by Al Benson Jr.
We have been told for decades now that the public or government school system is a dire necessity so that the country's children can be properly educated, so they may learn to read, write, and all the rest. Although if you look at the failing public school test scores you might conclude that the program is a gigantic bust. But then the teachers' unions will pop us, like a pop-up add on your computer and tell you that "all we need is more money so we can provide a quality education." (And more, and more, and more). Most of us have heard that old saw for years now. Yet, having observed the public education scene for over three decades now, I am forced to admit that the more money we toss down the government school rathole the dumber our kids seem to get. Ask kids in some school districts who George Washington was and they will tell you they think he was a linebacker for the New Orleans Saints. Many of them can't find Texas on a map of the United States, and anything that happened before the advent of the Beatles is a complete mystery to them.
Back in the early 1980s Samuel Blumenfeld wrote an illuminating book called Is Public Education Necessary? Mr. Blumenfeld contended it wasn't, and I agree with him. He checked out the literacy rates back in the country's early days and found out that, without public schools, they were higher than they are now with public schools. In his book , on page 20, he noted: "Prof. Lawrence Cremin, in his study on colonial education, estimated that, based on the evidence of signatures on deeds, wills, militia rolls, and voting rosters, adult male literacy in the American colonies ran from 70 to 100 percent. It was this high literacy rate that, indeed, made the American Revolution possible."
Other sources, even without deliberate intention, undergird this contention. Author Benson Bobrick, in his interesting book on the American War for Independence, Angel in the Whirlwind
noted on pages 46 and 47 that: "The literacy rate in America was extrodinarily high. Although there was no public education system as such, almost every community had a church or parish school..." And on page 49 he observed: "The broad literacy and political involvement of the people in their democratic institutions helped turn the average American into a kind of citizen-lawyer." And I recall hearing a speech years ago by a man that told us the Federalist Papers were written so the farmers in upper New York state would understand what was taking place regarding the debates on ratification of the Constitution. To most folks today, trying to read the Federalist Papers is like trying to read Chinese, yet in those days the farmers in New York could understand what they said quite well. What does that tell us about our "educational" level today? All this points to the fact that this country did very well in regard to education without a government school system. Note Bobrick's comments about each community having a church or parish school. That meant that the Christian church has, at that point, upheld its responsibility to educate and enlighten the population, and this fact of local Christian education was what initially brought the government schools into existence--they were a reaction against Christian education.
The people that initially started government schools in this country were Unitarians like Horace Mann who disbelieved in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and they were encouraged and supported by socialists like Robert Owen. Both the Unitarians and the socialists realized that if they could just get true Christianity out of the educational curriculum without people realizing it, then they could substitute their own theology for it. That's right, I said theology. For, at heart, all education is theological and either promotes a Christian worldview or some other worldview far less desirable.
Dr. Wilson L. Thompson, in his lecture entitled Revolution Through Routinization noted that: "The socialists saw the public school as their tool to reform American character and to establish a socialist society. But religious conservatives were conned into believing public education was a viable means of maintaining Protestant supremacy over a huge influx of Catholic immigrants. But, Catholics established their own parochial schools, leaving Protestants mired in secular schools." But, then, that's exactly where the Unitarians and socialists wanted them. Dr. Thompson also noted: "Harvard's Unitarian elite soon moved to adopt the Prussian model of state-controlled education, and they ultimately included its compulsory school attendance laws." They wanted a captive audience.
Samuel Blumenfeld noted that the Unitarians viewed state-controlled education as the only way to solve the problem of evil. They really thought that compulsory government schools would eventually do away with evil, poverty, and crime and create the perfect man--the new "Soviet man" if you will. So the Unitarians viewed compulsory public education as the world's messiah. After all, who needs Jesus Christ for salvation when you have such a magnificent government school system, capable of curing all the ills of the world? Why just "educate" the kiddies properly and you can dump all those outmoded ideas about man's original sin and his need of salvation only through Jesus Christ and you can create the new perfect man by tinkering with his environment. Sounds just wonderful. The only problem is, it doesn't work--never has, never will. If it was working the way they told us it would and should then why did we have situations like the one in Columbine a few years ago? Oh, the public school system is an excellent vehicle for the promotion of socialist propaganda. It has been that since day one! The government school system is not a system of education it is a system of indoctrination. True education doesn't even begin to enter the picture. Since when have Unitarians, socialists, and today's secular humanists ever been interested in truth? The agenda is the name of the game, not education.
Those people that say "If we could just get the public schools back to where they were when we went to them we'd be okay" don't begin to get the big picture, nor do they begin to understand the real function of public education (if such it can be called). The government school system has been a vehicle for socialist propaganda and anti-Christian theology since its inception. Pray tell, in that case, what do you "reform" it back to? If the tree bears bad fruit it needs to be cut down, not just have a few branches trimmed off.
So if the literacy rate was better before we were "blessed" with a public school system, then why do we need one? Let education be returned to the private sphere. It functioned better there anyway, because, for the most part, it was education and not propaganda.
It is worth remembering that the tenth plank of Marx's Communist Manifesto was "free education for all children in public schools." The alternative to this is to do away with compulsory attendance laws. Then let Christian education flourish--classical Christian schools, homeschooling, regular Christian schools, however you want to do it. But get government at all levels out, completely out of the education business.