SACE’s Perspective on the

Weaknesses of Secular Education

Why Favor Secular Schools?

Public School
America has preferentially supported secular schools for two primary reasons.  One regards the church-state issue; the other the belief that secular education  can adequately nurture children with the morality and academic skills necessary to become strong and productive citizens. 

Under the church-state category, I address the first reason.  Here, I open discussion regarding the success of secular education to nurture morality and other vital social qualities.  After over a century of educational experimentation under modernity’s confidence regarding a secular educational paradigm, I argue that growing research finds many weaknesses with secular education and few feared weaknesses associated with religious schooling.

Outdated Beliefs about Religious Schooling

Religious schools were once feared to promote social division, to breed shallow and dependent thinking, and to stifle individual expressive development.  Though we may each envision the narrowness and control of a few infamous religious schools, over two centuries of practice provides little evidence of the social undesirability of religious schooling.  They are not linked with division, and the children of home and private school religious educations generally reflect a great depth of independent philosophical thinking and acting.

However, a defense of religious schooling is not my main point.  I argue that secular schooling provides a weak foundation for civic development.  In spite of the care and commitment of well trained and hard working teachers, secular educational environments hamper educational efforts and undermine social health. 

Weaknesses of Secular Education

In brief, by remaining aloof from the foundations of value and truth, secular schools have difficulty:
  1. nurturing student morality,
  2. building the complex reasoning skills needed to address the issues of democratic society,
  3. promoting the growth of “social capital” – social trust – linked with healthy society, and
  4. motivating students toward a concern for the good of others.
Public schools attempt to support the broad and deep concerns of society.  However, their efforts are so hampered by the secular paradigm that they evaluate their success only in terms of the amount of academic knowledge and skill they impart.  Distanced from primary discussions of truth and value, secular schools avoid rating themselves in terms that would reflect the “human qualities” of their graduates. 

Though religious schools have their own needed areas of growth, the Church-State concerns attached to the current public school model provide barriers with little flexibility.  The human qualities that remain an educational concern to strengthen society are religious by nature, and they are poorly addressed within secular schools.

Go to the “Weaknesses of Secular Education” discussion page.

Society for the Advancement of Christian Education