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"The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth. It is the one business for which the earth exists. To it all politics, all war, all literature, all money-making, ought to be subordinated; and every parent especially ought to feel, every hour of the day, that, next to making his own calling and election sure, this is the end for which he is "The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth. It is the one business for which the earth exists. To it all politics, all war, all literature, all money-making, ought to be subordinated; and every parent especially ought to feel, every hour of the day, that, next to making his own calling and election sure, this is the end for which he is kept alive by God—this is his task on earth." -R.L. Dabney


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"The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth. It is the one business for which the earth exists. To it all politics, all war, all literature, all money-making, ought to be subordinated; and every parent especially ought to feel, every hour of the day, that, next to making his own calling and election sure, this is the end for which he is "The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth. It is the one business for which the earth exists. To it all politics, all war, all literature, all money-making, ought to be subordinated; and every parent especially ought to feel, every hour of the day, that, next to making his own calling and election sure, this is the end for which he is kept alive by God—this is his task on earth." -R.L. Dabney

30 review for On Secular Education

  1. 5 out of 5

    Miles Foltermann

    Dabney warned us. Christians—if you send your children to Caesar’s schools, you ought not to be surprised when they emerge as Romans.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mason Sherrill

    Incredibly insightful read! Especially intriguing is the time period in which Dabney wrote and how true his conclusions about the consequences of secularizing education. I admit I had to re-read several portions of the text to truly understand the high vocabulary and arguments he made. And I did ultimately disagree with some of his assertions about God’s intentions and purposes for the government. Yet, overall I highly recommend this read for anyone working in education or who is interested in e Incredibly insightful read! Especially intriguing is the time period in which Dabney wrote and how true his conclusions about the consequences of secularizing education. I admit I had to re-read several portions of the text to truly understand the high vocabulary and arguments he made. And I did ultimately disagree with some of his assertions about God’s intentions and purposes for the government. Yet, overall I highly recommend this read for anyone working in education or who is interested in examining how public education in America has become what it is today.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Donald Owens II

    I don't believe I disagreed with, or could have improved on a single line. I am just astonished that this has been around so long, and yet otherwise apparently sane and reasonable people still support state schools. Every parent should read this. Again. I don't believe I disagreed with, or could have improved on a single line. I am just astonished that this has been around so long, and yet otherwise apparently sane and reasonable people still support state schools. Every parent should read this. Again.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel

    This was written back in the 19 century and it is prophetic even for our day.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Miles Smith

    Dabney’s eerily prophetic warnings about the relationship between Christianity, secularism, and education or worth reading. I’m not where Wilson is on a lot of issues and we have a different understanding of the Christian life but he seems to has done a nice job with the language.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Adam Calvert

    Terrific read. I'm thankful Douglas Wilson brought this into print. It's amazing to me that R.L. Dabney saw the danger of state-controlled education back in the 1800's, and yet so many today - even after experiencing it their whole lives - still do not understand how important distinctively Christian education is. I hope this short work gets a large audience. Highly recommended. Terrific read. I'm thankful Douglas Wilson brought this into print. It's amazing to me that R.L. Dabney saw the danger of state-controlled education back in the 1800's, and yet so many today - even after experiencing it their whole lives - still do not understand how important distinctively Christian education is. I hope this short work gets a large audience. Highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Pippin

    Wow; amazing read. As an education major I can say this was so insightful against the backdrop of Dewey and his contemporaries. This quotes sums it up: “Until the magistrate can feel a love, and be nerved by it to a self-denying care and toil, equal to that of a father and a mother, he can show no reason for assuming any parental function.” The secular public school system undoubtedly sees their role as parental. Dewey, signer is the Humanist Manifesto, advocated strongly for his idea of the “co Wow; amazing read. As an education major I can say this was so insightful against the backdrop of Dewey and his contemporaries. This quotes sums it up: “Until the magistrate can feel a love, and be nerved by it to a self-denying care and toil, equal to that of a father and a mother, he can show no reason for assuming any parental function.” The secular public school system undoubtedly sees their role as parental. Dewey, signer is the Humanist Manifesto, advocated strongly for his idea of the “common faith.” His ideals strips any sort of parental influence from civil education. Dabney is so prophetic here it’s scary. Best piece on secular education I’ve ever read or think I will read, honestly. He sums up perfectly the goal of true education here: “Every line of true knowledge must find its completeness as it converges on God, just as every beam of daylight leads the eye to the sun. If religion is excluded from our study, every process of thought will be arrested before it reaches its proper goal.” If you do not start with, “Thus says the Lord” first, you aren’t talking about true education.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sean Higgins

    Fantastic little booklet on the inevitable self-defeating or self-deifying nature of godless education. Without a god, the State has no authority though she must teach and govern the school with authority. "Says who? What gives you the right?" Without a god, the State cannot teach toward a man's highest end though she must act like she can or else lose her reason for existence. "What can you do for me? How will I use this later?" As Dabney writes, Every line of true knowledge must find its complete Fantastic little booklet on the inevitable self-defeating or self-deifying nature of godless education. Without a god, the State has no authority though she must teach and govern the school with authority. "Says who? What gives you the right?" Without a god, the State cannot teach toward a man's highest end though she must act like she can or else lose her reason for existence. "What can you do for me? How will I use this later?" As Dabney writes, Every line of true knowledge must find its completeness as it converges on God, just as every beam of daylight leads the eye to the sun. If religion is excluded from our study, every process of thought will be arrested before it reaches its proper goal. (17) Without a god, the State cannot mention information or perspective on a host of issues, which is not actually education. The instructor has to teach history, cosmogony, psychology, ethics, and the laws of nations. How can he do it without saying anything favorable or unfavorable about the beliefs of evangelical Christians, Catholics, Socinians, Deists, pantheists, materialists, or fetish worshippers, who all claim equal rights under American institutions? His teaching will indeed be "the play of Hamlet, with the part of Hamlet omitted." (17) Because of these problems (and more), without a god, the State must eventually become one. Humanity always finds out, sooner or later, that it cannot get on without a religion, and it will take a false one in preference to none. (27) Dabney's prophecies have now been fulfilled in the "glory" of America's public schools.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John

    Before schools were federalized, Dabney predicted they would become thoroughly secular and antithetical to Christianity. Well, it seems he was right. This is a great, short read, arguing that religiously neutral education is inherently hostile to religion. Education is primarily the responsibility of parents, and should only be given to others with great thought and care. Surrendering your children to secular teachers is to surrender them to anti-Christian teachers. This is an important read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Logan Thune

    Very solid. Some of the best quotes: "It is properly the whole man or person that is educated, but the main subject of work is the spirit. Education is the nurture and development of the whole man for his proper end. That end must be conceived rightly in order to understand the process, and even man’s earthly end is predominantly moral. …dexterity in art [i.e., “trade skills”] is not education. The latter nurtures the soul; the other only drills a sense organ or muscle. The one has a mechanical e Very solid. Some of the best quotes: "It is properly the whole man or person that is educated, but the main subject of work is the spirit. Education is the nurture and development of the whole man for his proper end. That end must be conceived rightly in order to understand the process, and even man’s earthly end is predominantly moral. …dexterity in art [i.e., “trade skills”] is not education. The latter nurtures the soul; the other only drills a sense organ or muscle. The one has a mechanical end; the other, a moral purpose." “Every line of true knowledge must find its completeness as it converges on God, just as every beam of daylight leads the eye to the sun. If religion is excluded from our study, every process of thought will be arrested before it reaches its proper goal.” “Because all truths converge towards God, the teacher who cannot name God must have fragmented teaching. He can only construct a truncated figure. In history, ethics, philosophy, and jurisprudence, religious facts and propositions are absolutely inseparable from the subject at hand.” “The actual and consistent secularization of education should not be tolerated. But nearly all public men and preachers declare that the public schools are the glory of America. They are a finality, and in no event to be surrendered. We have seen that their complete secularization is logically inevitable. Christians must prepare themselves then, for the following results: All prayers, catechisms, and Bibles will ultimately be driven out of the schools.” “The competitions of the State and the Church for power over education have been so engrossing that we have almost forgotten the parent, the third and rightful competitor. And now many look at the parental claim almost contemptuously. Because the spheres of Church and State are so much wider and more populous than that of the parent, they are prone to regard it as every way inferior. But have we not seen that the smaller circle is, in fact, the most original and best authorized of the three?”

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sean Wilson

    Dabney sees and expresses clearly the way that education can’t be neatly disentangled from how a community raises up the next generation in its cultus, the way that many contemporary evangelicals seem to think it is. “No training of any faculty takes place without some government. On what moral basis shall the teacher who wholly suppresses all appeal to religion rest that authority which he must exercise in the school-room? He will find it necessary to say to the pupil, "Be diligent. Be obedient. Dabney sees and expresses clearly the way that education can’t be neatly disentangled from how a community raises up the next generation in its cultus, the way that many contemporary evangelicals seem to think it is. “No training of any faculty takes place without some government. On what moral basis shall the teacher who wholly suppresses all appeal to religion rest that authority which he must exercise in the school-room? He will find it necessary to say to the pupil, "Be diligent. Be obedient. Lie not. Defraud not," in order that he may learn his secular knowledge. But on whose authority? There is but one ground of moral obligation, the will of God […]”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Bittle

    Timeless! WOW, though this was written in the 1800's, it's very applicable to today. A must read for all Christians. Gave me much to think about, concerning the how's and why's of education of our children. Timeless! WOW, though this was written in the 1800's, it's very applicable to today. A must read for all Christians. Gave me much to think about, concerning the how's and why's of education of our children.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Powers

    Good essay on secular education and why Christians should oppose it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    Reminded me of why I own almost all of Dabney's works. His reasoning is tight and spiritual. He also happens to be predicting much of what we see in State schools today. Liked it a lot. Reminded me of why I own almost all of Dabney's works. His reasoning is tight and spiritual. He also happens to be predicting much of what we see in State schools today. Liked it a lot.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Eric Keel

    Dabney was on point even in the 1800s. Just wish it was longer.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dwain Minor

    This book is full of wisdom that should have been heeded long ago and should be examined and applied to our day.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vincent Stewart

    Thought provoking, prophetic, and still extremely relevant today. Thought provoking, prophetic, and still extremely relevant today. God has ordained specific responsibilities to each sphere of government. Dabney makes a compelling case that the work of Education belongs not to that of the church or to the civil authorities (the state) but it belongs to the parents.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    Made some good and salient points... but I cannot help but be a little wary of an author who could be so catastrophically wrong about so basic a subject as racism and slavery. That being said, taking the subject of education in isolation, I think the arguments laid out have some real merit that are worth careful consideration.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Eric Naykalyk

    Insightful. Well-reasoned. Prophetic. Dabney lays out, with remarkable clarity, the insufferable mess that government-run public education is destined to become more than one hundred and fifty years after his writing.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Abrahamus

    Dabney was an extremely insightful—indeed almost prophetic, it would seem—cultural analyst who quite accurately predicted the abysmal wreck which the then nascent system of government education would become. No doubt most of his late 19th century colleagues dismissed him as a cranky overreactionary, and the truth is that he did occasionally succumb to the caricature (at least the cranky part), although if anything his predictions were, in hindsight, quite conservative. A necessary read for anyon Dabney was an extremely insightful—indeed almost prophetic, it would seem—cultural analyst who quite accurately predicted the abysmal wreck which the then nascent system of government education would become. No doubt most of his late 19th century colleagues dismissed him as a cranky overreactionary, and the truth is that he did occasionally succumb to the caricature (at least the cranky part), although if anything his predictions were, in hindsight, quite conservative. A necessary read for anyone who wants to understand just where, when and how public eduction really started to go off the rails, as well as for anyone who still doesn't grasp where seemingly inconsequential compromises today will get your children and grandchildren tomorrow.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marty

    I found this succinct statement of what is wrong with the idea of government schooling one of the best quotes from the book: "It is not true that the civil authority is entitled to shape a people to suit itself. The opposite is true; the people should shape the civil authority." Another interesting thing is that this book contains the argument which Doug Wilson so fondly uses in all of his debates against athiests and secularists, which is that the same provides no foundation for morality: "[The I found this succinct statement of what is wrong with the idea of government schooling one of the best quotes from the book: "It is not true that the civil authority is entitled to shape a people to suit itself. The opposite is true; the people should shape the civil authority." Another interesting thing is that this book contains the argument which Doug Wilson so fondly uses in all of his debates against athiests and secularists, which is that the same provides no foundation for morality: "[The teacher] will find it necessary to say to the pupil, "Be diligent. Be obedient. Do not lie." This must be done so the student may acquire his secular knowledge. But on whose authority? By what standard?"

  22. 5 out of 5

    Corina Treece

    Here is a short abbreviation of this book. Let the book speak for itself: "I do not place much confidence in the philosopher who pretends that the knowledge which develops the passions is an instrument for their suppression, or that where there are the most desires there is likely to be the most order, and the most abstinence in their gratification." "To educate the mind of a bad man without correcting his morals is to put a sword into the hands of a maniac." And as John Locke is quoted by Dabne Here is a short abbreviation of this book. Let the book speak for itself: "I do not place much confidence in the philosopher who pretends that the knowledge which develops the passions is an instrument for their suppression, or that where there are the most desires there is likely to be the most order, and the most abstinence in their gratification." "To educate the mind of a bad man without correcting his morals is to put a sword into the hands of a maniac." And as John Locke is quoted by Dabney, "It is virtue, then, direct virtue, which is the hard and valuable part to be aimed at in education. If virtue is not settled in the student, to the exclusion of all vicious habits, all the education in the world will do nothing but make the student worse or more dangerous."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Prophetic. "It is a maxim in political philosophy, as in mechanics, that when an organism is applied to a function for which it was not designed, it is injured and the function is ill done. Here is a farmer who has a mill designed and well fitted to grind his meal. He resolves that it shall also thresh his sheaves. The consequence is that he has wretched threshing and a crippled mill. I repeat, God designed the State to be the organ for securing secular justice. When it turns to teaching or preac Prophetic. "It is a maxim in political philosophy, as in mechanics, that when an organism is applied to a function for which it was not designed, it is injured and the function is ill done. Here is a farmer who has a mill designed and well fitted to grind his meal. He resolves that it shall also thresh his sheaves. The consequence is that he has wretched threshing and a crippled mill. I repeat, God designed the State to be the organ for securing secular justice. When it turns to teaching or preaching it repeats the farmers’ experience."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sean McGowan

    This was an awesome little book. Dabney was before his time regarding education in America with statements such as this: "So the actual and consistent secularization of education should not be tolerated. But nearly all public men and preachers declare that public schools are the glory of America. They are a finality and in no event to be surrendered. We have seen that their complete secularization is logically inevitable. Christians must prepare themselves then, for the following results: All pr This was an awesome little book. Dabney was before his time regarding education in America with statements such as this: "So the actual and consistent secularization of education should not be tolerated. But nearly all public men and preachers declare that public schools are the glory of America. They are a finality and in no event to be surrendered. We have seen that their complete secularization is logically inevitable. Christians must prepare themselves then, for the following results: All prayers, catechisms, and Bibles will ultimately be driven out of the schools". Recommended.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    Interesting read, he accurately predicted the complete secularisation of American government-run education - because the State was officially secular. Makes a case for parental overview of education, rather than schools run by the Church (which he considers to be a Roman Catholic idea). Biggest disagreements I had were more presuppositional than anything else - his arguments hinge upon natural law/theism and Scottish common sense realism.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ron Smith

    In his treatise against state (and church) dominion in the sphere of education, Dabney prophetically describes what would inevitably take place if educational authority would not be vested in the parents of the educated: Secular education would waste large sums of money and result in a people void of true knowledge; a people shaped by the State to suit its own machinations, rather than a just civil authority shaped by a wise and godly people as our republican fathers envisioned.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Dabney was very insightful. If anyone asked me why I was against Public education, I would hand them this. Yet he didn't go far enough with his rejection of secularism. He needed to reject not only secular education, but also the secular state. Dabney was very insightful. If anyone asked me why I was against Public education, I would hand them this. Yet he didn't go far enough with his rejection of secularism. He needed to reject not only secular education, but also the secular state.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kimberley

    Wonderful and timely.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Per

    Good stuff, too bad we didn't listen to Dabney's warnings. Now look where we are. Good stuff, too bad we didn't listen to Dabney's warnings. Now look where we are.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Scott Guillory

    A compelling indictment against the disastrous experiment that is the public school system.

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