As a father of two young boys, I have had to think extensively about the educational decisions that my wife and I have to make in the next few years. Among Christians, there are essentially three options: public education, private Christian schooling, or homeschooling. We’ve been looking at a variety of resources on these issues, and when the documentary film IndoctriNation was recommended, we thought that it would be worth watching in order to hear from those who promote homeschooling.
The film follows Colin Gunn, a Scottish filmmaker who takes his family for a tour around the United States in a school bus. He makes it clear from the outset that he is an advocate of homeschooling, and is opposed to government education. Gunn is a good narrator, and the film is well put-together. In terms of production, its of very high quality in comparison with some other Christian movies.
The movie begins by showing clips of pastors who promote differing views regarding educational choices for Christian children. He contrasts a clip of Albert Mohler, who argues that we should not send our children to government schools, and Franklin Graham who argues that our children should be sent out as missionaries to public schools. This division frames the rest of the film, and it is argued that the position of Mohler and others is the only Biblical option.
From a theological perspective, Gunn shows clips from Voddie Bauckham and interviews R.C. Sproul Jr. Many of the arguments made by these figures, I find to be thoroughly persuasive. As Sproul points out, the “missionary” approach to public education simply hasn’t worked. Instead of converting pagans to Christianity, our Christian children convert to paganism. Whether we want to believe that or not, its a statistical reality.
Gunn doesn’t just interview pastors and theologians, however. He speaks to several people who were part of public education and left due to its anti-Christian bias. These teachers open up about the struggles they face in being unable to name Christ in the classroom. This is not simply the teachers who are silenced, but even students. They show a clip of a valedictorian whose speech is cut off due to her mention of the Gospel.
Though much of the film is helpful, there are some problematic aspects to this documentary. Strangely, the only two alternatives presented in this documentary are homeschooling and public education. There is no mention, either positive or negative, of Christian schooling. Even though it was not a focus of the documentary, Christian schools should have at least been mentioned. The viewer is left to choose between secular government schools, and education their own children as a full-time job. This simply isn’t an option for everyone, and there are plenty of good Christian schools throughout the country where a child will receive a God-honoring and academically reputable education.
Some of the emotionalism in the movie is also overdone. Near the end of the film, a father whose son was killed at the Columbine shootings is interviewed, and the shootings are blamed on public education and Darwinism. Such lines are, I think, harder to draw than the documentary allows. Who’s to say that if these boys were homeschooled in a Christian environment, that they would have been any less evil? It’s sin that causes these types of horrific events, not any one particular ideology. This is something that bothers me in documentaries generally. I was reminded of the Nazi section of Expelled, or how Wal Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices somehow blames Wal Mart for shootings in store parking lots. Correlation does not necessitate causation. I think that many of the other points stood on their own, and such overreaching emotionalism was unnecessary, and did more harm than good in making the case against public education.
The one final problem I had with this documentary is that there seems to be an assumption throughout that without explicit mention of Christ, everything that one learns will be useless. There was no talk of, or acknowledgment of, natural law. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it is much better if our children educated in a Christian environment, but we need not discount the wisdom and reason that God has granted to all-mankind, regardless of one’s regeneration. There is much wisdom to be gained, even from pagans. I suspect, however, that this is due to a VanTillian bias, and from a natural law-two kingdoms perspective, I’m probably a bit more optimistic about the wisdom that can be gained from unbelievers.
Overall, I found that this is a documentary worth watching. It gives a helpful perspective for parents trying to make educational decisions for their children. They convincingly demonstrate that government schools are not the best option for Christian parents, and that there is no basis for viewing our little children as missionaries in secular schools. However, the rhetoric in the film is a bit extreme, and many of the points are overstated.