American culture is changing.
In some ways, that is no great news. Culture is always changing and shifting to some degree. But right now, American culture is changing in some unprecedented ways and at an unprecedented speed. It seems new developments and shifts emerge daily.
But many people seem not to be paying attention. We eventually hear about big developments, but are we paying attention to the specific developments and shifts in thought as they’re happening in real time? If not, the train of culture will get too far down the track and rescue won’t be possible…
A cultural engine is a force/institution within a larger culture that drives or produces change. Cultural engines shape minds and hearts, beliefs and practices. In a positive sense, cultural engines help teach people how to think. As of late, many modern cultural engines opt for teaching people what to think.
Here are some influential cultural engines in modern society…
Schools: Elementary through College. Especially public schools.
Publications: New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal.
Entertainment Producers: Disney-Pixar, Universal, Warner Bros., Paramount, etc.
Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok.
Sporting Organizations like the NFL, NBA, NCAA.
Retailers: Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.
Christians must not only be aware of these engines, but of how they are functioning within our society. Almost every engine listed above is not only operating within society, almost all of them are attempting to move our culture further and further left. They are trying to tell us what to think rather than teaching us how to think.
These engines are demonstrably bent on liberalizing our culture from top to bottom. Far from staying in their own lanes, there seems to be a collaboration across these engines for a shared common goal: Promotion of a new way of understanding the self and the world as seen most clearly in the gender/sexual/race revolution.
In his watershed book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, and the condensed version, Strange New World, Dr. Carl Trueman says this movement is rooted and focused on the realization of the idea of “self.” This idea of “self” can be understood as Expressive Individualism.
He defines Expressive Individualism, along with Philosopher Charles Taylor, as the belief that “each person has a unique core feeling and intuition that should unfold or be expressed if individuality is to be realized.” (SNW, 22)
In other words, in our culture, we are coming more and more to think of ourselves as the source of truth. Each person has “their own truth.” Trueman succinctly makes the point stating that the phrase, “I am a man in a woman’s body,” makes sense in today’s world.
In one way or another, each of the cultural engines listed above is seeking to promote the idea of expressive individualism. While I don’t have room to explore the intricacies of this statement here, I would refer you to Trueman’s work on the subject for a full treatment and analysis.
An Example: The Casel Learning System.
Let’s consider one example of how a cultural engine is driving the culture to the left.
The New York Times released an article reporting that the State of Florida has banned certain math textbooks in public schools. The article is slanted against the State for rejecting the books.
“Florida has rejected 42 of 132 math textbooks proposed for use in public school classrooms because they “incorporate prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies” including social-emotional learning and critical race theory, according to the state’s Department of Education…
At a Monday news conference, Mr. DeSantis highlighted the presence of “social and emotional learning” material in the rejected elementary school textbooks. “Math is about getting the right answer,” he said. “And we want kids to learn to think so they get the right answer. It’s not about how you feel about the problem.”
The article casts Governor DeSantis’ comments about SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) and CRT (Critical Race Theory) in a negative light saying,
“A review of sample content from one publisher whose elementary school textbooks appear to have been rejected, Big Ideas Learning, showed lessons intended to build self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making and social awareness and relationship skills.”
The implication being, “Who wouldn’t want self-awareness, self-management, and the like taught to our children?”
The problem is, and I think Governor DeSantis and his leadership see this, that SEL and other such approaches to education are grounded in secular worldviews that contradict our national identity, but more importantly, worldviews that contradict the teachings of Scripture.
Big Ideas Learning, publisher of one of the rejected textbooks, utilizes the Casel Framework learning system in their textbooks. This system is rooted in SEL and specifically promotes 5 learning objectives across its approach to various educational subjects…
Responsible Decision Making.
The problem is not in the objectives themselves, but in the worldview that lies behind them. Casel specifically looks for ways to incorporate these worldview values into each of the subjects in its textbooks published for school aged children. Casel has very specific worldview objectives that define and shape these learning goals.
Here is Casel’s own description of itself and its goals…
“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.
SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.”
Without spending too much time here (I would encourage you to read the entire statement in their website), it is not hard to see that Casel has a social agenda. Casel is a cultural engine. Casel is not interested in educating young people. They are self-attestingly interested in indoctrinating young people.
Notice the expressive individualism in their language: healthy identities, emotions, personal goals, empathy, relationships. These things really have no business influencing things such as math textbooks. But, such ideas are showing up in math problems and the like.
Consider this statement on Casel’s website which nakedly admits their desire to teach children what to think rather than how to think…
Many school districts, states, and countries have used the CASEL 5 to establish preschool to high school learning standards and competencies that articulate what students should know and be able to do for academic success, school and civic engagement, health and wellness, and fulfilling careers.
And again, the Casel website states its objectives clearly…
“We believe it is most beneficial to integrate SEL throughout the school’s academic curricula and culture, across the broader contexts of school-wide practices and policies, and through ongoing collaboration with families and community organizations. These coordinated efforts should foster youth voice, agency, and engagement; establish supportive classroom and school climates and approaches to discipline; enhance adult SEL competence; and establish authentic family and community partnerships.
Students, families, schools, and communities are all part of broader systems that shape learning, development, and experiences. Inequities based on race, ethnicity, class, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other factors are deeply ingrained in the vast majority of these systems and impact student and adult social, emotional, and academic learning. While SEL alone will not solve longstanding and deep-seated inequities in the education system, it can create the conditions needed for individuals and schools to examine and interrupt inequitable policies and practices, create more inclusive learning environments, and reveal and nurture the interests and assets of all individuals.”
This statement on their website clearly shows the company is operating from a worldview influenced and informed by Woke ideology, the Gender Revolution, Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. Worldviews that are diametrically opposed to Biblical truth and our national identity.
Casel is also attempting to redirect the order of education by elevating the role of the public classroom over the role of the home. Notice how they’ve ordered the flow of education in their graphic…
Classroom first, school second, and then the home. An order that is severely broken.
Christians must be aware of the shifts taking place within our culture. These things are occurring at a dizzying rate.
-Consider this: The Casel 5 framework (and worldview) is being utilized in “40 states and 90% of districts, schools, teachers, and students in the US.”
Make no mistake, these engines are pumping. And they’re pumping strong.
A man stated recently, “Canceling your Disney+ subscription while your kids are in public school is like putting sunscreen on your kid before sending them for a swim in shark-infested water.”
While I don’t agree with the statement in its entirety, it does highlight that we can tend to take a “head in the sand” approach to culture in many ways. Christians must be watching; we must stay vigilant. We must guard ourselves and our children against this all out assault on truth. We must hold fast to the truth while the culture marches headlong off a cliff.
P.S. - The prevalence of the Casel framework in our school systems does not necessarily mean every teacher and administrator is pushing it. Good teachers and administrators can utilize a curriculum without emphasizing everything. My intention is to point the worldview behind the framework, which is, and will continue to have a profound effect on our children.