Sunday, July 31, 2005

An Interview with THE HARSH TRUTH author, Bruce Shortt

Some of you might already know about Mr. Bruce Shortt and his work in awakening American parents to the problems inherent in public education in America today. Bruce has been involved in the ongoing challenge within the Southern Baptist Convention and the Presbyterian Church of America, two of the largest Christian demonimations in America, over what to do to protect our children academically, morally, spiritually, and physically from the effects of bad education in America's public schools.

Being public school teachers now, we know first-hand of the problems. We can verify a lot of what Bruce has researched in personal ways.

by Chalcedon Publishers has raised quite a stir among Christians and non-Christians alike.

It is a very compelling exposé that uncovers the damage being done to our children attending public schools across America, but that remains generally unnoticed by the majority of American parents, unfortunately even CHRISTIAN parents, until now.

We thought that it would be great to visit with Bruce to help all of you get acquainted with him as an author, homeschooling dad, Christian parent, and concerned parent-directed educator. We hope you will be encouraged from this dialogue.

Knowledge is power. Hopefully what you will learn from this discussion will help you to better educate your own children with confidence. Some of you are already convinced that homeschooling is the right way to go. This will give you more reasons to be assured in your resolve. We also hope it will assure many of you that educating your children as the LORD has directed you is truly the best decision you can make. Whatever choice that is belongs ultimately to YOU. We hope this article will help you to go into that decision with your eyes wide open!

So enjoy the interview . . . Here it is:

[This interview was done through email in early July, 2005.]


PDE Editor: Bruce, thank you for taking some time from your very busy life to share within our Parent-directed Education bloggers. We appreciate the opportunity very much.

Bruce: Thank you. I've been looking forward to sharing with you and your readers.

PDE Editor: I recently completed reading your insightful and very comprehensive book, THE HARSH TRUTH ABOUT THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Wow! It definitely challenges American parents to examine first-hand what is being done to our children in public schools. Some of what you have exposed is downright scarey! If even a fraction of what you have uncovered is taking place, it is enough to get all reasonable parents very alarmed! Your exposé is indicting. Isn't it true that there are more than just a few problems with public education?

Bruce: How children are educated is the most fundamental force that shapes individuals, families, and cultures. Unfortunately, most of us tend to think of education in purely instrumental terms; that is, as simply a matter of acquiring skills that enable us to do things.
When we say we want a "good education" for our children, all too often what we are thinking is that we want our children to acquire a set of skills that will lead to a good job. Although acquiring skills is certainly an important part of an education, we are making an enormous mistake if we think of education in primarily these terms.

There is no such thing as a religiously "neutral" education. All education is religious in that it explicitly and implicitly transmits a worldview. That worldview shapes our characters and
understanding of life in profound ways. The same point is made much more compactly by Proverbs 23:7 - "For as a man thinks, so he is."

Parents need to understand that the government's schools are not religiously neutral - in fact, they are awash in theologies. The problem is that those theologies are mostly secular and New Age, not Christian.

This is why study after study shows that evangelical children educated in the government's schools simply don't have a Christian worldview. The consequences of this are profound. As I point out in detail in THE HARSH TRUTH ABOUT PUBLIC SCHOOLS, the government's
schools are destroying our children spiritually, morally, and intellectually, not to mention in some cases, physically.

PDE Editor: Before we get into the book's importance, Bruce. Please share a bit about yourself personally. You are a homeschooling dad. Can you share with us about yourself and your family?

Bruce: I am best described as just a homeschooling dad from fly-over country. Like many homeschooling parents, I have to juggle work - in my case practicing law with my wife - with homeschooling our three sons. Consequently, most of the homeschooling in our home goes
on between 8 pm and midnight. During the day, the boys' grandmother is with us and the boys work on foreign language and some piano. This is obviously an unususal schedule, but I feel fortunate that we are able to make it work. She only speaks Vietnamese, so she doesn't do any of the academic teaching. However, just by being present, she is improving our sons' Vietnamese a little.

PDE Editor: That's great that your sons' grandmother is involved in your homeschool.

Bruce: Yes. Many families aren't so blessed.

PDE Editor: But that's interesting that you do a lot of the academic homeschooling in the evenings. It seems that the benefit of flexibility is a plus for many families. Do you find that this is one of the key reasons that homeschooled children are being successful?

Bruce: Flexibility, coupled with parents being intimately familiar with their children's strengths and weaknesses, is certainly one key to homeschooling's success. Just like any homeschooling mom or dad, I know when something is working well with my sons, and I also know when I need to try something different. Most of the time, when there is a problem with a subject - math or grammar, for example - you can solve it by just changing your approach. One advantage of being part of a homeschooling community is that other homeschoolers have a wealth of experience, and when you have a problem you often discover that many of them have faced the same thing.

PDE Editor: What other reasons do you think makes homeschooling "work?"

Bruce: There are many reasons homeschooling works. For one thing, children, especially young children, like to learn with their parents. It is part of the natural bond God has built into the relationship. Where there is resistance it is usually with children who have been in public schools for many years and who have been socialized to the values of popular culture. Weak parents are also sometimes a problem.

Another reason homeschooling works is that homeschooled children receive much more one-on-one tutorial attention than children in public school. This is why homeschooling typically requires so much less time. Homeschooled children may do most of their work on their own, but they also often get an hour to an hour and a half of one-on-one attention. No child can get that on a daily basis in a public school. Finally, homeschooling allows children to pursue their own
interests. It is amazing how much a child can learn when he is pursuing something that he really enjoys. Homeschooling is perfectly suited for allowing that to happen.

PDE Editor: What would you say the main benefit of homeschooling is?

Bruce: As homeschoolers, we know that the most important benefits of homeschooling are not academic blessings, although those are certainly abundant. Rather, homeschooling blesses
us most profoundly by reuniting our families and helping us understand that Christianity is a faith for all of life--something that is relevant to every minute of every day. We know that homeschooling allows us to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and strengthens our families and our churches.

PDE Editor: Let's get right to the subject of your book, and your recent involvement with getting some major denominations to line up with its message. Can you share with us the point of
your book? Why did you write it? What are you trying to get people to see?

Bruce: The point of the book is to show Christians why we cannot educate our children in the government's schools. Other books have touched on this general theme, but they have
often approached the subject from an abstract theological perspective. This is valuable, but the Bible also calls us to be empirical. As Christ tells us, good trees bear good fruit, and bad trees bear bad fruit. THE HARSH TRUTH examines THAT fruit and demonstrates that the fruit of our government school habit isn't just bad, it's rotten. This is why THE HARSH TRUTH has nearly 100 pages of endnotes. I didn't start with the intention of writing a book with endnotes, but as my research progressed it became apparent that the situation was much worse than even I had suspected. So, I felt that people simply wouldn't believe the truth unless I could point them to sources they could check themselves.

I also didn't start with the notion of writing something that touched on virtually every major problem within the government's schools, but once I started it simply wasn't possible to limit myself to a few key issues. Consequently, THE HARSH TRUTH discusses in some depth just
about any concern about the government's schools that a parent, grandparent, or pastor might have. I often tell people that you don't have to read the book from the beginning to the end
- just pick something that is of immediate interest and read that. I know that if someone does that the whole book will get read, just not in the order of the chapters. But that doesn't matter because each chapter - even the subparts of chapters - are pretty much self-contained essays.

One obvious use for the book is to provide Christian parents with the facts so that they can make an informed decision on how they will educate their children. The book is also a highly effective antidote for "homeschooling fatigue" and "Christian school tuition fatigue." Beyond this, however, I hope that Christians, and especially Christian homeschoolers, will read THE HARSH TRUTH so that they can become effective evangelists for Christian education.

In reality, THE HARSH TRUTH is a complete and compact course in apologetics for Christian education.

PDE Editor: Obviously the title says a lot! In a paragraph or two, what is the "harsh truth?"

Bruce: The harsh truth is that the government's schools are killing our children spiritually, morally, and intellectually. I often tell pastors and parents with children in the government's schools that they need to decide just how "dead" they want their children to be. The comment about "killing our children" is only partly hyperbolic. The government schools have in fact become a physical threat to children, not just because of the proliferation of violent crimes, sexual abuse, and homosexual activism within those schools, but also because the "little red
schoolhouse" has become the nation's preeminent drug pusher as psychotropic drugs are increasingly substituted for discipline.

A further aspect of the harsh truth is that the government school establishment lies - they lie about academic achievement; they lie about drop-out rates; they lie about the level of crime
and violence in the schools; in fact, they will lie about anything that they think might threaten their ability to obtain ever greater amounts of the taxpayers' money.

One of the hardest things for Christian parents to understand is that an institution that has attractive buildings, presentable staff, and enormous social power and prestige can actually be utterly corrupt, but there is no other way to describe the institution. This, of course, is not to say that all teachers, administrators, and other employees are like this, but the statement is true of the government school enterprise as a whole. Interestingly, many teachers and administrators understand the corruption and are often the "whistleblowers."

PDE Editor: And what led you to approach major denominations like the Presbyterians and Southern Baptists?

Bruce: You have to begin somewhere. The SBC is clearly both the largest Protestant denomination and the denomination historically most strongly associated with the government's
schools. In retrospect, I believe Providence has guided us. Bear in mind that 18 months ago people not so subtlely told me that trying to change the thinking about education within the SBC
was a fool's errand. We had an idea, no money, and faced enormous opposition. Today, not only has the SBC passed a very strong resolution warning of homosexual activism within the government's schools, calling for investigations of school districts, and laying down some strong standards to guide parents in their decision regarding how they will educate their children. The leading theologian within the SBC and president of their leading theological seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler, has publicly stated that it is time for responsible Baptists to develop an exit strategy from the public schools.

A resolution introduced at the PCA's General Assembly this year called for removing all of their children from public schools. Although it didn't pass it, was co-sponsored by Dr. D. James Kennedy and Joel Belz, among others.

We never imagined that so much could be accomplished in such a short time with a small group of people that spent under $2,000, but with God all things are indeed possible.


[PDE Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this interview and found it to be provcative for you in your thinking about where the public schools are today, please get a copy of Bruce Shortt's book. We
believe it is a "must-read" for parent-directed educators. It will reinforce your convictions and provides the evidence to justify your position regarding why you are better, more responsible
parents for educating our children at home or in a Christian school, at the very least (though there are systemic problems in that approach as well--but that's a future topic.) We plan to have Bruce share more with us again soon.]

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Where should education begin? With the home or the state?

According to most sources, education shows up in everyone's "top ten" list. It is a national crisis. Billions of dollars in tax revenue are poured into local school systems, with disproportionately meager results in most cases.

Recently a story appeared in the national media about a high school in Chester, Pennsylvania that was supposed to show how privatizing schools will help fix the problems associated with poor communities. Yet this suburban Philadelphia community's riot-torn secondary school program (28 students were arrested earlier in the school year) showed clearly that more than throwing money around will fix the educational problem in America. See and

Frankly, "it's about the parents, stupid!" When parents are in charge of their children, students learn. When they aren't involved, students don't. (An exception always exists, of course, but those students will learn if stuck in a closet.)

That's why families with very little money, no formal training in educational processes, a loose curriculum, and few physical resources are able to churn out very capable students! This subculture--homeschoolers--is proving the critics wrong!

Educators don't need more dollars. They need families, with parents who care what is going on with their children in school. Or who decide the best thing for their children is to teach them themselves!

If you are curious about this growing educational trend to "take back our kids" and do what God has called parents to do (yes, this is a religious issue, but we believe that EVERY issue is religious in nature--atheists included!)

So enjoy the content and be prepared to be challenged about what constitutes good education versus the bad stuff being touted as good. We think the conversation will reveal a lot that needs to be said.