Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Is it time to blow up the Public Schools?

The last post reviewed the case for teaching the Bible in schools. The most important reason is that the Bible contains the Judeo-Christian moral principles upon which America was founded. The Founding Fathers, not all of them religious men, nonetheless knew the importance of morality to societies and nations.

George Washington declared “it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits.” John Adams warned that it is “Religion and Morality alone which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.”

Thomas Jefferson who was against the establishment of a national religion (who wanted “a wall of separation between church and state”) was a strong advocate of the “freedom of religion” but not freedom from religion. When he wrote the first education plan for the capital, Jefferson used the Bible and Isaac Watt’s Hymnal as the primary readers.

Alexis de Toqueville in Democracy in America (1835) observed that Americans hold religion to be “indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions.”

In 1787, Congress declared that Religion, Morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged.

Thus the American Founders understood the importance of God in the public square and insisted on the teaching of “religion” but not any particular Religion, in the public schools. What happened to the public schools over the years is a sad story of the grotesque distortion of the Constitution to achieve secular goals.

In another Weekly Standard article, David Gelernter asks: What gives public schools the right to exist? After all, they are no part of the nation's constitutional framework. I believe that public schools have a right to exist insofar as they express a shared public view of education. American public schools used to speak for the broad middle ground of American life. No longer. Public schools used to invite students to take their places in a shared American culture. They didn't allow a left- or right-wing slant, only a pro-American slant. Their mission, after all, was to produce students who were sufficiently proud of this country to take care of it.

There was a time early in the last century when public schools successfully educated all students and instilled in them patriotism and an appreciation of American values. Are they worth saving, or should we give private enterprise a chance?

Postscript: In a recent book Whose Bible Is It?, distinguished religious historian Jaroslav Pelikan of Yale University explains: Even in a secular age ... the Bible proves to be the unique antidote to cynicism and the source of inspiration for poets and philosophers, artists and musicians, and the countless millions all over the globe who turn to it every day and in their times of need.


Blogger Ralph said...

Absolutely. They are unredeemable under current political control and a great waste of resources.

7:09 AM  
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