Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What Is A Secular Education?

Something I've been pondering for a while. Let me know what you think.....

There is an idea that is commonly held and even vehemently defended in our culture. People might even scoff if you disagree. They will perhaps quote supreme court rulings and excerpts from the constitution as well. The idea is this, that the only legal and proper education for public schools is a "secular" education.

Now this whole idea of "secular" living not only influences our view of education but really our view of everything in the public sphere - politics, community, neighborly talk, relationships at work etc.. "Keep your religion to yourself - that's a private thing." We all assume that life in the public sphere must be secular if we are to get along and coexist as good citizens. While I'm all for getting along and coexisting as good citizens I think that the idea of a "secular" realm is inherently contradictory. I believe a secular view is inherently religious and therefore the idea of a "secular" education violates the first amendment clause that prohibits government sanction of any particular religious view.

Webster defines "secular" as 1 a : of or relating to the worldly or temporal b: not overtly or specifically religious c : not ecclesiastical or clerical .

In order to assume that there are ideas and actions that are secular, not overtly religious, you must assume that there is the ability to divorce ideas and actions from a greater reality than that which is immediately and apparently at hand. So at the core of the secular perspective is the assumption that there is a realm that can somehow be limited to merely the immediate and pragmatic experience of the individual or community. In this place, functionally and hypothetically, there is no God, there is no transcendent truth, there is really nothing more than the individual's or group's experience.

But how do we evaluate that experience? What is it? What constitutes the difference between a "spiritual" experience and a "secular"? What is a group? What is an individual? What is right and wrong? How do we determine it? If secular is the realm with no God, what is God? Where and how is there no God? How do I determine how to interact in such a realm? What are my rights? What are the groups rights? What is a "right" anyhow? How do we get that concept? What is "is"?

Do you see what sort of trouble we get into when we try to carve out a place called "secular"?

I would submit that there is no such thing as a "secular" realm. Instead, we have used this as camouflage to cover what functionally is a state-sponsored religion derived from an increasingly abandoned Enlightenment view of the world that is more-or-less bound to the assumption that the self (whatever that may be) is the ultimate determiner of reality and thus the spiritual center of the universe.

And if this view is the central commitment of our education system aren't we proselytizing our children when we base their education on a "secular" worldview? Is not this a violation of the establishment and free exercise clause of the First Amendment?

Is there a way forward? I think so- so did Abraham Kuyper - that's for another blog.

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