The Myth of Neutrality

The place is Atlanta, Georgia, in the heart of the South. Nestled among the trees and surrounded by manicured lawns stands a cluster of stately white buildings, graced with colonial-style columns. This is Westminster School, a "pillar of the Atlanta establishment," as the New York Times puts it, and one of the most distinguished college prep schools in the South. There's only one troubling feature: The school is Christian. At least that troubles some people. This year several parents and alumni have raised a protest against the school's policy of allowing only Christians to teach or sit on the board. Brandishing politically correct labels like "diversity" and "tolerance," protesters say they want non-Christians brought in as teachers. Incredibly, the protest is being treated seriously by several leading universities. This past summer eight universities wrote letters to Westminster expressing disapproval of the school's hiring policy. The admissions dean at Harvard said Westminster students may face a harder time getting into colleges that value what he called "diversity and complexity." Imagine: Harvard University, bastion of liberal education, using its admissions policy as a weapon to coerce a Christian school. In response to the rain of criticism, Westminster is reconsidering its charter. We can only hope and pray it will have the courage to stand firm. For at stake is the whole idea of Christian education. The goal at Westminster, says a former teacher, is to teach "a Christian world view." That means the school seeks to develop a Christian outlook on every subject—from English to sociology to science. Public schooling has taught many of us to think education can be neutral. And it's true that the basic facts are the same for everyone. But how do we decide which facts to select? How are they presented? How are they interpreted? Decisions like these are profoundly affected by our ultimate beliefs—whether Christianity or some other worldview. "Tolerance" and "diversity" aren't the real issue. As one Westminster parent put it, students can get plenty of diversity just by turning on the television, listening to the radio, or reading the newspaper. What most young people lack is some guiding principle to sort through all the diversity thrown at them in our culture. That's what schools like Westminster are trying to give: a comprehensive world view that helps young people make sense of the conflicting opinions they face today. The real irony is that Harvard has the nerve to accuse Westminster of stifling diversity. Places like Harvard have themselves become straitjackets of political correctness. Does anyone really think students in Harvard classrooms are exposed to much of anything besides secular liberalism? I hope the Christian community will rally around Westminster School and give it our wholehearted support. Because if we don't, the next target will be our Christian school, our favorite Christian charity, our Christian ministry. The modern shibboleths of tolerance and diversity will be used to plow under any group that holds a transcendent ideal of truth. These days it seems tolerance is for everyone . . . except Christians.


Chuck Colson


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