Is Layers of Learning Christian or Secular?

Layers of Learning is both Christian and secular and it is neither. We wrote this curriculum so it would allow for people of any faith to pick it up and be comfortable with it, teaching and training their children in the philosophies they deem best.

Book Lists

Whenever we recommend books that have a particular philosophical slant we try to point it out so you know what you’re getting. For example we recommend books that teach creationism and also books that teach evolution, but we’ll let you know which are which.

Religion and Religious People

When we teach about religious philosophies, often brought up in the units, we do so respectfully of all religions. But our aim isn’t to convince you of the tenets of any religion; instead it is our aim to show how religion has impacted the history of the world and human behavior. Religion has been and still is a major factor in the choices people make and the things they do, so we present the religious life of individuals along with everything else. For example, in Unit 2-19 we discuss Petrarch, often called the father of the Renaissance or the father of Humanism.

This is Petrarch, the father of the Renaissance and Renaissance humanism.

This is Petrarch, the father of the Renaissance and Renaissance humanism.

In modern textbooks Petrarch is often portrayed as the first person to celebrate humanity and reject God, but we don’t believe in lying to you so this is what we wrote of Petrarch and his epiphany on Mont Ventoux:

This is often seen as the one event or moment which started the Renaissance. It is the realization that the human mind and spirit can be great, not that it is debased and destined for hell as medieval philosophy and attitudes had taught. But Petrarch’s epiphany had nothing to do with secularism. The human soul is great because it was created by God and because man was created by God he should use all his talents to glorify God, including using his talents in pursuits that were normally labeled secular. Petrarch remained devoted to God throughout his life.

It doesn’t matter what our personal beliefs about God are, it is our job to teach you the truth about what Petrarch’s beliefs were and why he did what he did and what the humanism of the Renaissance was really about. It’s up to you to decide if these men and women, great thinkers, poets, artists, and scientists were right or not. We won’t skew the truth for our own agenda.

The Truth

So while our curriculum isn’t religious and it isn’t secular we don’t take a middle of the road trying-to-please-everyone stance either. We’re not concerned with pleasing anyone. We don’t do politically correct. We do our best to tell the truth and leave you to interpret the facts.

If anything this is our slant, we want kids to have the tools–the truth coupled with training in thinking–so they can find a worldview all their own.

To that end we’ll ask amazing, thinking, worldview defining types of questions. Like this little discussion from Unit 3-17.

Below you will also find the Massachusetts Circular Letter which was written by Samuel Adams. He talks of the “British constitution”, which was not a written constitution, but the body of British law and documents beginning with the Magna Charta and including common law and the British Bill of Rights. How did the colonists feel about private property? Why is it so important? Where does Adams say the Parliament gets its power from and what is the role of the constitution? Relate that to American government today.

This is Samuel Adams.  Was he right about government?  You’ll have to decide for yourself.

When you tell the truth about events in the past and conditions in the present you can’t help but disagree with a great many people who want to change the facts for their own agenda.  The truth is often made to appear as just another opinion.  But truth is entirely free of opinion, it just is what it is.

Our Worldview

But, you say, you must have a slant, a bias, a worldview of your own?

Yes, indeed, we do. I already mentioned we believe strongly in telling the truth and equipping children to think for themselves, that right there is a worldview of ours. Beyond that we take pains throughout the units to show what sorts of human behaviors lead to happiness and which lead to misery. Mostly this is played out in the history and geography sections.

We are in the tank for freedom, politically and economically.  It has been demonstrated again and again that freedom works.  It leaves people in the best position possible to find happiness and pursue their fullest development. So we point out the failures of absolute government and socialism and the high points in human freedom and capitalism, yet still we mostly do this through asking good questions and allowing kids the self discovery of finding the correct answers for themselves.

An example of how we point out absurdities of human nature is from Unit 4-9 in a sidebar in a section that talks about the Bolshevik revolution:

“Conditions in Russia during the Tsars were truly horrible. In 1900 even poor Americans had food to eat, shoes for their feet, jobs, education and most importantly the ability to change their story through hard work. But in Russia there was no education, no food, no social climbing, no hope. People ate roots, wore birch bark or rags on their feet, and were completely illiterate. The problem was the government. It had too much power which it used to make sure people stayed in their proper place. So the communist answer was to shift the power to different people and increase it. Yeah, that’s going to turn out well.”

This is Vladimir Lenin. His lust for power directly resulted in the deaths of millions upon millions. There’s really no way to exaggerate how devastating totalitarianism and communism are to ordinary people.

So obviously we have an anti-communist stance . . . but really we have an anti-evil-controlling-people stance.  We won’t ignore that some of the evil controlling people of the world were those who claimed to have God’s blessing.  We firmly believe in freedom because we’ve read history and we have no qualms pointing out the stupidities of the past that led to atrocities. The Bolshevik revolution led to the deaths of hundreds of millions, most of them killed deliberately by their own government so everyone would fall in line with the we’re-here-to-make-your-lives-better-so-just-cooperate-with-us party stance of the communists.

A bulleted list of our worldview as shown in the pages of Layers of Learning:

  • Good people of many faiths have influenced the world for good, discovered secrets of the universe, and created whole philosophies of thought that are embraced by billions across the world, and we’ll point that out.
  • Bad people have claimed to have God’s mandate and done atrocious things, we’ll point that out too, along with all the bad people that did horrible things while denying God.
  • Freedom is good, coercion is bad.
  • Kids should be taught to think all on their own, not indoctrinated.  We think they are as capable of finding truth as every generation that has come before.
  • It is the job of parents to teach their own children their religious views, not the job of curriculum authors who you don’t even know.
  • The truth is more important than anyone’s agenda.  Truth leads to freedom and enlightenment.  If your goals are honorable, you don’t need to lie.  We will tell the truth about history, about science, about governments, about people.

The Bible

We quote from and direct you to the Bible when it is relevant to the history of the unit we’re presenting.  Obviously Unit 1-19, Christianity, references the Bible.  In fact we quote Revelation 22:13 when explaining symbols used by Christians, including the Alpha and Omega.  We direct students to Matthew chapters 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, when explaining Christian teachings.  And the New Testament makes the reading list for that unit.

The Bible is so integral to western civilization that even if you don’t believe in its divinity, you still ought to be familiar with its contents. This image is of the Bible printed for King Christian III of Denmark in 1550. Photo taken by Bjoertvedt and shared on Wikimedia.

But we don’t quote the Bible when we teach about frogs or gravity or Switzerland and so on.  Again, if/where you think the Bible is relevant it’s your job to point this out.

We also quote Confucius in Unit 1-10, Ancient China, and recommend students read Analects.  The Koran is on the reading list in Unit 2-3, Islam.  And the Ramayana is featured in Unit 1-13, Ancient India.  Other religions are mentioned as they become relevant in the history or geography units.

The religious books we cover, we think are important for everyone to be aware of and educated on because they all matter.

The Religious Focus Is Up To You

I’ve strayed a little from the topic we started with, Christian or secular? This curriculum is neither Christian nor secular because we wrote it deliberately to be a place you can come to for the truth and walk away with the tools to figure out your own worldview, a major part of which is religion.

This curriculum is both Christian and secular (or any other religion) because we wrote it deliberately to be a thinking curriculum where you bring the world as you understand it, including your religious beliefs, and lay them on the table for your kids to see in full view. We hope when you come across a tough topic you will take the time to explain what you personally believe about it and why to your children. We can hardly do that for you. No one can do that for you, nor should they. It’s your job to pass on your beliefs to your kids, not ours.

Questions? Ask away!

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