We are assured that God chooses "the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty" (1 Cor. 1:27). It would be hard to think of anything much "mightier" than America's public school establishment, with its fabulously wealthy and politically potent teachers' unions, its unconditional support from all the media, and, above all, the unquestioning belief of many millions of Americans that public education is the only game in town.
Standing squarely in front of this colossus is independent film-maker Colin Gunn and his 2011 documentary, IndoctriNation. This little film was runner up for Best Picture at this year's San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (Courageous took the $101,000 first prize). But IndoctriNation did win the prize for Best Documentary1, and Gunn is touring with it.
"We need to be aggressive and bold," Gunn told Chalcedon, as he was preparing to board a plane for Texas, "like abortion protesters. But we have tried to be winsome, and not insult people."
Planting Seeds in the Legislature
Gunn was just coming off a day-long visit to the California State House, where he gave copies of his film to legislators and screened it for Assembly members and their staffers.
"We gave copies of the film to all the Republican legislators," he said. "After all, 40 percent of the state budget is spent on public education." Why didn't he give copies to Democrats, too? "We realized that was not going to be fruitful." He was too tactful to mention the rigid political alliance between the Democrat Party and the teachers' unions.
Chalcedon's Andrea Schwartz arranged the West Coast portion of IndoctriNation's tour. "We were very encouraged by the response we met with in Washington state," she said. "I think it exceeded Colin's expectations."
The main thing, she said, was to put DVDs of the film into people's hands. "Having a tool like this DVD is like you've been fighting the enemy and somebody brings you ammunition. Homeschoolers who see this film have the sense that, ‘Finally, somebody gets it! Now they'll understand what we've been doing.'"
Opening Eyes-and Minds
Making IndoctriNation, said Gunn, was an eye-opening experience.
"Although I understood the issue," he said, "but once we started making the film, it all became applicable and meaningful-and so real, when you actually go and interview people. Then you see the real impact of public schools-in a negative way-on people's lives.
"When we hear the personal stories of real people, you realize that the public education system is anti-Christian. You see the devastating impact on people's lives of a godless education system."
He was thinking particularly, he said, of his interview with the father of a boy who was murdered in the Columbine, CO, high school massacre. This interview is presented in the film, and the father's pain is only too real to the viewer.
"We were careful not to insult people who are still sending their children to the public schools," Gunn said. "But among them, the most common reaction to the film seems to be, ‘Well, what do we do now? What is the alternative?'
"But film is a very limiting medium. We started out with a concept of ‘What is public education, and what are the alternatives?' But we had to abandon the idea of showing people-in this one film-how to go from public school to homeschooling. And that's what a lot of people want to know."
"Sometimes people get angry when they see this film," Andrea Schwartz said. "They want to know, ‘What else can we be doing?'
"You see, IndoctriNation is a very persuasive movie. Colin states his argument as if he were presenting a case in a courtroom. The resistance to public education got a terrific boost from this.
"But it's not enough just to tell somebody, ‘Public schools are bad.' Ultimately we need to change the practice of Christianity in America by building up the family. And we can best do that through homeschooling."
It's Not a Parody
"The Christian community will disappoint us frequently," Gunn said. "It's amazing, how much they will put up with. They've gotten into the habit of thinking like statists. In the meantime, public education is only getting worse, and will continue to get worse. In terms of exposure to wickedness, the schools are the worst! There's no protection in them for all those small children."
One scene from IndoctriNation that sticks in this reviewer's memory is footage of a classroom full of very young children, kindergarten or first grade, and a blackboard covered with terms like "gay" and "lesbian." Here the "teacher" promotes the glories of sin; and we hear the children, who are still too young to think clearly, parrot back a lot of propaganda about "marriage equality" and "transgenderism." The scene is both sickening and wrath-provoking.
"I know some of this material seems like a parody or an exaggeration," Gunn said. "But public school teachers come up to me all the time and say, ‘It's worse in our school!'"
"Yes, some people see this and respond with denial and incredulity. We've seen a little bit of that," Mrs. Schwartz said. "And some people are afraid. Watching them at the screening, you could tell we ruined their day."
IndoctriNation also features interviews with public school teachers, students, and a principal, who are Christians, who are acutely aware that they are working in an anti-Christian environment, and who don't know what to do. Those who thoughtlessly assert that Christians ought to remain in the public schools to serve as "salt and light" would do well to listen to these interviews and see what happens to the "salt and light." It might make them wiser.
A Fight for Liberty
"Colin still has hours' worth of footage that he didn't use," Mrs. Schwartz said. "Maybe Chalcedon can find a way to help him use it: I'll have to research that. But he did say, in IndoctriNation, what Christians ought to do. Get your children out of public school and start homeschooling."
"Maybe we can shoot a sequel," Gunn said. "But even if we don't, we really can see some change coming into people's lives when they realize they don't have to use the public schools. If we do make a sequel, it will have to be about how to make the transition from public school to homeschooling."
IndoctriNation's subtitle is, "Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America." It may be easy-at least for some-to see how the Christian culture in America has been eroded, in our time. When our popularly elected president gives the keynote speech at a celebration-yes, a celebration-of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that made abortion "legal" without benefit of any legislation; when celebrities and politicians march proudly at the head of "gay pride" parades; when ordinary people have 40 percent of their babies out of wedlock (including an out-of-wedlock birth rate of more than 70 percent for African-Americans)-it's hard to see all this and not agree that there has been a decline of Christianity in America. And, as clearly shown in IndoctriNation, public education has played a key role in that decline.
But have you noticed that, as Christianity has declined in America, so has our national prosperity? And the coherence of our families? And our liberty?
Andrea Schwartz has.
"Christians have to be awakened to the fact," she said, "that if the fight is to the death, liberty is worth fighting for."
And we remember that God loves to use the weak to overthrow the strong.
Lee Duigon is a Christian free-lance writer and contributing editor for Faith for All of Life. He has been a newspaper editor and reporter and is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels.
1. See Chalcedon's review, http://chalcedon.edu/research/...
- 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.