Who owns your child?
Is that offensive to ask? Hillsdale College president Larry P. Arnn doesn’t think so. In fact, he recently explained this very question is crucial to understanding the current situation facing America’s youth:
“One way of describing the change in education today is that it provides a different answer than we have ever known to the question: who owns American children? Of course, no one actually owns the children. … But by nature, they require a long time to grow up — much longer than most creatures — and someone must act on their behalf until they mature. Who is to do that? … Only lately has [public education] adopted the purpose of supplanting the family and controlling parents.”
Recent times have demonstrated the long-quiet but now raging war for the minds of American children.
For years going under the radar, with occasional spats over agendas like Common Core or MSNBC ads scolding viewers for believing that “kids belong to their parents,” this battle is now so hotly contested as to warrant the concern of the FBI — that is, concern about those parents who have not welcomed collectivist notions with enthusiasm.
The Public Is Hostile!
Among this war’s hottest battlegrounds is the classroom. Though relevant to families of all stripes, in our burgeoning post-Christian society it is even more relevant to religious families, especially Christian ones.
Public schools recently began promoting agendas that are antithetical to historical Christianity, like Marxism and transgenderism. Christians a century ago were up in arms about teaching evolution in schools. Now such concerns seem tame by comparison. How far we’ve come!
What’s more, schools offer services that actively seek to erode Christian character-building. Between condom availability programs and assisted “gender transitioning” without parental awareness, schools are training youth in un-Christian behavior, which, if actions speak louder than words, perhaps poses a greater threat to Christian life and character than actual teaching.
Even outside the classroom, the public is hostile. Kirk Cameron recently made headlines because he was denied opportunities to read his faith-based children’s book at more than 50 public libraries. That this comes in the era of drag queen story hours is nothing but a slap in the face to religious folk everywhere.
Thus, children are not only exposed to harmful worldviews but are denied access to good ones as well.
The School of Technology
Public education is not the only threat to the role of parents today. The widespread use and ingraining of the internet into daily life has presented another hurdle to rearing children.
In the early days of the internet, kids merely needed to watch out for cyber predators on AOL Instant Messenger. Now, the internet is much more vast and dangers are all the more present. Parents must inevitably ask themselves whether it is prudent to present their children with a tool that opens the door to the utter depths of man’s villainy and perversion.
Should children really be able to witness a beheading livestreamed from another country? to see pornography, available in the most disturbing varieties? to see abnormal displays of idiocy, which may even threaten their lives?
It’s been said that isolation is no guarantee of virtue, and that is true, but one must nevertheless ask why children should be able to access, in less than 60 seconds, what was previously inaccessible even to adults and was rightfully relegated to the darkest corners of society.
And such is not merely dark web content. Mainstream platforms like TikTok and YouTube expose children to violence, promiscuity and degeneracy.
What parents fail to realize is that the internet is truly a school all its own, obfuscated by a culture that promotes information and technology as basic human necessities. Thus, children at religious schools are not immune. Even there, teachers and parents (devout as they may be) must battle against the continual onslaught of debauchery flowing from devices given to children by those same parents.
It is like parents are playing a game of tug-of-war and are willfully placing a Lou Ferrigno-sized man at the other end of the rope. Ferrigno is the cellphone and the rope is their child. In other words, by permitting unrestricted access to the internet, parents voluntarily stack the odds against themselves. It mutes their voices, leaving them with less authority over their children and less control over their development than ever before.
For parents seeing these issues and growing more concerned (and, make no mistake, such parents are multiplying), perhaps going on the offensive may provide a way forward. Perhaps what is needed is a total re-evaluation and, ultimately, a revival of education and proper child-rearing.
Part of this revival will inevitably include explicit religious education. Oxford don and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis once remarked, “If all the world were Christian, it might not matter if all the world were uneducated.” In other words, education is necessarily tied up with religious formation. Fundamentally, then, education should point humans toward their ultimate purpose, namely the Divine, and therefore rightfully ought to employ such means as discipleship, catechesis and the like.
And there is no better place to begin mounting this offensive than in the home. Yes, the home — that glorious bastion of care and common sense. It can be a center of learning via homeschooling, a haven of devotion in family worship, and a guardian of common sense at the dinner table.
In the end, it is evident that any instillation of godliness and virtue in youth will not be facilitated by the public or by cellphones. Gone are the days when society taught, often unwittingly, how to be a virtuous human. Today, any training in decency and morals requires no small amount of effort and intention. It demands a truly countercultural approach.
That is the war American parents have been thrown into. They may not have opted to become soldiers, but that is what has been handed them all the same. And on that front, may they fight well and so contend for the faith once delivered.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.