Like most of you, I attended public schools from kindergarten through college. We always lived in good neighborhoods so I always attended quality schools and cannot speak for any area but mine, but our schools were always top notch. I started school in 1959 and actually am still going from time to time when I find new courses to take for fun. I never felt like the schools I attended were not at the top of the rankings and I believe California was in the top rankings consistently when I was attending. So, when did it all start to fall apart? Were we always just mediocre but just never knew it because we were shielded or were we, as I like to think, top notch. If you look at the number of people coming into this country for their education, you have to believe the world still thinks we are superior. I also think that is the rule in the United States, rather than the exception.
But to hear the Religious Right(RR) babble on, our schools are godless institutions with overpaid union staff and a devil based secular curriculum. Secular, not devil, which is correct just as the First Amendment of the Constitution demands. You would think that if the R R were not happy with public education they would just home school or send their children to private schools. In reality, they want control over all schools thereby giving them control over every single person’s spiritual life. If the RR cannot take over the entire school system right now, they will settle for a little less, but look around you in your states, cities, towns all over this country the RR is now on School Boards, PTA’s, District Offices and most anywhere they can affect what happens in our schools. The RR is re-writing the history and science your children will learn. Since most are not good at math and because math is absolute they are not touching that subject. But in the area of Literature, they are pushing for the Bible to be taught and prayers to be allowed in school again. They will also use a school system to advance their own athletes. Tim Tebow is a good example of this as his parents home-schooled him but he participated in sports because they knew he had talent. Perhaps they are looking to Christianize sports too, that way they can attend the game on Sunday and still have their church service with the whole team.
All kidding aside, there is a major effort going on to gain control of America’s public schools and it is really being fought out in the open across this country. At up close and personal encounters at local school board meetings that are the front line in the current American Civil War for control of education. At these sessions, board members frequently argue with one another and members of the audience, which are mostly parents. The school board debates usually focus on such volatile topics as the teaching of evolution and the removal from libraries of those textbooks, library books, CDs and other teaching materials the RR label as offensive or “anti-religious”. Another divisive issue is whether to abolish sex-education instruction in junior and senior high school curricula and replace it with abstinence-only courses.
Bitter school-board battles are often about the Constitutionality of conducting holiday celebrations usually focused on Christmas and Easter and whether or not placing sectarian symbols in the classrooms is appropriate. Another explosive issue is the debate over whether or not to invite clergy to speak at mandated assemblies during the school day. While these clergy may be asked to speak about the dangers of alcohol or drug abuse, teen sexuality, Evangelicals often abuse the opportunity by using the time for proselytizing their audience which is a clear breach of the wall of separation of church and state.
Public schools today are ground zero in a raging conflict over the control of curricula, teaching materials and even choice of faculity or administrations. Brad Dacus, the founder of the Pacific Justice Institute has written a book aimed at teaching Evangelicals how to reclaim their schools, “10 Steps to Practically and Legally Evangelize Your School’. A sympathetic reviewer declared the book can not only teach students to be evangelists but also informs them of their religious rights in schools. In fact schools with captive audiences are a prime target for Christian missionaries.
Evangelicals/Dominionists are pursuing a dual strategy – they want to destroy them and turn education over to private schools, especially those sponsored by church bodies and at the same time as long as public schools exist they want to control every aspect of the curricula taught in such despised educational institutions. Jerry Falwell declared years ago:
I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!
Former Senator Rick Santorum believed the No Child Left Behind phrase made compulsory the teaching of alternatives to evolution: “intelligent design is a legitamite scientific theory that should be taught in science classes”. No wonder his kids stand behind him now on the campaign trail with those silly pasted on smiles, they homeschooled them. Or there is David Chilton, a prominent Dominionist who has called for the elimination of all public schools in the United States. He does not see the profit in attempting to improve them as all such efforts are “doomed to failure and are counter to authentic Christian teachings and beliefs” and he believes public schools are “institutions that are premised on sin must be abandoned.” He further states “we cannot send young maidens into brothels in the interest of equal time for chastity. As the light of the world, we must set the standard. Our Lord never called His people to help build the tower of Babel in the hope of getting a bible study in the basement. He commanded us to build our own city on a hill.”
Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air, consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith….we need believing people.
Adolph Hitler, April 26, 1933 speech made during negotiations leading to the Nazi-Vatican Concordant
Their major goal is to undermine what they derisively term “government schools”. Their tactics include gathering support for publicly funded vouchers for parents who want to move their children out of public schools and into private educational institutions, mainly Christian-sponsored schools. Vouchers take money away from an American public-education system that is already short of adequate funding. Vouchers also raise serious Constitutional questions about the legality of using public funds for private and parochial education. Vouchers are similar to bloodsucking leeches that are applied to cure a medical problem, but in reality further damage an already weakened patient.
And not only do they want these vouchers, they still want public school students to use textbooks that reflect “traditional biblical values,” opposing sex-education courses, Intelligent design and supporting the teaching of Christianity in public schools. Not to leave out any area of “christianity” they also want mandated bible-reading and daily prayers in our schools.
The National Council on Bible Curriculum, headquartered in Greensboro NC is one of many conservative groups in America. Their major goal is the inclusion of its curriculum on the bible in public schools. The claim growing success and point to 312 school districts in 37 states that have adopted their curriculum, roughly 175,000 students. When met with opposition, predictably they claim no religious intent but rather a course of study concerned with education rather than indoctrination of students. The Texas Freedom Network has analyzed the council’s teaching material and concluded it is blatantly sectarian. Who but the right would have thought different? I guess the council feels they are the best organization to pass on religious values to children. No matter which way you look at the Council’s program it all points back to sectarian groups, literature or protestant organizations. The rest of us see a blatant disregard for other’s religious beliefs but the right sees the opportunity to get them young and impressionable. They even have an adoption program that is called, One Million Arrows where the families adopt children in order to bring them up in a Christian home. Not to reduce the number of orphans necessarily, they consider that a bonus for raising up good Christian soldiers.
The ultimate aim in the ongoing school battles is the destruction of the American public school system and its replacement with publicly financed Christian academies and widespread home schooling. Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum received public funds from a county in PA to homeschool their children in Virginia. And that is a whole new area for the Right to insure their people make more money, the homeschooling industry. Some of the more well-known of these is:
Home School Legal Defense Organization founded by Michael Ferris whose efforts resulted in a number of court rulings and policy changes favoring home schooling. He also founded Patrick Henry College, “…a Christian institution with the mission of training students through a classical liberal arts curriculum and apprenticeship methodology to impact the world ‘for Christ and for Liberty.’” He is also the founder of Generation Joshua, an organization for the mobilization of Christian youth to participate in politics and get out the vote.
Moore Home Schooling founded by Dorothy Moore and her husband and where personal fellowship with God and giving the gospel to all the world is linked with daily studies whenever possible.
Christian Home Educators Association which has locations in most of the 50 states and I have provided a link below that lists organizations by state.
Then there are the myriad Christian schools run by churches and also the infamous Liberty University and Regent University founded by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson respectively. However, they are not just content to invade your school boards, they also want to invade your public/school library systems. As reported in TPM(link below):
Now the American Library Association reports that this year alone, U.S. schools have banned more than 20 books and faced more than 50 other challenges, with many more expected this fall as school starts.
The library association says the number of reported challenges in the past 30 years has hovered between about 400 or 500, but there are many bans they never learn about. While parents have traditionally launched the lion’s share of challenges, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, an attorney with the association, says she has noticed “an uptick in organized efforts” to remove books from public and school libraries.
Some of the books that have been banned and the reasons are(when available):
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut - because of its profanity, violence, and explicit sexuality
I know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou - because of a rape scene and it is anti-white
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck – profanity
The Bonesetter’s Daughter – Amy Tan (no reason)
Push – By Sapphire (the movie Precious was based on this book)
Great Soul: Mahatma Ghandi and his Struggles With India – Joseph Lelyveld
Well damn my soul because I have read most of these. I can assure you that none of these books had anything to do with my spiritual life, however watching Evangelicals and Domionists has made me run so fast from their brand of “spiritual” I could not even see it in the rear view mirror. Sometimes I think to myself why should I worry about what is going on in our schools but I always remember I have a grandson in school right now and hey I have to interact with people who are in our schools as well. We all better be involved, better pay attention, better care because if we don’t we may wake up some day to a world we don’t even recognize or fit in anymore.
Next up will be The Bedroom – the family sphere.