week, Focus on the Family president
James C. Dobson urged California parents to abandon the state's
government school system. His words, from last Thursday's daily
radio broadcast: "In the state of California, if I had a child
there, I wouldn't put the youngster in a public school…. I think
it's time to get our kids out. And I'm going to get hit for [saying]
has long been critical of the California legislature's mandating
teaching that homosexuality and bisexuality are normal, and that
homosexuality and heterosexuality are morally equivalent.
is different is that up until now, Dobson had advocated reforming
government schools. An article
on the FOTF website concludes, "… if we mix prayers with works,
if parents are actively and prayerfully involved in their children's
education, the evidence shows that public schools can change."
in some cases; maybe not, in a lot of others. It is true that not
all government schools are equally wretched. What new evidence shows
is increasing sympathy among Christian activists for abandoning
the government school system altogether, and not just in California
but in all 50 states. Two leaders of the movement to remove Christian
children from government schools are Marshall Fritz of the Alliance
for the Separation of School and State and Rev. E. Ray Moore
of Exodus Mandate.
Alliance website features an online Proclamation
for the Separation of School and State that has collected over
15,000 signatures from all 50 states. The Proclamation calls for
an end to government involvement in education.
Moore has just completed a book-length manifesto entitled Let My
Children Go, scheduled for publication in mid-May. Moore's book
retains the title of a well-received video
released back in 1999 by Jeremiah Films. One of the new book's unique
features is its total repudiation of the phrase public school. The
term public implies that these schools are owned by, serve and answer
to the public. Rev. Moore argues that this is just plain false,
and we should not allow those running them to maintain the masquerade.
We should always use phrases such as government schools or state-sponsored
schools, in contrast with private or Christian schools operating
independently of government and answering those they serve, not
D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge
Ministries and T.C. Pinckney, Brig. Gen. USAF Ret., Second Vice
President of the Southern Baptist Convention, have also expressed
concern about the direction government schools have been taking.
Dr. Kennedy has long been in the forefront of nationally recognized
evangelical leaders who has consistently supported Christian schools
or homeschooling as the only Biblical choice for Christians. Gen.
Pinckney addressed the SBC's Executive Committee on September 18,
2001, in a speech
that failed to receive the attention it merited due to the events
of one week before. Entitled "We Are Losing Our Children," Pinckney's
speech observed how "[r]esearch indicates that 70% of teens who
are involved in a church youth group will stop attending church
within two years of their high school graduation." We are losing
our youth, he says, and singles out two main culprits: "first, our
failure as Christian parents and churches, and, second, the intentional,
persistent and highly effective effort by anti-theists to use public
schools to lead children away from their parents and from the church."
Pinckney in his speech and Moore in his book explore the history
of the government school movement. Rev. Moore's book reviews the
evidence that government schools were not part of the Framers' original
vision for this country. There are, of course, no references to
education in the Constitution, and no reason to think the Framers
considered education a federal responsibility. Rev. Moore goes further,
arguing that we are dealing with a "renegade school system," its
roots not in any American or Christian tradition but in continental
European collectivism and pagan state-worship. Horace Mann, leader
of a group of Unitarians who had captured Harvard University by
the mid-1830s, went to Prussia to study government schools there.
In Prussian schools, as Pinckney puts it, "the state had complete
control, parents had no influence, and children were entered at
the earliest age." Mann and his cohorts approved! They designed
a plan for a school system in Massachusetts that called for: (1)
compulsory attendance for all students, (2) certification for all
teachers in the form of a state teacher's college degree as certification
(indicating that the teachers had been "taught what to teach"),
and (3) full state funding. They proposed the plan to the Massachusetts
legislature, and soon the government school movement was underway.
positivism came along. Positivism is a philosophical system holding
that science is the sole arbiter of truth. In the hands of 19th
century French sociologist Auguste Comte, positivism proposed a
kind of religion out of Humanity (capital H). Both Pinckney and
Moore quote Comte: "The object of our philosophy is to direct the
spiritual reorganization of the civilized world…. [W]e may begin
at once to construct that system of morality under which the final
regeneration of Humanity will proceed." Comte proposed a future
in which Man stands on his own, redesigning his civilization along
lines suggested by Science (capital S), without God-and also without
individuality. While humanistic philosophies had of course existed
before, this was when secular humanism really captured the Western
intelligentsia's imagination. Secular humanism as Christian writers
and educators use the term refers to a worldview. "Everyone has
a worldview," explains Pinckney, "a perspective of the world around
him…. Although there are many worldviews designated by many exotic
or not so exotic terms, they all boil down to just two types: your
worldview will be man-centered or God-centered." In the new worldview,
government and man-centeredness go hand in hand, because those who
want power all too easily see themselves as having "dethroned God,"
as Karl Marx put it. The new intelligentsia emerging-especially
its political avant garde-wanted nothing to do with the idea of
answering to an Authority higher than itself. We can only expect
that a man-centered philosophy would be at home in government schools
modeled on the same basic philosophical underpinnings that also
eventually gave us Marxism-Leninism.
the 1870s, the Presbyterian theologian R.L. Dabney warned against
the expanding government school movement, but the majority of Christians
did not sense any danger-and at first, with the above action mostly
limited to Europe, nothing seemed amiss. But during the 20th century,
government schools became the primary instruments of social transformation.
John Dewey's Progressive Education movement was secular and evolutionary;
the idea of schools as laboratories for producing children of a
certain type was built into his thinking. A pragmatist who saw truth
as fluid and the world as constantly changing, he saw the purpose
of education as not to communicate truth and the wisdom of our civilization
to children but to "adjust" them to a "changing world." Progressive
Education assumed there was no definite right and wrong, and that
the individual can be subordinated to the collective. It eventually
spawned fads such as the "look-say" method of teaching reading and
the "new math." By the 1960s evidence was accumulating of a diminishing
of children's reading and mathematical abilities, the former documented
in books such as Rudolph Flesch's Why Johnny Can't Read. The response
was more federal intervention and larger expenditures. We saw Outcome-Based
Education that served mainly to expand the government-educational
bureaucracy and make matters worse. We have also seen "national
standards" movements of various stripes, usually supported by both
major political parties, that have centralized government education
further without reversing the across-the-board decline in student
performance that has characterized the past half-century.
the past eight years government schools have fallen prey to the
School-To-Work movement, which is really just Outcome-Based Education
taken further out. While programs differ from state to state, this
movement, an outgrowth of both behind-the-scenes UN policy and the
School-To-Work Opportunities Act which Bill Clinton signed into
law in 1994, sometimes tries to track children into career categories
in lower grades and occasionally even in kindergarten. At first
glance, School-To-Work education sounds good. What is wrong with
educating children for tomorrow's workplace? Plenty-if it abandons
intellectual for vocational development and leads to still more
federal control over education, as some
critics have charged. A few weeks ago I had a chance conversation
with an "educationist" attending a convention at Auburn University.
She told me how high school seniors were spending hundreds of hours
on work sites shadowing employees, obtaining job-skills mentoring,
learning to "network" and engaging in "social services" activities
(e.g., recycling garbage-to "think globally and act locally," I
presume). It was common knowledge that they weren't spending enough
time in the classroom. This explains a problem many employers have
noticed-graduates whose literacy levels are so low they can barely
fill out job applications.
problem is, government schools are not training students for jobs
in some kind of worldview-neutral fashion, whatever that would amount
to. There is hard evidence that they are producing certain kind
of graduate-secular-minded, specialized and uninterested in "abstract"
issues, obedient to authority, and willing to depend on government,
in addition to being largely illiterate and innumerate. Dan Smithwick,
of the Nehemiah Institute,
developed what has become known as PEERS testing. PEERS testing
measures a student's worldview in five areas: politics, economics,
education, religion and social issues. In a study entitled "Teachers,
Curriculum and Control" Smithwick assembled statistical evidence
that government schools are leading children away from Christian
beliefs and training them for a world dominated by a secular humanist
outlook on life, with relativism its prevailing ethic. This should
be considered when evaluating the School-To-Work movement. It explains
Pinckney's observation that even college students raised in solidly
Christian homes simply stop attending church before they graduate.
They graduated from government high schools, and their earlier Christianity
has been "educated" out of them.
situation is actually worse. Evidence has accumulated that government
schools are dangerous places, especially for Christian children.
The Columbine killings, in April of 1999, were the most shocking
of a rash of violent attacks in government schools. In a few cases,
gradeschoolers murdered other gradeschoolers! There was evidence
that Christian children were becoming targets. Columbine is the
prime example, but in at least one other case, the one that occurred
in West Paducah, Kentucky in 1997, the shooter singled out a Christian
prayer group. To some extent, the rise in homeschooling that had
begun even before the Columbine killings is due to an increased
sense that government schools are not safe. Some may point out that,
statistically, deadly violence in schools actually fell off somewhat
as the 1990s progressed. The response is that when I was in high
school it did not occur at all. I am aware of no cases of children
killing children in the 1960s and 1970s. None. As teenagers my generation
worried about being caught skipping the last class of the day. Those
who smoked marijuana worried about in being found in their lockers.
No one considered himself to be in real physical danger from a deranged
classmate. Even the worst bullies were nuisances, not deadly threats.
There were no metal detectors on entrances-not even in big cities.
these the fruits of education transformed to produce young secular
humanists-a generation that has jettisoned not only God but also
morality and respect for human life itself? Very possibly. It looks
to be not the scientific paradise imagined by Comte and Dewey but
a nightmare of children and teenagers who are either angry and hostile
or simply indifferent-all one has to do is observe the tattoos,
body-piercings, etc., listen to their favorite rock groups (who
have names like Megadeth and Rage Against The Machine) or note the
"whatevers," "not evens," "don't go theres" and casual obscenities
that punctuate their everyday speech. Among the highest causes of
death among today's youth is suicide. This is sad!
need to separate government and education. Pinckney, Moore, Fritz
and Smithwick all see a sound, Scriptural basis for returning education
to parents with assistance from the church (Deuteronomy 6:7-9, for
example). A central section of Moore's Let My Children Go addresses
pastors, urging them both to support the homeschooling movement
and offer church buildings as locations were new private Christian
schools could be set up. Some of his observations are commonsensical.
Much of the space in these buildings is unused all five days every
work week except during vacation Bible school in the summer. Churches
could serve as excellent home bases for newly started private Christian
schools. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with businesses being
involved and supporting such endeavors with their resources-if they
are interested in future employees who not merely have the skills
to earn a living but also know how to live.
education has run its course. Its guiding philosophy has been a
disaster-philosophically, educationally and culturally. Dr. Dobson
has long believed that government schools could be saved. His statement
last week marks a departure. We owe him a debt for this alone. All
Dr. Dobson would need to do is observe further that what is true
of California is true of the other 49 states: there is, after all,
not a state in our unraveling Union where the moral equivalence
of homosexuality and heterosexuality has not become a standard view
among politically correct educationists, or where agendas at least
as troublesome are not becoming the norm. I would urge Christian
parents to contact Dr. Dobson pointing this out. Moreover, I would
think one does not have to be a Christian to realize that something
terrible has happened to education in this country. Scanning the
signees of Marshall Fritz's Proclamation
the other evening, I saw several names of people I know not to be
Christians. Non-Christians as well as Christians have a stake in
what happens here.
could be approaching a turning point. Those who spent decades transforming
this country into what it is now knew the power available to them
through government schools. We have now lost many young people.
If enough Christian parents turn to homeschooling or to private
schools, a significant fraction of the next generation may have
both the knowledge and the will to do what it takes to reverse the
decline of this civilization.
Yates [send him mail]
is a Margaret "Peg" Rowley Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute,
where he is writing a book entitled The
Paradox of Liberty.
He has a PhD in philosophy, and is the author of Civil
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (ICS Press,
1994), and dozens of articles in both academic and nonacademic
periodicals. He has relocated to Auburn, Alabama.
© 2002 LewRockwell.com
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