Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rock On... "Subtle Serpent: New Age In The Classroom"

Title: Subtle Serpent: New Age In The Classroom
Authors: Darylann Whitemarsh & Bill Reisman
Publisher: Huntington House
Genre: Non-Fiction/Christian
Year of Publication: 1993
ISBN: 1-56384-016-2

This Book In 100 Words: Today's students are learning more than just reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic. They're learning how to compromise their own values and are all but forced to accept everyone's wavering opinions on right and wrong. This is being reinforced in the school, where children and teenagers spend nearly half their waking time. As a concerned parent or citizen, you can't help but wonder why gang violence, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, and suicide rates are at an all-time high amongst the youth of the nation. The problem rests with a millennia-old philosophy repackaged for the twentieth (and twenty-first) century: New Age.

Pros: Like many Christian commentaries on contemporary concerns, this book calls for a return to tried and true Christian values, which now looks like an urgent wake-up call from the past considering its claims. The main premise argues that children and teenagers are falling behind academically because they're being brainwashed, for lack of a better term, to tolerate personal and cultural differences on top of their studies, ultimately suggesting that there are no absolute truths. This book claims that such tactics have no role in the classroom, and rightfully so. Teachers are meant to teach, not to indoctrinate. To address this issue, the book does a very good job of explaining what New Age really teaches, several of its strategies inconspicuously utilized in the classroom, and step-by-step directions on creating a parental group to confront any suspicious activity as a result of the New Age philosophy. There's also some appendices that list the physical addresses of several organizations that control the educational spectrum, should anyone want to send an inquiry. This was back in the day when e-mail and Internet were still in their infancy.

Cons: Like many Christian commentaries on contemporary concerns, this book also supposes an exclusive, worst case scenario, that only the subject matter in question (New Age, in this case) is the sole culprit in morally bankrupting the next generation. True, kids and teens are at school a lot of their time, but other influences are out there chipping away against their familial foundation. Another glaring omission I saw was that this book failed to conclusively pinpoint the New Age philosophy as the ulterior motive behind lots of deviant behavior. If anything, I had the feeling that the authors didn't mind New Age altogether, just so long as it stayed away from school. This book also contains a lot of "filler", primarily by adding pages of lengthy Bible verses when paraphrasing would've been sufficient. Furthermore, it would've been nicer had the book elaborated greater on the pitfalls of New Age when compared to Christianity, as it proposes. Finally, this book starts off on an awkward note, for the opening chapter reads like a non sequitur compared to the rest. Methinks the authors took a postmodern approach in drawing their readers in. Tsk, tsk.

Final Verdict: In spite of its age and shortcomings, Subtle Serpent: New Age In The Classroom has some relevance. It's a subject that should be of the utmost concern to parents, especially today when their children are being rewarded for practically every little thing in school. That's not to say each child isn't special, but there will come a time when being just good enough isn't really good enough. So asserts this book, which shows a lot of promise early on. Unfortunately, as the book delves deeper and deeper, the tone shifts from informative to pretentious. Look, not every parent has the free time anymore to form a loose group of other parents in nagging to their local district about each little change to the curriculum. Fighting the public school board successfully would be like winning an election as a write-in candidate. It's doomed to fail, and parents are just better off getting involved with their children's school activities one-on-one. Don't read this if you're expecting to find a systematic takedown of New Age. That ship runs out of steam as the book progresses. However, I do recommend this book if you're looking to understand the ins and outs of this philosophy and its indirect influence in your child's education. You'll be smarter for it.

Rock's Rating: *** stars

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