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Texas Churches Slow to Accept New Technology for Christian Education

By Lee Duigon
July 05, 2010

“For more than fifteen years I have been an activist, educator, and scholar of human rights and social justice. This work has been my passion, my spirituality, my vocation. I’ve participated in street protests, infiltrated corporate symposia on globalization and capitalism, taught courses related to social justice education, and written about the ways in which economic injustice, racism, sexism, poverty, and other atrocities affect educational experiences for disenfranchised communities.

“Nearly a year ago I met Jennifer, my partner, whose passion for animal rights drew me in immediately. I’d talk about the work I was doing to expose and unsettle relationships between corporate capitalism, high-stakes testing, and class inequities in schools. She’d talk about her work to eliminate factory farming, entertainment animal abuse, and dog racing. Whereas she was interested in the relationship between animal rights and environmental justice, I was interested in the ways in which environmental injustice and social injustice overlapped.

“Then something clicked.

“The worst human rights offenders … are the worst animal rights offenders and the worst environmental offenders … what I find is the same, regardless of whether I’m targeting animal, human, or environmental injustice: corporate interests.”1

A Houston company has made technology available to take great numbers of Christian children out of the public schools and educate them in churches—but the churches so far have been slow to take advantage of the offer.

The Phonoscope Knowledge Network features two-way audio-visual technology that allows a teacher to interact, in real time, with students in a classroom, church hall, or anywhere else the unit is installed. At the same time, the program includes daily testing and personalized tutoring.2

Why aren’t the churches snapping it up?

How It Works

Lee Cook, founder and CEO of Phonoscope, told us things are changing, albeit slowly.

“We’re in the process of doing some things in Houston now,” he said. “We’re talking with some other churches, and we’ve set up a network covering seven counties in the Houston area. No other city has this.”

Outside of the Houston area, not many Americans have seen Phonoscope in operation. The concept will be familiar to science-fiction fans—but the Phonoscope “vision-phone” is real, and it works.

Cook in his youth worked on the Manhattan Project, developing the atomic bomb, and moved to Houston in the early 1950s. He helped found Phonoscope in 1953, and before long, had a pilot program for “distance learning” running in the Galveston public schools—“until the government shut us down” in the 1960s, he said. That’s when Congress passed Title I legislation, which included a provision that no federal aid would be given to school districts using two-way audiovisual technology. (We suspect the teachers’ unions vehemently objected to it!) Meanwhile, Phonoscope developed similar technology for use in business, government, the military, and even medicine. “It allows doctors to make house calls without leaving their offices,” Cook said.

PKN does not end with children sitting in front of a phonoscope, listening to lectures.

“There’s also a regular homeroom teacher present,” Cook said, “along with tutors in the various subjects. The kids test daily, and if any fall behind, they go to the tutor so they can catch up quickly.”

PKN currently serves kindergarten through sixth grade. “The goal … is to partner with church communities to develop excellence in education for campus learning, as well as develop curriculum and tools developed for teaching through technology,” says the PKN website. “PKN is your church partner in education.”

“There is no cost to the churches,” Cook said. “They just provide the facility. The churches also get to approve the curriculum. We’ll do the rest. But if they’re lukewarm about the program, then we don’t get involved.”

No Takers

Houston attorney Bruce Shortt received a phone call “out of the blue” from Lee Cook several years ago. At the time, Shortt was trying to persuade the Southern Baptist Convention to call on Christians to pull their children out of anti-Christian public schools.

“Mr. Cook had heard about what we were doing,” Shortt said, “and he told me that he knew a way to move the children out of the schools and into the churches for their education. He said, ‘We just need four churches to do a pilot program,’ and asked me to try to set it up.”

Shortt visited churches, the heads of church associations, pastors, and pastors’ councils in the Houston area.

“After months and months,” he said, “I didn’t find a single church. They didn’t even want to talk about it! I don’t know why. All the economic risk was Mr. Cook’s, and all the administrative headaches. All the churches had to do was provide space. It wouldn’t cost them anything, and they could approve the content of the teaching. And nobody would touch it.”

To this day he remains puzzled by the churches’ lack of interest.

“Hundreds of pastors were made aware of this,” he said. “The technology had a long track record: it was demonstrated to work. We talked to Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, every denomination we could find. I couldn’t even get people to come out and look at it.”

Teaches the Teachers to be Marxists

Now might be a particularly good time for Houston churches to make Phonoscope’s “distance learning” available to Christian parents in their churches.

“The way these public school teachers are trained,” Shortt said, “they’re already Marxists, already pagans, by the time they enter a classroom—and they don’t even know it. The curriculum at the teachers’ colleges literally marinates these people in a left-wing point of view.”

The reader need not take Bruce Shortt’s word for it. He is speaking the literal, unvarnished truth—as can be proved by a visit to the EdChange website (www.edchange.org).

EdChange is a source for teachers’ “professional development, research, and resources for diversity, multiculturalism, and cultural competence,” says the website.

On its home page, EdChange sells Karl Marx tee shirts at the “Social Justice Store.” Its “Multicultural Poster Store” features the likeness of communist thug Che Guevara. There’s also an ad for “Justice: the People’s News,” in which the capital “J” in “Justice” is a communist hammer and sickle.

You have to see it to believe it.

EdChange is relevant because it is being used as a resource for Texas teacher training.

Early in February, WorldNetDaily reported, “Texas teachers warned against being ‘heterosexist.’”3 In the article, a candidate for teacher certification told reporter Bob Unruh that he was being made to read “disturbing articles” in the EdChange Multicultural Pavilion as a prerequisite to earning a license to teach public school in Texas.

The EdChange website teems with articles on “diversity” (uniformity of thought), “social justice” (forcible redistribution of wealth), “multiculturalism” (rejection of Christianity, and of American culture), “the pedagogy of oppression” (all non-Marxist teaching is bad)—the whole kit and caboodle of far-left buzzwords. EdChange seems especially committed to teaching children to embrace sodomy as a valid lifestyle choice; but it’s equally fervent in its rantings against capitalism, “white privilege,” and “crimes against the environment.” It’s so far to the left, and so comprehensive in its leftism, it might almost be a parody. Regrettably, it’s not.

In fact, EdChange appears to be right in the mainstream of public school teacher training—as Chalcedon has reported on more than one occasion.4

“Our society … resents the claims of the sovereign God of Scripture,” R. J. Rushdoony writes. “As a result, it will stomach any absurdity in the name of education; it will continue to tolerate the destruction of children morally and intellectually.”5

We assume very few Christian parents would want their children to be taught by Marxists. But Texas seems to be on its way to providing exactly that kind of public education. One wonders just how much absurdity parents and pastors will stomach before they at least give Christian education a try—with or without Phonoscope.

Liberalized Textbooks Coming?

Meanwhile, the Texas State Board of Education will meet in May to decide what kind of textbooks to purchase for Texas’ public schools. Currently the nation’s largest textbook purchaser, Texas’ decision will affect the textbook market throughout the country.

Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, has been warning that Texas, responding to pressure from various advocacy groups, may wind up choosing far-left textbooks to go along with its new generation of far-left teachers.

“We’re talking about textbooks that haven’t been written yet,” Staver explained. “The board gives the publishers the technical requirements, and then the publishers get the books written.”

So far, he said, pressure groups have suggested that the new “social studies” textbooks delete references to Columbus Day, Daniel Boone, Nathan Hale, George Patton, and Christmas, and replace them with teaching on such topics as “hip-hop music,” ACLU lawyer Clarence Darrow, and the Hindu holiday Diwali, while replacing the terms “American” or “American citizen” with “global citizen.”6

If educating children with such textbooks seems at worst frivolous, Christian parents should still ask themselves if that’s the kind of schooling they desire for their children.

“There’s no question that parents should be putting their children into homeschooling,” Staver said. “We’re just trying to warn them of what may be coming down the road. Leftist groups are complaining about the textbooks already being used, and what to liberalize in them. All it takes is eight votes [on the 15-member board].”

Why No Action?

We cannot imagine why so many churches are so blasé about Christian education. Are pastors simply afraid of offending public school teachers and administrators? Are they afraid to offend parents who keep sending their children to those schools? Giving offense might mean fewer bodies in the pews each Sunday, and skimpier collections.

But where do they think the next generation of church members will be coming from? How much secular, anti-Christian, anti-family, pro-sodomy, pro-abortion “education” can Christian children endure before they lose their faith? Six hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year, for thirteen years, these children are in the hands of teachers’ union members, being taught that homosexuality, abortion, and sexual promiscuity are good and Christianity, marriage, and the traditional family are bad. Thirteen years of public schooling, plus four more years of anti-Christian college—how often is that going to add up to life-long church membership?

We cannot imagine why the churches in Houston have shown so little interest in Lee Cook’s offer. What do they have to lose? Why not try the program to see how well it works? The cost, ultimately, would be a matter between Phonoscope and the parents.

Biblically, parents are responsible for their children’s education. Would Christian parents send their children to a Muslim school? Would they excuse themselves by saying that their eight-year-olds are there to be “salt and light” to Islam?

Of course they wouldn’t dream of it. They wouldn’t want their children to wind up believing in Islam.

And yet they blithely and without a second thought send their children, by the millions, to schools where the prevailing belief system is every bit as inimical to Christianity as Islam itself. It is an anti-Christian, nonbelieving, far-left worldview. Why in the world do Christian parents keep on sending their children to such schools?

Maybe some of these parents—and their pastors—ought to visit www.edchange.org to see what their children’s school teachers are being taught before they can be certified as teachers. Maybe then they’ll start to think seriously about Christian education.


Since this article was written, the Texas Board of Education voted, 10-5, to use more conservative social studies textbooks. The usual tantrums by The New York Times and the Associated Press ensued, but the reader will still be able to get most of the details, plus left-wing spin, in the NYT’s report: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13texas.html.

UPDATE: The Texas Board of Education took a final vote on textbook standards in May, voting 10-5 for more “conservative” textbooks. See Onenewsnow http://www.onenewsnow.com:80/Education/Default.aspx?id=1023036

1. From “Critical Ties” by Paul Gorski, Founder of EdChange http://www.edchange.org/publications/animal-rights-social-justice.pdf

2. Phonoscope Knowledge Network, 2009, http://phonoscopeknowledge.com.

3. Bob Unruh, “Texas teachers warned against being ‘heterosexist,’” WorldNetDaily, Dec. 31, 2009, http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa+PAGE.view&pageId=120622.

4. See, for instance, Lee Duigon, “Public Schools’ ‘Social Justice Education’ Cloaks Marxist Teaching,” The Chalcedon Foundation, Dec. 21, 2007.

5. R. J. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991), 229.

6. “Mathew Staver on The Huckabee Show this Weekend to Discuss Changes to Textbooks,” Liberty Counsel, Feb. 5, 2010, http://www.lc.org/index.cfm?PID=14100&PRID=904.


Topics: Church, The, Education, Statism

Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.

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