I have long, as a homeschooling parent, felt that I had to justify our family’s decision to homeschool our children, but I’ve never really had the facts to go along with the feelings and convictions that we have. So, when Great Commission Films gave me the opportunity to review their film IndoctriNation, I knew I wanted to spend some time with the movie.
I received a copy of the physical DVD from Great Commission films. This product regularly retails on their website for $19.95. My Hubby and I watched the film together, and you may not want to watch this around your younger children due to the frank discussion of many school issues, such as violence, sexuality, drugs and alcohol. Having said that, I had children coming in-and-out and paying varying amounts of attention to the movie during the hour and a half that Hubby and I were watching this film.
Colin Gunn is a Scottish filmmaker, and a homeschool father of seven. When making the choice of what to do for their children’s education, Gunn and his wife, searching back to their own memories of what school was like for them, chose to homeschool their children. However, almost 90% of Christian parents send their children to public schools. Some with the idea that their children can be the salt and the light in the public schools. Others send their children to public schools only because they feel that they can’t afford private schools or homeschooling. Yet, research by the Barna group has also shown that over 80% of children leave the Christian faith when they graduate high school and never return again. While homeschooling is no assurance for your children’s salvation, what impact do our schooling choices have on their discipleship? Do public schools play into the decline of Christianity in America?
IndoctriNation opens in the middle of a debate between Baptists. As a Baptist girl myself, I felt completely drawn in. The debate was on public schools: Should Christian parents send their children to public schools or remove them from public schools? There are famous Christian theologians on both sides of the public school battle.
I watched a clip from a Charles Stanley sermon where he tells parents, “When you send that child off to school today, you’re sending them into a pagan society. [They] teach practices that the Bible states very clearly are ungodly, unacceptable, and condemned by God.”
To the contrary, prominent Christian leader Franklin Graham is shown saying, “I want to see a child – at least one child – in every class in every public school in America who is trained as a witness for Jesus Christ. Let’s don’t surrender public schools; let’s take ‘em back.”
Who is right? Is it possible to influence public schools for Christ? Should parents flee the public schools as a pagan institution or should they work within the public schools to effect change from within?
These are the questions that Gunn sets out to answer. He interviews school teachers, administrators, students, parents, pastors, and legislators. He shows video clips from news stories, runs animations of research and a history timeline. He tours museums, visits schools and reaches back into history to figure out whether or not schools have Christian roots, and if they do, when they lost them.
This movie covers a lot of ground, and it would be hard for me to enumerate all of the points that it makes or discuss all the facts presented. However, I do want to take the time to share some of the things that I found most powerful.
I found the “salt and the light” argument that so many of my friends (and even my pastor) uses as a reason to send your children to public schools completely destroyed by two incidents in IndoctriNation.
In the first, Gunn is at the Texas teacher of the year conference. He goes around interviewing teachers. Many of them are Christians. So, he asks them, “How are you the salt and the light in your school?” There is not a single teacher who answers that they are the salt and the light by telling others about Jesus. Instead, they all answer that they are the salt and the light in their schools by living a good, moral life.
In the second clip, Gunn is interviewing Mike Metarko, an elementary school principal. When Gunn talks to Metarko, Metarko discusses how he feels like he’s fighting a battle as a principal. He’s standing at a dike and he’s noticing cracks forming. He reaches a finger and plugs in a hole through some work with the anti-defamation league. He plugs another hole by allowing CEF and their Good News clubs to operate in their after school programs. However, he looks down and realizes that water is rushing in and the foundation is starting to crumble. Metarko concludes that the foundation is bad because it’s not founded on God and His Word.
Gunn goes on to discuss two more teachers as examples, a young lady who is a popular teacher but tells how she is silenced from discussing her faith at school, but that any person with liberal views or is anti-God is protected and allowed to say whatever they wish at school. By the end of the movie, we find out that she is no longer teaching in a public school because her convictions of her need to spread the gospel had become stronger than her need to stay silent and keep her job.
Another teacher Gunn discusses is a teacher who is blatantly fired for telling his classes about Jesus. He understood that if he was following the great commission that he must share his faith with his students. The school board disagreed.
The overall impression that I’m left with as I view these powerful examples from the movie IndoctriNation is that the schools are not places where Jesus’s light can shine through. In fact, these are places where instead the Christians who work there are not allowed to fully follow Christ. Their rights are limited because of their role as agents of a state institution that is not at all friendly to Christianity and Christians.
However, when we settle for what is comfortable or compromise for what is convenient, are we really being the salt and the light? Are we doing what is really pleasing to the Lord? Does God really bless those actions?
I cannot in my heart say that we are pleasing God or that God will bless us.
Of all the themes and lines of thought running through IndoctriNation, this is just one theme. There’s some really good information on this DVD, and many other themes and ideas running through Gunn and Fernandez’s film. So far, I have watched it twice, and I plan on budgeting some money for the book in the near future. (I would like to read it and track down some of the facts and figures that are given in the movie.) In fact, I would go so far as to say that all Christians should watch this film before they form an opinion for themselves on whether or not Christians belong in the public school system.
Over-and-over again I am struck by a Voddie Baucham clip at the beginning of the film. In it he discusses how Christians will fight each other tooth-and-nail over which translation of the Bible to use, denominational differences and many other things, but nearly ninety percent of Christian parents send their children to public schools without any question or reflection on the subject. Why is that? We all love our children and want what is best for them. So, why are we so eager to hand them off to the state at the age of 5 that many of us don’t stop and discuss with God whether or not that’s his plan for our family?
This film marks a great addition to the public school or not debate for Christian families, and I look forward to sharing many of the facts and ideas that I have learned with other Christian families as part of our discussion on whether or not public schools are the best place for Christians.