by Steven Yates by Steven Yates

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A resolution recently submitted to the Southern Baptist Convention for its annual meeting to be held in Indianapolis on June 15–16 calls on parents in this country's largest Protestant denomination to pull their children out of government schools, and either homeschool them or send them to private Christian schools.

Charleston, S.C. native Thomas C. Pinckney, a retired Air Force brigadier general and longstanding critic of state-sponsored education, and Bruce Shortt, a Texas attorney, jointly submitted the resolution. Pinckney is a past Second Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention and publishes The Baptist Banner from Alexandria, Va. His voice carries a great deal of weight within the denomination, which has over 43,000 churches with more than 16.3 million members. Shortt is Texas coordinator for the South Carolina-based Exodus Mandate project. The Resolution has caused enough of a stir to warrant coverage in major newspapers around the country.

For several years now Exodus Mandate has been calling on Christian parents to abandon Pharaoh's school system, as Exodus Mandate founder Rev. E. Ray Moore calls it in his book Let My Children Go (2002). In his book Rev. Moore argues in detail that government schools were a bad idea to begin with. From the start they were steeped in assumptions that were both anti-Christian and alien to the principles on which the United States was founded. For example, the government schools initially established in Massachusetts by Horace Mann and his Unitarian cohorts followed what has become known as the "Prussian model," holding that the individual should be educated into the service of the omnipotent state. Despite all the efforts afoot to "reform" government schools, the problems are intrinsic to the government education model itself. Therefore they cannot be reformed, and we shouldn't try.

According to the strongly-worded resolution, "children taught in the government schools are receiving an anti-Christian education" because "government schools are by their own confession humanistic and secular in their instruction, [thus] the education offered by the government schools is officially Godless …" and "millions of children in government schools spend 7 hours a day, 180 days a year being taught that God is irrelevant to every area of life …" (italics in original).

The resolution also cites the growing acceptability of homosexuality by government schools as evidence of their corruption: "homosexual organizations are present as approved student u2018clubs' in thousands of government schools and are spreading rapidly … Just as it would be fooling for the warrior to give his arrows to his enemies, it is foolish for Christians to give their children to be trained in schools run by the enemies of God."

Pinckney and Shortt also invite us to consider a study by the Nehemiah Institute based on extensive surveys of student worldviews, attitudes and beliefs. According to this study, children growing up in Christian homes tend more and more to adopt a humanist worldview after attending government schools. The Institute has discovered "that acceptance of a secular humanist worldview by Christian children attending government schools has increased dramatically over the last fifteen years … the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life reported to the 2002 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention that 88 percent of the children raised in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18, never to return; …"

The Resolution thus urges Christian parents "to remove their children from the government schools and see to it that they receive a thoroughly Christian education …" It also urges Southern Baptist churches to offer facilities where Christian education may be delivered: "Be it further resolved that the 2004 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention encourages all churches associated with the Southern Baptist Convention to work energetically to counsel parents regarding their obligation to provide their children with a Christian education" and "to provide all of their children with Christian alternatives to government school education, either through home schooling or thoroughly Christian private schools."

First and foremost, argues the Resolution, are Scriptural reasons: "the Bible commands that fathers are to bring up their children in the training and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6: 4)." In his book Rev. Moore cites a number of relevant passages. Deut. 6: 6-7 says, "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise up." Proverbs 22: 6 is also telling: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Thus to paraphrase Rev. Moore, Scripture commands parents to assume control of their children's education with assistance from the church.

A second reason is Constitutional. Nowhere does the U.S. Constitution mention education as a federal responsibility. The Framers considered education to be a matter for states and local communities to undertake. The bottom line from a Constitutional point of view therefore is that under any literal reading of the Constitution, the massive federalization of government schools in recent years is blatantly un-Constitutional.

There are other reasons Southern Baptists (or others) might consider abandoning government schools. These have to do with government schools' increasing failure to educate. For over 20 years now, their decline has been in evidence, with the well known study "A Nation At Risk" (1983) sounding the first official alarms. Moreover, the more money the federal government has thrown at the schools, the worse they have gotten. Billions have been spent on public education since Jimmy Carter created the U.S. Department of Education in the late 1970s. From 1970 to 1995, per-pupil expenditures in government schools increased by over 75 percent. In the 2000–2001 school year, per-pupil expenditures surpassed $7,000 per pupil, with little evidence of significant improvement. According to the U.S. Department of Education's own statistics and recent NAEP assessments, only 31 percent of 4th graders can read proficiently. Only 32 percent can do simple arithmetic. Only 29 percent have gained any proficiency in science. Only 18 percent have learned any U.S. history.

In the mid-1980s I taught logic at a flagship state university. In the mid-1990s I also taught logic at another flagship state university. The difference was akin to day versus night. I could cover material in the 1980s that I could not begin to cover by the mid-1990s! Other instructors from elsewhere in the country told me similar stories. We had all experienced a precipitous across-the-board decline in the level of student preparedness for college-level work. Faculty members should have been sounding the alarm, but too many were busy with their own politically correct agendas.

Today, after Goals 2000 and the blatantly anti-intellectual School-To-Work model, followed up by its current stepchild No Child Left Behind, arguably the most intrusive (and expensive) federal program in U.S. history, there is no concrete, agreed-upon evidence of government schools' improvement. There is, however, abundant evidence that we live in a dumbed-down land. There are adult Americans who cannot tell you who the vice president is, name their state's senators (or tell you how many U.S. senators there are), or, say, walk up to a wall map of the world and point to Iraq. Indeed, some cannot even find the United States!

We are producing a generation, moreover, whose reasoning abilities and capacity to evaluate information are astoundingly low. Just recently I had a conversation with an acquaintance who was complaining about the high price of gas. I pointed out that if you adjust for inflation, prices at the pumps were actually higher under the Carter Administration. "But I'm paying more today than anyone did then!" she retorted. It dawned on me that the concept of adjusting for inflation was simply beyond her. She had only the vaguest idea what I was talking about.

Public presentations on health topics ranging from first aid to stroke prevention education are now presented at what would once have been considered a sixth-grade reading level. Even then, crucial information is often not processed by listeners unless the speaker resorts to scare tactics. It is as if the listeners' minds have been somehow shut off to whatever does not affect them directly and immediately.

According to Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt, the dumbing down of America has been systematic and deliberate – the product of elite operatives who began their work on government schools almost a hundred years ago – often just following the assumptions of those who created government schools. They worked through highly secretive organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations and immense tax-exempt foundations such as that of Rockefeller. The promotion of materialism and humanism was no accident. The architects of the current educational world order relied upon the thoroughly materialist theories in "experimental psychology" (such as those of Wilhelm Wundt) and regarded children as the moral equivalent of animals. The Rockefeller Foundation bankrolled John Dewey's "progressive education" which began the long, intergenerational process of dumbing down. The schools were further corrupted when Alfred C. Kinsey's theories of sexuality – also materialist through and through – broke the ties between sexuality and Judeo-Christian moral imperatives, and these were incorporated into government schools in the guise of "sexuality education."

This, of course, was long before the federal government fully centralized its educational system through the Carter-created U.S. Department of Education, and we moved toward the School-To-Work model pushed by the Clintons and their cronies in the mid-1990s. According to this model, education is exclusively vocational; children should be tracked into one of a fairly specific set of occupations by their middle-school years, with their subsequent learning to be tracked around these. Thus they serve the purposes of big government and big business rather than being allowed to find their own way in life. The long-term goal: a population of sheep, suited to work in a global planned economy regulated by a world government.

In light of all this, not just Southern Baptists but all Christians – and all people who wish to live lives free of the fetters of the omnipresent and omnipotent state – have plenty of reason to leave the federal government's (Pharaoh's) school system. Clearly, government schools are producing graduates utterly unsuited to live in a free society. There is no need to fear that abandoning government schools means abandoning education – as educrats will argue hysterically if this resolution is adopted. We now have evidence that homeschooled children are usually around four years ahead of their government-schooled counterparts in every major subject area. They win awards, go on to attend prestigious universities, and even occasionally write books.

To adopt the resolution would be a radical step for Southern Baptists, who have always assumed that Christianity and government education were compatible. However, given the tailspin government schools have been in during the past few decades, when the Southern Baptist Convention holds its annual meeting in Indianapolis beginning on June 15, the nation's largest Christian denomination might just reconsider its stance. If it does, we can expect shock waves to reverberate through this country's education establishment.

May 29, 2004

Steven Yates [send him mail] has a Ph.D. in philosophy and is the author of Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (1994). He is an adjunct scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute. His new book, In Defense of Logic, is almost completed. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina, and plans to launch his author's website soon.

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