Sunday, April 22, 2012


102 minutes; 2011
Rating 8/10

Two interviews with public school teacher Sarah Laverdiere serve as stunning book ends for Colin Gunn's remarkable investigation into the anti-Christian roots of public education.

LaVerdiere is a Christian who has a hard time reconciling her job with her faith - she doesn't know if she should be making parents feel good about sending their children to a public school. At about the 26 minute mark LaVerdiere is asked, "How long would your career last, if were to start teaching Scripture from the front of the classroom?" Laughing, she answers, "I'd probably be out of here that day!

Those were prophetic words.

An hour further into Indoctrination we meet her again. Since her first interview LaVerdiere had decided the she could not remain silent about God in the classroom, so she had offered her resignation. She was initially supposed to teach another two weeks, but after she wrote a letter, at her principal's request, explaining her decision, she was asked to resign immediately. What was in her letter? LaVerdiere noted that she could not continue to teach where Christianity was not welcome, and where homosexuals, radical environmentalists and atheists were encouraged to pervert the minds of the students. Though she was initially supposed to teach another two weeks, when the principal saw her letter LaVerdiere was asked to resign that day. And she was escorted out of the school like a criminal:

"I did return to the elementary school that day. And the principal supervised me as I cleaned out my classroom. They has the students go on a back playground and they had me go around a different way than I normally do so that the students could not see me while they were on the playground... when all I had done was tell my students I was leaving because I was a Christian."

That, in a nutshell, summarizes the state of public education in America: it is at war with Christianity.

There is much more in this documentary. The narrative for the film is the Gunn family's trip, in a big yellow school bus, across America. They travel from place to place visiting educational experts, and Reformed theologians and uncover the radically anti-Christian roots of public education. It is no accident that God is now unwelcome in the classroom. As Gunn shows, for many of the most pivotal figures in educational history, that was the plan from the beginning.

In addition to the specifically Reformed influence in this film, another attractive feature is the filmmaker and narrator, Colin Gunn. Scottish-born, his accent is charming and, if a grown man can say this about another grown man, adorable. I can't imagine a more pleasant voice to listen to as the dire and dour state of public education is explained. Clever animated illustrations and engaging interviewees make this a highly enjoyable as well as highly educational experience.

Though this is about the US public system, it is highly relevant to Canadians as well, as this is primarily an exploration of public education philosophy, and this same philosophy pervades our schools north of the border too.

A great production... and an important one! To buy a copy at click here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Waiting for Superman

111 minutes; 2010
Rating: 8/10

“One of the saddest days of my life was when my mother told me ‘Superman’ did not exist. Cause even in the depths of the ghetto you just thought he was coming… She thought I was crying because it’s like Santa Claus is not real. I was crying because no one was coming with enough power to save us.” 
- educational reformer Geoffrey Canada

The public school system in the US is so bad mere mortals don’t seem capable of fixing it. And sadly Superman isn’t available. So how can it be fixed? And more importantly, why should the primarily Canadian, private-school-supporting readership of this magazine care to find out?

Let’s start with this last question first. There are two reasons our community should watch Waiting for Superman. The first: to better appreciate the blessing that our schools are. The second: to ensure our schools never make the mistakes that have destroyed the US public schools.

Doing the opposite

There is, of course, Someone powerful enough to fix all that’s wrong in these schools, but He isn’t welcome there. In fact, watching Superman is like being given a close-up look at a system based on the very opposite of what God instructs us concerning the education of our children.
  • God says education is a parental (Prov. 4) responsibility? Not so in the public system; there the parents have little to no say. 
  • God warns that teachers will “be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1)? The teachers’ unions won’t stand for that. They’ve negotiated contracts based on the idea that “we shouldn’t make any distinctions among teachers. A teacher is a teacher is a teacher.” In some districts unions have managed to make it next to impossible to fire teachers (disciplinary hearing can last as long as three years!) no matter how bad they might be.
So what happens when you do the opposite? Very bad things. The American system has thousands of schools so pathetic they’ve been labelled “failure factories.” If your child is unfortunate enough to have to attend one of these schools, it may not matter how gifted or determined they are - their educational future could be determined by the teachers they are saddled with.

Everyone seems ready to admit the system is broken, but the opposing sides have very different ideas of what and who is to blame. The teachers’ unions put the blame on class size, and a lack of funding. But director Davis Guggenheim argues money can’t be the pivotal factor:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Free online film: Inherently Windy

A Hollywood History of the Scopes Trial
74 minutes / 2004
RATING: 7/10

In 1925 teacher John Scopes was found guilty, and fined $100, for violating a law which prohibited the teaching “that man descended from a lower order of animals.” But while the court found him guilty, the US media championed him in their papers, and fed the public a distorted account of events that made the anti-evolutionist prosecuting attorney, William Jennings Bryan, look like a fool.

A play about events, called Inherit the Wind, often produced by high schools and colleges, spread the distorted account to subsequent generations, and a 1960 film of the same title (starring Spencer Tracy) took the distortion to a whole new audience. There was no attempt at fairness - in one bombastic scene the town’s fundamentalist Christians are portrayed as an angry mob, marching on the jail to lynch the evolution-teaching teacher!

This, then, is another caricature of creationists, but bigger than most in that it’s portrayal of creationists as violent, dim-witted and bigoted has impacted public perception for generations.

One of the best responses to the film is a lecture done by Dr. David Menton. In his presentation Inherently Wind: A Hollywood History of the Scopes Trial he deconstructs one outrageous lie after another by showing a scene from the film, and then explaining the actual facts of the matter. Even if you’ve never seen or heard of Inherit the Wind before, it’s still worth watching this lecture just to learn about the contempt and hatred Hollywood has historically had for Bible-believing Christians. And if you have seen the film Dr. Menton’s presentation will blow your mind. You may have realized the film was propaganda, but you never realized just how little regard the filmmakers had for truth, fairness and honesty.

This great presentation can be viewed free online here.