Educational Psychology Meets the Christian Right: Differing Views of Children, Schooling, Teaching and Learning
by David C. Berliner — 1997
Among the most unrelenting contemporary critics of public schools are members of the Christian Right, some of whom seek the destruction of public education. The theories of child rearing espoused by the Christian Right are analyzed in this article. They emphasize physical punishment, the breaking of children’s will, and obedience to authority. Such theories cannot be supported by modern psychology. Furthermore, these childrearing practices are totally incompatible with the constructivist models of learning that form the basis for the educational reforms undertaken by science, mathematics, and social studies educators. The school curriculum used in many fundamentalist Christian schools was also analyzed and found to be limited, biased, and sometimes untrue. The arguments made against outcomes based education and whole language programs were found to be confused and chaotic. The antagonism of the Christian Right to these programs is based on a fear of losing control over their children’s thinking, rather than any compelling empirical data. It is concluded that many among the Christian Right are unable to engage in politics that make a common school possible. They may be unable to compromise and live with educational decisions reflecting a pluralistic democracy keeping separate church and state.
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