Humanism And The Public Schools

By David Pratte

(Editor’s Note: The following is also available in tract form from the author. In addition, the author has written a number of other tracts and booklets that will be of interest to parents regarding topics relating to schools and humanism. For further information, readers may contact David Pratte at the address given above.)

In the Humanist Magazine (Jan/Feb, 1983, p. 26), humanist author John Dunphy says:

. . . a viable alternative to [Christianity] must be sought. That alternative is humanism. I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being. These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subject they teach, regardless of the educational level . . . . The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new . . .. the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism . . . .

That friends, is a declaration of war. Our children are under attack in the classroom day in and day out, yet many parents do not even know the war has begun! When parents do show concern about this danger, about all they hear from educators is denial and ridicule. Despite the denials, consider the evidence that humanism is indeed the predominant philosophy of modern public education.

* The preface to the humanist book Humanist Ethic says:

. . . a large majority of the educators of America and of the western world are humanist in their outlook. The faculties of American colleges and universities are predominantly humanist, and a majority of the teachers who go out from their studies in the colleges to responsibilities in primary and secondary schools are basically humanist, no matter that many maintain a nominal attachment to church or synagogue for good personal or social or practical reasons.

*John Dewey, who is probably the greatest influence in modern education, was an endorser of the first “Humanist Manifesto.”

*At least 33 of 58 original signers of the “Secular Humanist Declaration” were educators.

*Shirley Hufstetler, first secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, was on the board of directors of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies.

Consider also the following chart that contrasts the views of educators with those of the American public:

View of Education Policy-Makers
View Public Educators
Homosexuality is immoral 71% 30%
Abortion is immoral 65% 26%
Smoking marijuana is immoral 57% 30%
Premarital sex is immoral 40% 27%
Divorce should be harder to get 52% 19%
God loves me 73% 40%
via Connecticut Mutual Life Report on American Values in the 80’s.

In this study, we will examine several particular doctrines of humanism. For each doctrine, we will document the humanist view by quoting official statements of the American Humanist Association (primarily the Humanist Manifestos and the Secular Humanist Declaration). We will then quote public school texts and materials to show how the humanist views are propagated in the classroom.

We do not affirm that all classroom teachers are humanists. But when one knows what to look for, he finds humanistic ideas far more widespread in schools than most educators realize or admit. And most parents are totally unaware of this.

Evolution And Materialism

Humanist Doctrine:

. . . we find that traditional views of the existence of God either are meaningless, have not yet been demonstrated to be true, or are tyrannically exploitative. Secular humanists may be agnostics, atheists, rationalists, or skeptics, but they find insufficient evidence for the claim that some divine purpose exists for the universe. They reject the idea that God has intervened miraculously in history or revealed himself to a chosen few, or that he can save or redeem sinners. They believe that men and women are free and are responsible for their own destinies and that they cannot look toward some transcendent Being for salvation. We reject the divinity of Jesus, the divine mission of Moses . . . . We do not accept as true the literal interpretation of the Old and New Testaments . . . . We have found no convincing evidence that there is a separable “soul” that . . . . survives death. (Declaration, pp. 18,19).

Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created …. Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as the result of a continuous process …. science affirms that the human species is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces (Manifestos, pp. 8,17).

Public School Teachings:

It is widely known that the Bible, God, and prayer have been banned from the public schools, mainly as the result of the efforts of the atheistic/humanistic American Civil Liberties Union and Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Evidence for evolution is regularly presented in public schools, but it is a rare textbook that gives evidence for creation (some teachers present it without aid of a text).

Indiana is typical. We have 7 texts approved for use in public high school biology classes. On the average, they devote 46 pages to evolution, and zero to creation (some mention creation, but say it is religion and not science, so they ignore it). Here are typical quotes.

New species of living plants and animals have come about as the result of changes in the old species . . . . The theory of evolution attempts to answer the question: How did so many different kinds of plants and animals come about? . . . Evolution is therefore being studied as the process by which life not only diversified, but first arose . . . . Of all the theories you may study in biology, the theory of evolution occupies a unique place . . . . It is so much a part of the foundation of biology that science can hardly be understood without it (Biological Science, Heath, pp. 47,74,64).

. . . studies demonstrate that we are much closer to our nearest relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas, than was imagined even a decade ago . . . . [In earlier centuries, the] commonly accepted explanation for the origin of species was the one outlined in Genesis, that God created the species during the original six days of creation . . . . The Biblical doctrine of creationism was placed in some doubt as important fossil discoveries were made . . . . The alternative to creationism . . . was transformism, also called evolution . . . . An evolutionary approach orients this book” (Anthropology, Random House, pp. 10,25,26,12).

. . . no major pattern of scientific evidence that conflicts with [Darwin’s] theory has turned up (Biology, Scott-Foresman, p. 222).

Parents, do you know what your children are being taught? Do you care?

Situation Ethics

Humanist Doctrine:

Thus secularists deny that morality needs to be deduced from religious belief . . . . For secular humanists, ethical conduct is, or should be, judged by critical reason, and their goal is to develop autonomous and responsible individuals, capable of making their own choices in life . . . . As secular humanists we believe in the central importance of the value of human happiness here and now. We are opposed to Absolutist morality …. Secular humanism places trust in human intelligence rather than in divine guidance (Declaration, pp. 15,24).

We affirm that moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stems from human need and interest . . . . We strive for the good life, here and now. The goal is to pursue life’s enrichment . . . . (Manifestos, p. 17).

Public School Teachings:

Students in public schools regularly face exercises designed to modify values and attitudes, often called “values clarification,” “values education,” “morals education,” etc. This is especially common in sex education, social studies, psychology, sociology, etc., but can be found in any subject at any grade level.

These exercises involve questionnaires, role-playing, and group discussions of challenging and often controversial moral and personal issues. Students are often assured that “there are no right or wrong answers.” Conclusions are reached, not on the basis of research to accumulate and evaluate evidence, but on personal feelings and opinions along with peer pressure (hence, “pooled ignorance”). Appeals to authorities, like the Bible and parents, are disallowed. If a student appeals to the Bible as his proof, for example, he is asked, “But how do you think it should be?” Difficult hypothetical situations are invented to make it appear that traditional absolute values will not work.

A typical example, used in nearly every school, is a lifeboat (or bomb shelter) with too many people in it. Students must consider the people and decide who to kill so the others can live.

An English teacher in our local high school gave students a questionnaire in which they had to express opinions regarding these and other questions:

How do you feel about a school doctor who gives out birth control pills to high school students on request? . . . . How would you feel if your son brought a girl friend home for the weekend and shared his bedroom with her? How do you feel about a decision to permit an unmarried faculty member of a university to continue to teach after she has become pregnant? . . . How do you feel about a wife who is 6 weeks pregnant with her first child who has an abortion without consulting her husband?

The high school text Person to Person, published by Bennett (teacher’s edition, p. 52), suggests the following statements to which students are to say if they agree or disagree. But they are first assured that, “There are no right or wrong answers”:

To find out if they are sexually suited for each other, a couple should have intercourse before marriage . . . . if a couple is in love, it is all right to have sexual relations before marriage . . . One way to tell a date “I like you” is to have intercourse with him or her . . . . If people have a safe birth control method, it is all right to have intercourse before marriage.

An exercise on page 308 of the student edition of this book tells students to choose another student as partner, pretend they are married, and role-play making arrangements for their divorce!

We found the following example in our daughter’s third grade social studies text, Windows On Our World, published by Houghton-Mifflin (p. 135). Students were to state agreement or disagreement with statements including the following, and compare their views to others in the class:

It is wrong to eat meat on certain days . . . . It is wrong to work on Sunday . . . . It is wrong to work on Saturday . . . . After I die, I will be born again as someone else . . . . After I die, I will live in another place.

Examples could be multiplied a thousand times. Remember, all these issues are to be discussed without reference to the Bible (which has been effectively banned from the school), and with any attempt to appeal to authority being disallowed, and in the face of strong peer pressure.

Defenders of these techniques say they simply help students decide what they believe. But the real effect is to teach kids to ignore all authority and objective evidence, and reach conclusions on the basis of subjective personal feelings, opinion, and peer pressure. Situation ethics is the fundamental tenet, and humanism is the big winner.

Are these exercises in your child’s school? Have you investigated? No example we can give would compare to the shock value that comes from seeing these things in your own child’s schoolwork!

Marriage And Sexual Morality

Humanist Doctrine:

In the area of sexuality, we believe that intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by orthodox religions and puritanical cultures, unduly repress sexual conduct. The right to birth control, abortion, and divorce should be recognized . . . neither do we wish to prohibit, by law of social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered “evil” . . . individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their life-styles as they desire” (Manifestos, p. 18).

Public School Teaching!

These subjects come up in health class, family living, parenting, social studies, psychology, sociology, etc. Much of it falls in the heading of “sex education,” though educators often disguise it with terms that are less likely to alert parents. As such, it can be found in almost any class.

The most influential sex education organizations are Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and Sex Information & Education Council of the US (SIECUS). They are totally dominated by humanists. The American Humanist Association gave the honorary title of “Humanist of the Year” to SIECUS executive director Mary Calderone and PPFA’s founder Margaret Sanger. Other prominent sex educators who are affiliated with humanist organizations or have endorsed humanist documents are: Albert Ellis, Alan Guttmacher, Sol Gordon, Lester Kirkendall, John Money, Deryk Calderwood, Ira Reiss, etc., etc.

SIECUS Study Guides are used to tell classroom sex education teachers what to teach. Study Guide #5, for example, says on page 25:

We must examine the potential impact of the [premarital sexual] relationship upon ourselves and the others who are involved. It is just such an examination that has led to the popularity of situational ethics, for it is abundantly clear that for some people having premarital coitus can contribute to the development of responsibility . . . to a sense of integrity and self-realization.

The official “SIECUS Position Statement” says regarding pornography: “It is the position of SIECUS that: The use of explicit sexual materials (sometimes referred to as pornography) can serve a variety of important needs in the lives of countless individuals.”

In 1973 Alan Guttmacher, who was then the head of PPFA, said: “. . . the only avenue the International Planned Parenthood Federation and its allies could travel to win the battle for abortion on demand is through sex education . . . .”

Locally, efforts to get sex education in schools usually come through local “planned parenthood,” “family planning,” or abortion clinics. In Indiana, like other states, federal tax dollars are used to support these clinics. Girls at any age can go to get contraceptives and abortions without their parents’ knowledge or consent. “Educational materials” and speakers are also offered to local schools. The Indiana Family Health Council is a federally-funded source of materials to teach sex education. Its catalog describes the film Vir Amat, which is used to teach sex educators proper attitudes:

Two young men, who have lived together for over a year, share their relationship and sexual pattern. The film begins showing them preparing dinner while enjoying kissing, joking, and flirting. After dinner, they move to the living room where they stimulate each other manually and orally to orgasm. Post-orgasmic play continues the element of fun and affection, which is shown throughout the film. The film de-mythologizes homosexual relationships, showing two ordinary men in a warm, loving relationship.

In discussions of parenting, the value of spanking is almost invariably undermined. Page 315 of Child Growth and Development, published by McGraw-Hill, for example, lists “unsatisfactory” forms of punishment, and the first two items listed are: “Spanking because it puts too much stress on the child as a ‘bad child’ and too little on the wrong act . . . . Other physical punishments . . . . All physical punishment has the danger of turning into child abuse or causing injury when the adult is really angry. For this reason alone, it should be avoided.”

Easy divorce is also advocated. Your Marriage and Family Life, published by McGraw-Hill, says on page 430; “If happiness is the goal of marriage, some marriages must be dissolved . . . . These results confirm the view that having happy marriages and happy children means we must allow some marriages to break up.” This text was used in our local high school.

Again, examples could be multiplied. We do not affirm that all these objectionable ideas are found in every school. But all of them have been found in some schools, and most of them are found in most school districts.


What should parents do? Do not take our word for anything. Do your own investigating.

1. Accept the fact that the primary responsibility for your child’s education rests on you the parent, not on the government (Eph. 6:4; Deut. 6:49; Prov. 22:6). You must be responsible, even when they are at school. If your child is lost because of the influence of the schools, while you did little or nothing about it, God will hold you accountable.

2. Inform yourself about the kinds of humanistic teachings that are in the schools (we will give good sources of information later).

3. Get to know the teachers in your children’s school. Be a classroom assistant, etc. Work with the administrators to influence what teachers your children have.

4. Read textbooks, sit in on classes, review films, etc. Especially insist on seeing teachers’ manuals. (Established parents organizations affiliated with the schools are usually no help in this. They are dominated by the educators.)

5. Diligently teach your children the truth at home to arm them against false teaching.

6. Tell your children’s teachers exactly the kind of teaching you will not allow to be given to your child, or at least that you want the teacher to inform you and ask your permission before the teaching is given. Write a letter to the schools about this and have it put in your child’s permanent record.

7. You may try to work with other parents to modify school district policy regarding areas that are of concern. Good luck! Lots of us have tried and failed, but others have succeeded.

8. If your schools will not respect your parents rights and your children are being harmed spiritually, take them out of the public schools and put them in a private school (but check it out carefully – many of them are also objectionable), or else teach them at home yourself (this is legal in most states – we know because we’re doing it).

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 13, pp. 396-397, 410-411
July 5, 1984