Politics and the Church – Extrication from the Shoal Waters [Part 23]

This week we will take a look at a now controversial subject that brings forth many different opinions throughout the nation…that is ‘public school education’ or as it is becoming known to many, ‘government school education’.  First I will open with a couple of quotes concerning education within a nation:

“Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”

“Let me control the text books and I will control the state.”

Who made these comments?  It was Vladimir Lenin and Adolf Hitler respectively.  These tyrants placed a great deal of value on education.  As citizens of the United States we must do the same.  Daily we can already see some of the damage that is being done.

American education originally had strong Biblical origins, and for literally centuries public education operated under Biblical standards and practices.  Across our history, countless Biblical sermons were preached about education and how it was to be operated [John Wesley, On the Education of Children: A Sermon on Proverbs 22:6, Newbern, NC: Hall and Bryan, 1811; plus numerous more].  But in 1962-63, through three US Supreme Court decisions, the long-standing inclusion of religious principles and practices was first repudiated and a new philosophy of public education was decreed.  The results are only all too obvious.

The Bible contains numerous examples of young people who accomplished much at a very young age.  This was also true of this nation during the foundation period.  Why are these types of youth accomplishments so rare today?  The answer is ‘expectation’.  Modern society does not expect youth to do much of significance until they are out of college or perhaps 25 years old.  With that expectation we train accordingly.  In 1783, America’s very first purely American text book was penned by Founding Father Noah Webster.  It was his famous speller.  For 150 years it was the standard spelling textbook for American schools.  It was an elementary spelling book from which Americans learned to spell.  In it were such words as contumelious, ichthyology, bronchotomy, loquacious, mendacity, armigerous, vertiginous, oleaginous, acanthus…and other ‘simple’ spelling words.  I personally have only heard of one of those words.  History consistently shows that if we raise expectations, students will rise to meet them; but if we lower expectations, they will also meet those.  The policy of setting higher expectations for youth prevailed in America until the 1920’s, when it was abandoned and replaced by a new approach introduced by secular progressives such as Francis Wayland Parker, John Dewey, William Heard Kilpatrick, Stanwood Cobb, and other like-minded leaders in educational pedagogy.  They moved education away from student-centered learning to an educational philosophy that was oriented on social policy, thus abandoning the former emphasis on individualism and instead replacing it with concerns about thinking and acting as a group.  It is during this period that the concept of adolescence began to take root and grow; but this is not the Biblical model. Children were to become productive as soon as possible.  As Rabbi Daniel Lapin explains: …void between childhood and maturity is what we call adolescence…secularism encouraged the primacy of right over obligations…helping to expand the boundaries of adolescence in each successive generation [An e-mail on this subject from Rabbi Daniel Lapin to David Barton, March 1, 2012].  Here are just a few of the youthful achievements of our founders under the “old policy” of education:

  •    Signer of the Declaration George Wythe was 3 years old when he began a study of the classics.
  •    Signer of the Declaration Benjamin Rush, “The Father of American Medicine” was 14 years old when he graduated from Princeton.
  •    Signer of the Declaration Thomas Jefferson was 9 years old when he began the study of Latin, Greek, and French; at 16 years old he entered William and Mary College.
  •    Signer of the Constitution William Livingston was living as a missionary among the Mohawk Indians (one of the fiercest tribes in America) when he was 14 years old.  At 18 years old he graduated from Yale at the top of his class.
  •    President Andrew Jackson was 13 years old when he was serving in the Continental Army during the American Revolution; at 14 years of age he was taken by the British as a prisoner of war; at 16 years old he was a school teacher.
  •    John Marrant (1755-1791) was 13 years old when he became the first black American to evangelize Native Americans successfully.
  •    Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) was a teaching assistant and studying astronomy at age 11 years old; at 12 years old she helped calculate the exact time of a forthcoming solar eclipse; at 17 years old she headed her own academy, training women in astronomy and science.
  •    Louisa May Alcott, author of many classics, was writing poetry at the age of 8 years; at 13 years she wrote a famous poem; at 16 years a book; at 18 years a novel; at 19 years her stories were being published across the country.
  •    William “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917) was a cattle driver at age 9 years; a legendary Indian fighter at age 11 years; a trapper and woodsman at age 12; at 13 years old a pony express rider; at 16 years a guide and scout for the military where he earned the Medal of Honor.
  •    John Clem (1851-1937) at the age of 12 years was a soldier in the Battle of Chickamauga in the Civil War; he was promoted to sergeant for his exploits in the field and then to the rank of lieutenant.
  •    Famous sharpshooter Annie Oakley (1860-1926) was only 9 years old when she was earning a living for her family.

It is time to reject the societal restraints of low expectations produced by secular progressive education and instead encourage youth to hear from God at an early age…as did Samuel…and then begin performing great exploits and achievements.

Today government spends over $12,000 per year per student in elementary and secondary education.  Across the course of a full public school education from grade one to grade twelve, this equates to well over $140,000 per student [National Center for Education Statistics, “Fast Facts: Expenditures].  Unfortunately America is not getting its money’s worth.  America used to be number one in the world in high-school graduation rates but now finishes in the bottom quartile among leading industrial nations of the world [WAMU885News, “Global Graduation Rates by Country”].  Three million American students now drop out of school each year and in America’s fifty largest cities, the dropout rate is over 40%.  And this has its societal impact.  Seventy-five percent of all crimes in America are committed by a high school dropout [Statistic Brain, “High School Dropout Statistics”, January 1, 2014].  America’s educational standing in the world is not declining just in dropout rates; it is occurring in virtually ever other academic measurement as well.

  •    In international math testing among 15 year olds, by 2000 America had already fallen to 19th in the world and by 2012 had further slipped to 30th being surpassed by nations such as Vietnam, Singapore, Liechtenstein, Estonia, Iceland, and Portugal [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2012].
  •    In international science testing among 15 year olds, by 2000 America had dropped to 14th in the world and by 2012 had moved down to 25th being surpassed by nations such as Poland, Germany, Ireland, Slovenia, and Latvia [Ibid].
  •    In international reading tests among 15 year olds, back in 2000 America had already fallen to 13th in the world and by 2012 had further fallen to 22nd being surpassed by nations such as South Korea, Estonia, Australia, the Netherlands, and Belgium [Ibid].

American education today is so bad that 19% of high school graduates are illiterate [Huff Post Books, “The US Literacy Rates Hasn’t Changed in Ten Years”, September 6, 2013].  That is after 12 years of school and an average of $140,000-plus spent per student.  In the 1960’s America was number one in the world in literacy but by 1991 had fallen to 56th [NationMaster.com, “Education: Literacy (total population)].  As a result there are now 32 million American adults who cannot read, and 21% cannot read above the fifth-grade level [Huff Post Books, “The US Literacy Rate Hasn’t Changed in Ten Years”].  Illiteracy contributes to many costly social problems, including crime…63% of prison inmates are illiterate [Statistic Brain, “Illiteracy Statistics”, April 28, 2013].  The new administration says it is going to bring jobs back to America.  In the current state of affairs, where are an adequate number of educated citizens going to come from?

There are many different forms of education in America.  In addition to government-run secularist education, there is also private schooling (both religious and secular), parochial schooling, homeschooling, and charter schooling (which is a public school but with less government involvement and regulation).  In every one of these educational approaches, academic scores surpass those of the government-run secularist public schools [Statistic Brain, “Private School Statistics”, July 21, 2013; plus numerous others].  Ironically, we continue to fund that most which works least (we currently spend $632 billion each year on government education) [National Center for Education Statistics, “Fast Facts: Expenditures”].  We are even told repeatedly that what education needs…what will solve all its problems…is more money.  That claim is simply not true.

     Again, this subject is too complex to complete it in one week so I will finish it next week.  We will look at some of the pit falls the system is experiencing and how some in charge are more interested in their own welfare than that of the students.

– Bob Munsey

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