By Nina R. Helterbrand
According to Webster’s Dictionary, humanism is “a doctrine, attitude, or way of life, centered on human interests or values; especially: a philosophy that asserts the dignity and worth of man and his capacity for self-realization through reason and that often rejects supernaturalism.” As a teacher in the public school system, as well as a Christian, I agree that this doctrine is untrue and has no place in the belief system of a Christian. Nevertheless, I am very disturbed at the “near panic” that prevails in the minds of some, concerning our public schools and humanism.
Our educational system is an institution of society, designed to teach children to be successful as a member of that society. This includes the mastery of the basis laws and values of the society. At this point in time, Americans believe that teachers in the public school system should not be religious instructors or influence children in respect to a particular religious philosophy; yet, teachers must correct and advise the typical human being in his first experiences with society and basic human relationships outside the family. When a kindergartner takes another child’s crayons, the teacher cannot say, “We must not take Johnny’s things because that is stealing and Jesus said it is wrong to steal.” Instead, the teacher must explain why the child should not take these things by talking about the feelings of others, and the consequences of such an act. On this level, one could say that the kindergarten teachers begins to teach humanism. The laws of our land, fearing interference with the parents’ right to teach their child religious beliefs and/or values, forbids the teaching of moral decisions based on God or the Bible, so the teacher must teach these decisions based on man and his limits and consequences, in relation to other members of society.
Most humanism taught in school is this – choices of behavior and values based upon man and his environment, the society in which he lives.
Parents who are teaching their children to make moral decisions based upon God and His Word, should be aware of the use of humanism in our schools; but they should have no unreasonable fear of it. Humanism is used to teach children the choices allowed them within their society. One of those choices is that of religion. We need to be sure we are teaching our children at home, to make moral decisions and value judgments based on the Scriptures and then we can send them to school to learn that Christians, a “peculiar people,” must live in this world while not being of this world. Children who are being taught these things within the home, are not easily led astray by humanism. While humanism cannot cover a spiritual aspect, the Scriptures can and do cover the human aspect, teaching us to obey the laws of our government (Rom. 13), and various admonitions concerning human relationships. Thus, our children, if they are being taught at home (as they should be), will be well equipped to meet the challenges of role playing, values clarification sessions, situation ethics, and other methods implemented in teaching humanism. Open lines of communication between parents and children at home will insure that these experiences become an opportunity for the parent to see how much the child does understand concerning Scripture and to expand on that understanding.
Let us devote time and energy to the flip-side of this issue – teaching our children and helping them to teach others in their peer group, the necessity and wisdom in loving God and keeping His commandments.
This article has not been written in defense of humanism; but to put it into perspective as a part of our society, that we cannot run away from, or hide our children from. Like all other worldly philosophies, we must stand and fight with our knowledge, clothed in the whole armor of God.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 2, p. 47
January 16, 1986