever
Audrey McKeever
By Audrey McKeever

Most people are unaware that contemporary writers and publishers of "Christian" education materials are embracing the same controversial forms of learning promoted by humanist John Dewey and contemporary education reform gurus. The same radical educational theories and liberal teaching methods that have contributed to the academic and moral dumbing down of children in our nations public schools are now being used on unsuspecting youth in the church.

Thom Schultz, founder and president of Group Publishing, Inc., one of the fastest-growing publishers of curricula for Christian youth, writes about his objective to help "launch a new revolution" in the church. While operating under the false assumption that churches can benefit from the "best" liberal thinkers in education, he promotes controversial secular models in a misguided attempt to help churches reinvent their approach to learning. Schultz has identified himself as a pioneer for Christian education reform by using nontraditional activities and espousing the terminology of liberal reformers including "Lifelong Learning," "change agents," and "active learning."

Teachers as Facilitators

Since ideas have consequences, it should come as no surprise that other major "Christian" publishers and curricula developers are echoing Schultz. Youth Specialties (Zondervan), for example, builds upon the philosophy of questioning authority that became popular during the '60's and '70's. The following instructions to youth leaders provide an example: "Discourage the group from thinking of you as the 'authority' on the subject . . . Remember, with teenagers, your opinions will carry more weight the less an authority figure you appear to be . . . Keep your mouth shut except when you are encouraging others to talk. You are a facilitator."

In the traditional Christian classroom, the teacher was the authority figure who had the right answers and was expected to transmit biblical truths to the next generation. Today, however, Sunday school teachers and youth leaders are encouraged to become facilitators directing group discussion. One major publisher advances the false premise that "the model of learning as transmission of information from teacher to student is bankrupt."

Contemporary publishers are rejecting authoritative lecturestyle teaching and buying into Outcome-Based Education (OBE) advocate Ted Sizer's statement that, "Good learning arrives out of dialogue." This humanist philosophy is pervasive in church youth curricula and is evident in such statements as, "There is no better way to encourage learning than through discussion." Reputable polls show that young people are biblically ignorant, exposing the faulty argument espoused by one Christian publisher that "discussion helps truth rise to the surface."

Instructions to youth leaders say that such discussion will help teens "think carefully about issues" and "compare their beliefs and values with others." Why should Christian teens compare their beliefs and values with others? Through this faulty process, a teen may come to the erroneous conclusion that his belief system is only one of many equally authoritative views. The hidden message is that there are no absolutes.

Feelings vs. Facts

Advocates of secular psychobabble have argued that, in order for good discussion to take pace, a climate of trust and acceptance must be cultivated within a group. In an illconsidered attempt to make Christian youth feel comfortable exploring and sharing their thoughts and attitudes, many contemporary publishers justify using openended questions. One publisher instructs youth leaders to "phrase questions asked within a group to evoke opinions, not answers."

Another publisher goes so far as to say that since there are no wrong answers to "I think" or "I feel" questions, "everyones feelings are valid." This philosophy emphasizes subjective thoughts and attitudes, turning Bible studies into therapy sessions where no objective biblical knowledge is acquired.

Memorization of Scripture is increasingly considered an outdated and ineffective learning regimen in the church, just as it is in the public schools. The president of Group Publishing views memorization as "one of those handmedown goals that few ever stop to analyze," a practice that "has been done for so long that no one dares to question its validity."

A review of contemporary curricula reveals that memorization and knowledge of Scripture is often in competition with building relationships within a group. An atmosphere of "accept rather than confront" tolerance for all points of view is subtly promoted. In fact, Youth Specialties informs youth leaders that teens "need to know they can share what they are thinking, no matter how unpopular or 'wild' their ideas might be." Therefore, "Affirm even those comments that seem like heresy to you."

Undermining Parental Authority

The destructive philosophy that children are autonomous decisionmakers apart from their parents is also being accepted in the church. For example, one popular curriculum developer states that students "should be questioning their belief in God independent of their parents faith." The child is to become his own authority through selfexamination in order to determine his values and beliefs. Values clarification, long the prevailing dogma in the public schools, is a frequentlyused strategy to accomplish this illconceived goal.

According to humanist Sidney Simon in Values Clarification: A Handbook of Practical Strategies for Teachers and Students, the intent is to give a young person the opportunity "to make his own choice about whose advice or values to follow." Simon writes: "young people brought up by moralizing adults are not prepared to make their own responsible choices . . . "

Likewise, the values clarification strategies used by contemporary Christian publishers have the grave potential of undermining all authority in general and parental authority in particular. Youth are subtly conditioned to believe that they have the right to make their own decisions independent of their parents.

Death Education

Having students write their own obituaries is one of the many controversial death education activities developed by humanist educators and used in the public schools. Many parents are unaware that this activity has also found its way into the church. One exercise takes teens to a graveyard where, during a period of intense silence, they are told to dwell on one solemn thought: "When you're dead . . . What do you want on your tombstone?" If unable to visit a cemetery, youth leaders are instructed to "bring the cemetery to your students" by cutting out "cardboard tombstones, one for each student, personalized with their own names." Additional questions to be discussed during this exercise include: "Would you have any regrets if you died on the spot right now?" and "Are you getting the most out of your one shot at life?"

The controversial public school "Lifeboat" game has also surfaced in a similar church activity. In both the secular and Christian versions, young people are to roleplay that a ship has been damaged beyond repair and is sinking. Having been assigned an identity, the teens must decide as a group who will live and who will die. The socalled "Christian" version of this psychological game includes the enticement that "those on the lifeboat will get ice cream sundaes and thosewho are left on the sinking ship will not."

In another exercise, Christian teens pretend that they are considering suicide, and are even instructed to say, "I wish I were dead." In order to make them feel comfortable about using the word "suicide," youth leaders are instructed to have them say the word together aloud.

In light of the recent brutal murders and suicides at Columbine High School, why are these destructive, offensive death and suicide activities being used in the public schools? Why are they being used in the church?


The foregoing are examples of the psychobabble and "edufads" that have invaded the church. Parents, youth leaders, and all involved in the spiritual training of youth, beware! "Christian" publishers and curriculum developers are adopting the same ideas that have proven ineffective in our public schools. It is urgent that Christians critically reevaluate what is going on under the guise of Christian education.

Do you know what is being taught in your childs Sunday school class and church youth group? If not, find out!

Audrey McKeever is co-author with Cathy Mickels of Spiritual Junk Food: the Dumbing Down of Christian Youth, Winepress Publishing, 1/800-917-BOOK.

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