Alliance for the Separation of School & State
1071 N. Fulton St.
Fresno, CA 93728

Home Free
Donation How You
Can Help

The Education Liberator, Vol. 2, No. 5, June 1996

Separation entering second stage?

Toe to toe with opponents in Maryland

by Susan Gaztanaga
President, Separation of School & State Alliance, Maryland Chapter

During the weeks that I and other Separation advocates were preparing for Marshall Fritz's April 1996 eastern tour, he kept repeating to us a quote from Schopenhauer:

"A new idea passes through three stages. In the first stage, it is ridiculed as crazy, and not taken seriously. In the second stage, it is seen as dangerous and subversive. In the third stage it is seen as selfevident and mainstream." (paraphrased)

Our first goal, as Marshall saw it, was to move the idea of Separation from stage one to stage two. If our opponents saw us as dangerous and threatening, that meant that they were at least taking us seriously.

On Friday, April 12, Marshall took on Dr. Arnold Packer of the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies, Maryland State Delegate Carolyn Krysiak, and former president of the Maryland State Teachers Association (MSTA), Jane Stern, in a public forum at Patterson High School in Baltimore.

The forum was put together almost singlehandedly by Gertrude Zvonar (who also set up two talk show interviews). After the original MSTA representative cancelled, Gertrude phoned the head of the association and explained that Separation was an issue people were talking about all over the country. She told him that Sheldon Richman had taped a show with Montel Williams, and that Marshall was going to be on the air with local radio personalities Zoh Hieronimous andRon Smith. At that point the Association leadership apparently decided we should be taken seriously, and sent in Jane Stern.

In his opening statement, Marshall used examples to demonstrate that when there are good people in a bad system, the system always wins, and people end up with the very thing they do not want. By its nature, he asserted, a government run education system undermines parents.

Historically, public schools (i.e., government schools) were seen as a way to "Americanize" immigrants, particularly Irish Catholics. The schools taught one set of values ? a Protestant one. Catholics responded by setting up a parallel educational system. Families who adhered to other belief systems simply had to live with their discomfort. Today, de facto Protestant control of government schools has given way to relativism. Since the schools cannot teach that any one belief system is better than others, they inevitably convey to children the message that all beliefs and lifestyles are equally valid and there is no such thing as absolute truth. They have gone from undermining the influence of a few parents to undermining almost all parents.

The respondents all rejected Marshall's example of the Chicago teacher denied worker's compensation when he was wounded while shielding the children in his care from a berserk gunman. That was Chicago, they said. This is Maryland. We would never let that happen here. All seemed surprised that anyone would challenge the ideal of "free, universal, compulsory education as a milestone of progress and civilization."

Dr. Packer suggested that if Marshall was going to use the example of the wounded teacher to discredit the entire school system, what about the two sailors who raped the Japanese girl in Okinawa? Maybe we should be against using taxpayers' dollars for national defense since the money was being used to support rapists.

Del. Krysiak seemed to be seriously considering her position on Separation, and open to persuasion. She admitted that she had sent her own children to Catholic schools, but felt that she had to support government schooling so that all children could receive an education.

Ms. Stern made an impassioned defense of "free, universal, compulsory education." Without it, we would not have become the leading country of the world. Do we want to become like the third world countries that fail to provide "free" education to all their citizens? Do we want to be like Rio de Janeiro, where children live on the streets and roam about in packs, pilfering and prostituting and being mowed down by death squads? She denied that the schools were teaching relativism and undermining parents' values. She had found that she was able to uphold absolute standards of right and wrong in her fourth and fifth grade classes by presenting them as the "wisdom of the ages" ? universal truths affirmed by all religions.

If their questions and comments were any indication, the two dozen people in the audience were overwhelmingly disillusioned with government education and in favor of school/state separation.

Obviously, different individuals are at different stages in their readiness to embrace Separation. But averaging out the various reactions to Separation that I saw displayed at the forum, I believe we're entering Schopenhauer's second stage ? if we aren't firmly there already.

Susan lives in Baltimore City with her husband, Lorenzo.

This article is copyrighted by the Alliance for the Separation of School & State. Permission is granted to freely distribute this article as long as this copyright notice is included in its entirety.