New Age in Schools: The Battle Continues
The battle for the minds and souls of the next generation continues. The culture war being raged in America is ultimately, for the Christian, a spiritual one being fought on this temporal level. One of the major strategies of the evil one is to capture the minds and hearts of the youth. The schoolroom is an important target. The Bible warns believers not to be ignorant of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11).
All believers (and especially parents) have certain responsibilities. They are obligated to "love their neighbor," and as their "brother's keeper" to effect government, on all levels, and to participate in the process to effect and change the world with the power and truth of Christ.
This is one reason the Watchman Expositor continues to keep readers aware of recent developments in the area of education. Because secular humanism and the New Age Movement have close affinities, their philosophies and strategies often either are entangled, are derived from, or feed and grow out of one another. Christians are not alone in their concerns. Many parents and concerned citizens, including many non-believers, are beginning to challenge and bring to public light ideas and strategies, pertaining to the usurpation of educational systems for questionable, non-academic social and religious goals. Because they are beginning to win a number of important cases, the other side is beginning to regroup and attack.
Legitimized Bigotry at Taxpayer's Expense
A group called the I.D.E.A. Institute founded in 1977, an education branch of the Charles Kettering Foundation to promote innovations and improvement of schools, has recently begun sponsoring controversial seminars around the country. This group was behind some of the "improvement" programs in Michigan which have been strongly and effectively challenged by parents. In what could be seen as a retaliatory response, the I.D.E.A. held a national seminar in Denver, May 3-5, 1993, titled "Responding Democratically to Religious Agendas: Right-Wing Pressure Groups and School Reform".
This conference drew principals, superintendents and school board members, many at taxpayer's expense, from all over the country. One of the primary speakers at this seminar and another subsequent one in Washington State was Michael Hudson, vice- president of People for the American Way.
Needless to say, the content was hardly objective, and many sincere Christians found it to be inflammatory, insulting and filled with ad hominem arguments rather than dealing substantially with the documented facts.
A former U.S. Attorney in Colorado has threatened a federal civil-rights lawsuit on behalf of 30 clients against 15 superintendents there, charging they were involved in <169>anti- religious bigotry<170> (Education Reporter, September 1993, p. 2). The threat of a lawsuit brought some concessions on behalf of the superintendents.
New Age Journal
Quick to join the attack against Christians and other concerned parents was the New Age Journal. In a lengthy article criticizing conservatives in general and Christians particularly, the New Age Journal rebuked parents who challenge curriculum or who sought some control over the direction of their children's education (November/December 1993 issue, pages 76-81, 138-144).
The article typically caricatures the mainstream parents' challenges and concerns, using some extreme examples rather than the substantive ones. Of course, the major thrust is to portray parental concerns as censorship.
Substantive issues were rarely addressed. Questions concerning the legality and constitutionality of controversial curriculum and educational techniques were not discussed. Also absent from the article was a rational response to troubled parents who feel a few educators and curriculum writers should not have the unquestioned right to dictate what their children learn.
The Watchman Expositor and book Thieves of Innocence have warned repeatedly about the transpersonal (New Age) and humanistic approaches in much self-esteem, drug and sex education material used in public schools. Readers have been shown that the empirical evidence fails to support this approach. In fact, scientific studies demonstrate that the dominant trend of affective, non-directive, decision making models not only do little measurable good, but often actually increase the objectionable behavior.
One controversial program the Expositor has evaluated is the popular D.A.R.E., Drug Abuse Resistance Education. It may have been controversial for Watchman to be critical of the nation's most popular drug education program, but reputable scientific studies have been echoing Watchman's concern all along.
Recently, a front page cover story in USA Today titled "Studies find drug program not effective", reported that although D.A.R.E. is being used in 60% of our nation's school districts, "a raft of scientific studies says D.A.R.E. doesn't achieve its main long-term goal: stopping kids from smoking pot, drinking booze or using other drugs".
Evidence that D.A.R.E. works is almost exclusively anecdotal, subjective testimonies from D.A.R.E. officers and some teachers. But objective evidence from scientists who have run a number of control studies say something else. Rand Corporation researcher Phyllis Ellickson says, <169>Almost every researcher would agree there's enough information to judge D.A.R.E. <170> (p. 2A). Gilbert Botvin of the Institute for Prevention at Cornell University Medical Center states, "It's well-established D.A.R.E. doesn't work" (Ibid.).
Since 1987, several studies have been funded and conducted with similar results. Like the 1991 study conducted by the University of Kentucky when the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported, "no statistically significant differences between experimental groups and control groups" (Ibid.). In fact, several studies suggest that the D.A.R.E. program students actually have been stimulated to experiment more with the gateway drugs.
The Justice Department recently hired the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina to study and evaluate the studies on D.A.R.E. They reported that D.A.R.E. has "a limited to essentially non-existent effect on drug use" (Ibid.).
Since millions of dollars of federal subsidies have been granted to D.A.R.E. programs, and another $10 million per year has been mandated to states for D.A.R.E., political pressure is beginning to mount. William Modzeleski, top drug official in the U.S. Department of Education states, <169>Research shows that no, D.A.R.E. hasn't been effective in reducing drugs<170>.
Yet, an organized and powerful D.A.R.E. lobby has been actively pursuing endorsement from Janet Reno, Hillary Clinton, and Drug Czar Lee Brown. Dr. William Coulson and other Christians have been explaining why D.A.R.E. doesn't work and why it is an unnecessary drain on resources and time as well as potentially dangerous to our children.
The approach is wrong. Rather than a clear no-use, abstinence program, it is designed to effect the child's emotional (affective) areas, build their self-esteem and empower them to make a choice. A D.A.R.E. promotional article in Hometown Press states, "D.A.R.E. never tells students 'Don't use drugs'. Not once in the course of seventeen lessons does the D.A.R.E. officer ever say 'Don't use drugs'. D.A.R.E. works on developing the self-esteem that makes it easier to say no" (March/ April 1988, p. 12).
The faulty approach to helping a youngster feel comfortable using the standard decision-making steps is rooted in the New Age/ humanistic counseling theories of Carl Rogers and what is commonly ascribed to Abraham Maslow (although he explicitly condemned the application of this model of self-actualization with children).
D.A.R.E. also teaches the use of the progressive relaxation techniques common to meditation and hypnosis. In Ft. Collins, Colorado a parent successfully raised the issue that to use D.A.R.E. without a parent's informed consent (opt-in) violated the Hatch Amendment's prohibition of using psychotherapeutic programs without a parent's permission. "The school's attorney agreed that it was a violation.
Christians are encouraged to dare to stand against D.A.R.E. armed with the facts. Children should not be used as guinea pigs, and valuable classroom time and money should not be used in theoretical programs that have been shown to be non-productive overall.