religious liberty

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       who is cks?
 An Educational Journey

My professional educational experience has been entirely in public institutions of learning.  All of my education was in public institutions of learning.  And yet much of my education has come from sources outside these institutions.  I have had helpful teachers, professors and colleagues along the way and I thank God for them. 

I have spent 35 years in the public schools teaching a variety of subjects in the social studies; American history, American politics, the United States Constitution and Economics.  I spent 23 years in public institutions as a student obtaining various degrees.  I graduated from Pennsbury High School (1967) in Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  My undergraduate degree (BA, Sociology, 1971) and Master’s degree (1984, M.Ed. History) was from Shippensburg College (University), Pennsylvania, and my Ph.D. was from the Pennsylvania State University (1995, Curriculum and Instruction). 

In my graduate degrees I tried to concentrate on the historical aspects of whatever I was studying.  While pursuing a master’s degree I took every history course I could put into my schedule, even though it was an education degree.  I did the same with my doctoral studies.  My Ph.D. dissertation was on the religious content of history textbooks used in high school classes during the 19th century and early 20th century.  Learning, studying and teaching history has been my life-long professional and personal passion.  This website is simply an extension of that interest in history. 

Why do I have this interest in history?  I think some of this is a desire to understand the world and people.  Studying history is a window into the meaning of life.  History offers sign posts to meaning beyond this life.  As John Eldredge suggests in his excellent little book, Epic: The Story God is Telling and the Role That Is Yours to Play, the stories of history point to a greater and original story.  In Christianity we discover this greater story and we are told how it ends. 

A major reason for this interest was my conversion to the Christian faith which took place during my undergraduate studies at Shippensburg University.  I should explain this so that you will know why this Christian influence is so important in my life and teaching.

My interest in the Christian religion was first stimulated by my parents (Charles C., Jr. and Betty L. C. Shannon) who became evangelical Christians when I was in junior high school.  They went from being nice, moral, church-goers to becoming disciples of Jesus Christ who entered their lives and transformed their lives.  At first, their families thought they had “gone off the deep end,” but this relationship with Jesus really changed them.  I could see that, but I did not desire such change for myself.  Instead, I pursued the pleasures and interests of a teenager in the 1960s.  But I did hear the message of evangelical preachers and I also had a teacher in high school who encouraged me to read a good book.  I was not much interested in reading good books; I was more interested in my social life.  The book in this literature class was Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s  Crime and Punishment.  The part of the book that impressed me was Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov’s self-righteous attitude that caused him to think of himself as superior to others and his struggle with internal guilt and his eventual release from guilt and forgiveness through the resurrection of Jesus from the grave.   I did not immediately respond to this message, but seeds were being sown, and of all places, in a public high school.

I continued in my pursuit of pleasure and social acceptance, but all the while I wanted my life to count for something good.  Remember, this was the height of the sixties youth culture and the revolution taking place on college campuses.  Even conservative Shippensburg College was somewhat influenced by these events in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  I changed my major to Sociology thinking that this would be an opportunity to serve people.  I even explored transferring to another school to pursue a career in the medical field.  During my sophomore year I had a course which studied the Greek poets and philosophers.  This further developed my interest in studying the meaning of life, but the pagan Greeks had no satisfying answer to this question.  I had some friends who were interested in poetry readings and coffee houses and who were dabbling in various religious and humanistic psychological experiences.  We indulged in wine and cheese parties, listened to the Beatles’ White Album and discussed the meaning of life. 

During the summer of 1969, I was gradually converted to Christianity and I became a follower of Jesus Christ.  This was more a process than an instantaneous event.  There was no evangelist and no public decision at a church service.  Most of the change took place while I worked at a  summer construction job and visited the New Jersey beaches on the weekends.  Conversion to Christ meant turning from my former life of pleasure seeking.  Now I began studying the Bible with the goal of knowing Christ.  Now I studied the Bible as God’s word to me.  I began categorizing its teaching and writing out what it said.  I returned to the Shippensburg campus a new person with a new direction.  I still struggled with old habits, but now I sought out the Christians on campus and identified with them. 

Back in classes I was in the lion’s den in where professors who were hostile toward the Bible and historic Christianity, attacked the Christian faith.  It seemed like the former ministers were the most vicious in their attacks.  I was forced to study history, philosophy and the defense of Christianity.  In sociology and psychology classes I encountered thorough-going atheistic and naturalistic humanism that taught all morals were relative and there was no absolute truth.  Classes in sensitivity training and psychology sought to inculcate the values of  Enlightenment humanism into me.  I had to study Christian theology and history as much as a studied my course work.  I was read and studied the Christian view of any topic that professors introduced in class.  I had to do the double of the work of the typical student, but this discipline and training would benefit me in the long run. 

The last two years of undergraduate studies were an intensive time of study of the Christian religion and the philosophies and religions of the world.  I continued these kinds of studies after graduation.  I invested significant time studying John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, numerous books by Francis Schaeffer, Benjamin B. Warfield, C.S. Lewis and various Puritan writers. 

It was during these years that I began to sense I had some interest in and an ability to teach young people.  After doing some teaching in the church, I decided to return to
Shippensburg College to pursue a teaching degree.  I concentrated on the study of history as I took courses toward a teaching certificate and a Masters of Education degree.  At Shippensburg College I had some gifted and inspiring professors, Dr. Paul Gill and Dr. Jack Morrison were two of the best.  These men were interesting story-tellers and scholars who knew their history.  They were also excellent teachers who encouraged their students and pushed us to excel.

I began my teaching career in 1976 at a junior high school.  My students were 7th and 8th graders whom I taught World History and American History.  I later transferred to high school and began teaching Civics (in particular, the Constitution of the United States) and American politics.  For the past twenty years I have taught these subjects as well as American history. 

At the beginning of my public school teaching career I was introduced to the moral relativism of the popular “Values Clarification” curriculum.  As part of the requirements for continuing my employment I wrote a paper on this new educational innovation.   I was highly critical of attempt to indoctrinate students in a philosophy of relativism, but I am not sure that anyone read my criticism.  Administrators don’t usually have the time or energy for serious intellectual engagement.   I never received any response to my criticism. 

The academic public school establishment protested that they were not teaching moral relativism and only right-wing fanatics were complaining.  They were just helping students explore their own personal moral beliefs.  But if you read the literature on Values Clarification, you could see clearly the philosophical relativism of the theorists.  Thirty-five years later the fruit of moral relativism is apparent in the approval of the homosexual lifestyle by the public school establishment. 

I had other conflicts with secular administrators who did not like my inclusion of religious history in teaching American history.  One administrator complained that I was teaching about Anabaptists as champions of religious freedom.  What did they have to do with American history?  So, when teaching about religious liberty in America I was told I could not teach about religious liberty origins among the Anabaptists in Europe.  This school controversy ended in a kind of stalemate.  Administrators seeking to advance their careers moved on to new school districts; I moved on to teaching higher grades. 

These leftist secularists might have actually helped me to achieve more balance in my teaching,  instead they tried to silence me.  Nevertheless, I was learning to include a variety of viewpoints in my teaching.  This included the identification of leftist philosophy which normally remains hidden in the public school curriculum.   The public school establishment liked to think of itself as fair, moderate and not biased.  They could not see or chose to be blind to their own hostility to Christian or conservative views of the world.  They labeled anyone who opposed their philosophical naturalism and secularism as fanatical and right wing. 

In teaching American history I have sought to give a fair representation of leftist and liberal philosophy and to trace its consequences.  I have also sought to give an accurate account of the Christian influences on the American nation.  Some students have been so indoctrinated into anti-religious attitudes that they ask if it is legal if we talk about religion in history class. 

I taught ninth grade civics for quite a few years.  In these courses I emphasized the study of the Constitution of United States.  Studying the Constitution was rewarding, but I moved on to teach American history during the last several years.  I think I was wearing thin teaching younger students and I needed more mature students.  Unfortunately, even in the upper grades of public school you will find many immature students, both intellectually and socially.  If you teach the Advanced Placement courses in a public high school you will have students with more motivation.  In classes with the general population of students you will encounter illiterate students and even anti-literate students.  There is a growing minority of students who oppose learning.  They know they must pass classes but they chose to only do the bare minimum of work to pass.  Most students do not possess a desire to learn or a curiosity about the world and history. 

I thought my career in high school was leading to a dead end in the early 1990s.  I was discouraged by the lack of motivation in my students.  I decided to pursue a graduate degree wit h the intent of moving into college teaching.  I attended the Pennsylvania State University where amidst a sea of political correctness and liberalism I found some professors who were islands of reason and true scholarship.  My year of sabbatical leave was quite enjoyable as I researched and wrote and taught undergraduates.  I graduated from Penn State in 1995 with a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. 

All of these studies were taken with a view of integrating the Christian faith into my teaching and research.  I emerged from graduate studies strengthened in my faith in Christ.  I fully intended to go into college teaching and began sending out resumes to potential employers.  But now I had children who were entering high school and we decided not to uproot them from their friends and our families.  So I went back to high school teaching with new insights and motivation. 

My goal in my teaching has been to provide students with a reasoned defense of the Christian faith.  This is not something that they normally hear in the public schools.  I am not sure I have succeeded in this goal.  I have tried to display a Christian character by being patient and forgiving and I hope I have improved in these qualities.  I have certainly not always given students the best I had to offer; time restraints have not always allowed me to do all I wanted to do.  I have found high school teaching intellectually challenging, especially as the teacher must digest a lot of history in order to bring understanding to his students.  In a twentieth century course on American history, how much material can you cover in 18 weeks?  What content do you eliminate?  What is important for students to understand?  And the target keeps moving because now I have 35 more years of history from when I started teaching.  In 1976 when I started teaching the Vietnam War was fresh in everyone’s mind, but now it is fading and new wars have taken center stage and new enemies of American freedom have emerged. 

Perhaps this website will help make up for those places where I have fallen short.

My teaching career is coming to an end just when America is engaged in a great battle for its survival against the forces of Islamism and Leftism.  The public schools are a tool of the Leftists to advance their agenda, but that is not the whole story.  There are many individual teachers who are an obstacle to this agenda.  I hope I have offered my students an alternative to the leftist agenda. 

I hope other teachers will start their own websites to counter this Leftist agenda in public institutions of learning. 

To God be the glory.