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IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America

The purposeful de-Christianization of America has long been the goal of public education-as plainly stated in the writings and speeches of its creators and pioneers.

Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon,
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Written and Directed by Colin Gunn and Joaquin Fernandez

"I am as sure as I am of Christ's reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen."-A. A. Hodge, 18871

More than 130 years after he said this, A. A. Hodge's prediction has come true: how true, we can see in this documentary by Colin Gunn and Joaquin Fernandez.

To make the film, Gunn, his wife, and their homeschooled children bought an old school bus and embarked on an odyssey throughout the country. They interviewed school teachers and administrators, parents, students, and various Christian commentators while also exploring the history of public education in America.

With twenty-six million children going to public schools, five days a week, "Whose doctrine is being taught?" Gunn asks. And his answer is that education in America has become "an ideological struggle in which our children are the prize."

The Chalcedon Foundation has been in the thick of this struggle since its founding more than forty years ago. Our founder, R. J. Rushdoony, was among the first to man the firing line.

Is the metaphor too florid? Given how high the stakes are, we don't think so.

We agree with Colin Gunn that public education is a major force in "the decline of Christianity in America." Indeed, the purposeful de-Christianization of America has long been the goal of public education-as plainly stated in the writings and speeches of its creators and pioneers. Don't take our word for it: such quotations are abundantly supplied in Rushdoony's The Messianic Character of American Education.

How Much Provocation Will Parents Take?

We wonder, sometimes, what it will take for Christian parents to remove their children from the public schools. What straw will finally break the camel's back?

Maybe some of the footage in IndoctriNation can supply the final motivation. I almost couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the Planned Parenthood clown-a real clown in a costume, not a figure of speech-handing out smiley-face lollipops to public school children. The smiley face of the abortion industry? Is this what they mean by "education"?

Even more provoking is the footage of very young children being taught, in public school classrooms, the glories of sodomy. These little ones are so young, they haven't yet mastered the skills of talking: but their wonderful public school "teachers" have them prattling and lisping about "gay" and "lesbian" and "marriage equality," etc. The "gay" stuff is scrawled all over the blackboard. These children look and sound like kindergarten pupils. And of course the indoctrination into "gay" ideology will go on right through high school.

If that's not provoking enough for you, Gunn also provides clips from a National Education Association convention, in which a high officer of the teachers' union profanely curses Christians and admits, "It's not because we care about children ... The NEA is an effective advocate because we have power, and money."

The reason they have all that power and money is because so many millions of parents send their children to NEA-staffed schools.

‘Salt and Light'

Aren't there any good, decent Christians involved in public education, serving as "salt and light" in public schools?

Of course there are. Gunn interviews several of them.

"I do have a conflict at times," says a principal at a Pennsylvania elementary school. As a Christian in a public school, he says, "I'm standing in front of the dike, and there are pinholes in the dike ... The whole foundation is crumbling out from under us."

Christians in the public schools try to be "salt and light" by setting a good example, a Texas teacher says; "but we're not allowed to speak the name of Christ." To the question, "Why do you act and speak in a certain way?" they are not allowed to give an honest answer.

A fifth-grade teacher in North Carolina finds her work environment "overwhelmingly anti-Christian ... It's very difficult for me ... I can't tell the students about God. I can't give Him glory for anything ... I'm ashamed ... But if I talk about my faith the way I want to, I'll lose my job. I'd be out of there that very day."

Was she exaggerating? Gunn went back to the school later to find out.

Tiring of the rigorously anti-Christian culture of the school, the teacher resigned. In a resignation letter which she intended to send to all her students' parents, she said, "I was leaving because I was a Christian." When school administrators saw the letter, they forced her to leave two weeks before the resignation was supposed to take effect, two weeks before the end of the school year-out through the back door of the school, literally, and that very day, just as she predicted.

By the end of the movie, the Christian principal in Pennsylvania was also out of work.

"There is no Christian in the public school system who can truly be salt and light," he tells Gunn,"because if you are, you won't be in the system long."

A Mad Idea

John Taylor Gatto-former New York City Teacher of the Year, and former New York State Teacher of the Year-rejects, on camera, the whole model of public education. "We spend a lot of time studying the great Americans who had never gone to school," he says. "To put your kids into a building every day, and allow strangers to work on their minds-it's a mad idea."

Gunn himself calls public education "a yellow bus loaded with every enemy of Christ." He spends some time making the case for that. Among the more notable influences on the development of public education he finds Karl Marx, Darwin, Freud, John Dewey, and many others-each and every one of them a self-avowed foe of Christianity. Gunn liberally quotes from them to make their intentions clear.

He revisits the 1974 Kanawha County (West Virginia) "textbook war" and talks to a veteran of that controversy, Karl Priest, who taught in public schools for thirty-four years. The textbooks being used in Kanawha Country thirty-seven years ago, Priest recalls, were riddled with explicitly anti-Christian material.

"We got the books out of the schools," says Priest, "but that was only temporary ... We couldn't stop the onslaught that has taken place since 1974"-and "in the buckle of the Bible Belt," to boot.

"The public schools cannot be redeemed," he adds. "You have to get your children out of there."

Especially poignant is Gunn's visit with the father of a boy killed in the Columbine High School (Colorado) massacre of 1999.

"I put him in a pagan school," the still-grieving father says, "where they teach, ‘There is no God' ... They teach evolution: ‘the strong kill the weak, and there's nothing wrong with that' ... And I put my son there."

Since Columbine, adds Gunn, more than 400 children in America have met violent deaths while attending public schools.

See It!

Don't get the idea that this is nothing but a diatribe against public education. IndoctriNation is an artistic piece of film-making-as it has to be, to put its point across. Gunn and Fernandez know how to use their camera to good effect; and there are dashes of humor to keep the script from getting too gloomy. In the background runs an understated musical score that subtly enhances the film's impact.

It's always easy to lose one's temper when discussing the innumerable sins of public education. It is controlled, top to bottom, by extreme secularists who hate Christianity and purposefully do everything in their power to alienate young people from their faith and from their families. Having taught in public school myself, I know whereof I speak. If parents could see and hear the things I saw and heard in those schools, they wouldn't believe their own eyes and ears.

But Gunn does not lose his temper, and the tone of IndoctriNation is never shrill or badgering. The tone of this film is best described as "sober." Maybe that will prove more persuasive than "indignant." We hope so.

Gunn does not avoid the personal note. After all he has shown his audience, he declares, "To protect them, to raise them in the faith, I would never put my children in the public schools."

Visually, Gunn and Fernandez save their most powerful and haunting image for the closing moments of the film. I won't tell you what it is: we want you to see it for yourself. But I will give you Gunn's concluding words, which are worth remembering:

"Anything that takes our children away from Jesus Christ, and away from His eternal reward, is worthy of destruction."

We congratulate the Exodus Mandate for producing this documentary, and heartily recommend it to anyone who has family or friends whose Christian children are still in public schools. You really ought to buy IndoctriNation (it's available from the Exodus Mandate) and invite them over to see it.

1. Quoted by R. J. Rushdoony in The Messianic Character of American Education (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, [1963] 1995), 335.

Lee Duigon
  • 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

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