Clarifying Values

(Originally published in The Bulletin on June 10, 1990.)

Various humanist organizations have used the National Education Association and its 1.4 million teachers to indoctrinate our children with the various credos of Humanism. In a book published by the NEA's Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, titled To Nurture Humaneness, under the subtitle "Technology and the Decline of Organized Religion," the humanistic message of this organization is made quite plain: "If schools are to move toward humanism, then humanism must become important to all of us, students, teachers, administrators, and the general public." For some time now, NEA educators, under the guise of "behavior modification" and "values-clarification," have been subverting our parental authority, our homes, and the religious beliefs of our children. When one tries to point this out, one is simply labeled a bigoted, anti-intellectual religious fanatic.

Now it is true that some have overreacted to the various teaching methods used in the public schools. For example, because Socrates was a classical humanist, we have heard some condemn the Socratic method, a mode of teaching where the truth is arrived at by a series of short question and answer sessions. This is absolute nonsense. We wonder if these same people would condemn the polio vaccine because Jonas Salk was a humanist? One uses Salk's vaccine to prevent polio, not to promote Humanism. By the same token, one uses the Socratic method because it facilitates learning, not because it promotes Humanism. Christians wield a sharp two-edged sword. We cannot stupidly shut our eyes and swing blindly at anything and everything that smells like the enemy. In doing so, we could easily injure our fellow soldiers.

Values-clarification has rightly been denounced as a humanistic ploy to destroy the traditional morality of our school children. This is, in fact, an accurate description of the Values-clarification technique developed by humanist educators Howard Kerschenbaum, Sidney B. Simon, et al. But when we denounce the Values-Clarification technique formulated by these men, we must not give the impression that we are against clarifying values. Furthermore, we must not reject everything found within the Kirschenbaum and Simon technique. For instance, both Kerschenbaum and Simon list three different levels of teaching that are absolutely correct and useful, even when teaching the Bible. At the risk of being "written up" again in one of the "brotherhood papers" for trying to justify Values-Clarification as formulated by the humanists, let me demonstrate what I mean.

The biblical teaching concerning "Not rendering evil for evil" can be taught on three different levels: (1) the facts level, (2) the concepts level, and (3) the values level. The fact that these three levels can be found in any book written by the humanists on Values-Clarification is no reason to reject them. At the facts level, the student is asked to learn all the scriptures that have to do with the subject and the facts recorded in each. At the concepts level, the teacher encourages the students to explore the principles behind the facts, e.g., "See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men" (I Thessalonians 5:15); "But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn unto him the other also" (Matthew, 5:39). At this level the student is encouraged to piece different facts together so that generalizations can be made from the gathered data: How are we to define evil? Is violence always evil? Does turning the other cheek apply in cases where grave bodily harm is contemplated? These are ideas which must be explored at the concepts level. But as far as I am concerned, nothing is really accomplished until the student is guided to the values level. At this level the student is made to relate the facts and concepts to his or her own life (i.e., "What does this have to do with me?"). At the values level the student is forced to explore the connection between the subject matter and his or her own behavior. Fruit cannot be brought forth in the life of any Bible student until this third level is reached.

The problem with the Values-clarification technique developed by the humanists is that it is alleged to be "values free." What this means is that the children who are subjected to this technique are taught that there are no absolutes and that one is free to choose any value one likes. Teachers who use values-clarification this way are actually teaching the student that whatever he or she decides is right, is right. This is exactly what the humanists have claimed in their manifesto: "Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction." Consequently, although there are some similarities between the humanists' "non-value" values-clarification and the clarifying of values which takes place in effective teaching, we believe one can readily understand that the latter is non-humanistic and quite appropriate in the teaching of moral values.

We hope this study will help you to "work out your own salvation with fear and the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among who ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life" (Philippians 2:12-15).