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Why public schools cannot be reformed

by Marshall Fritz

I have a little Soviet pin, a five-pointed star with the likeness of Lenin as a toddler. All Soviet primary school children were required to wear this "Order of the October Child" as part of the atheists' process of undermining the theistic beliefs of Jewish, Muslim, or Christian parents.

I wear the pin upside down.

In teaching children that "Lenin is their grandfather," Stalin-the-atheist is in the political mainstream of using state schools to shape attitudes and control the content of children's minds. In 1774, Empress Maria Teresa set up state schools in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to ensure Catholicism was taught to all children. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, longed for state schooling: "Let our pupil be taught that he does not belong to himself, but that he is public property.... He must be taught to amass wealth, but it must be only to increase his power of contributing to the wants and demands of the state."

Horace Mann, the "father of the common school," had replaced his parents' Christian notion of redemption by Jesus Christ with the Unitarian view of man's redemption by education. In the 1830s and 1840s, he successfully pushed for municipal and state take-over of the private schooling that had flourished in America for 200 years before him.

I work for the Alliance for the Separation of School & State, and we contend that state schooling cannot be fixed because it's not broken. Rather, "public schooling" is doing what it's always meant to do: Enable the politically strong to undermine the politically weak by convincing their children that the political leaders are nice people with grand ideas.

Of course, each society plays musical chairs. In America, Protestants can no longer use "public schools" to undermine Jewish and Catholic parents. Now, the Earth-centered folks are politically strong and impose the religion of "environmentalism." Children are taught it's their job to straighten out mom and dad if they don't recycle. Students find shaman on their spelling list, but not hajji, transubstantiation, Ecclesiastes, or Torah. The war over whose values will be taught erupts in many fronts: fornication vs. chastity, evolution vs. intelligent design, relativism and syncretism double-teaming absolute values.

As concerned Americans search for the roots of our family and cultural decline, we should ask, "Who has primary responsibility for educating a child: his parents or his government?"

Two hundred years ago, we answered the religious part of this question: Parents, not government agencies, are responsible for all decisions about the spiritual education of children. In a letter, Thomas Jefferson gave the concept a catchy label, "a wall of separation between church and state."

Fueled by resentment of Irish immigration of the 1840s, however, the American attitude of live-and-let-live was overwhelmed by a less noble sentiment: anti-Catholicism. Once Protestants decided to have states and municipalities take over and finance schools, it was easy for all Americans to buy into the false notion that children have a right to education at the neighbors' expense through the force of taxation. When parents abdicated their financial responsibility to educate their children, it wasn't long before they lost the power to decide how many years their children attend school, what is taught, or who is qualified to teach.

Now with the advent of a movement to separate school and state, Americans are beginning to grasp the central lesson that having political government run "Monday School" is every bit as disastrous as having it run "Sunday School." I think we can prudently predict at least five benefits that will come with Separation:

  1. The government will no longer dictate what your children learn.
  2. You can easily send your children to schools that support your values and faith.
  3. Teachers won't be ambushed by bureaucratic rules and fads.
  4. You'll live in a society where the poor are better educated.
  5. Your state and local taxes will be cut nearly in half.

Over 3,000* American educators, scholars, parents, and religious leaders have declared themselves squarely in favor of restoring parental responsibility in education by signing the "Proclamation for the Separation of School and State." This includes folks as politically, pedagogically, and religiously diverse as Ed Crane, Sr. Connie Driscoll, M. Stanton Evans, John Taylor Gatto, John A. Hardon, S.J., Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Paul Marx, O.S.B., Steve Mosher, Marvin Olasky, Ron Paul, Mary Pride, Charles Rice, Joe Sobran, and Randall Terry.

You can start helping America separate school and state by separating your own family from state schooling. You wouldn't trust the government to tell you the truth if it ran the newspapers. Why do you expect it to tell your children the truth in its schools?

* The current count is
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Fritz, Marshall. "Why Public Schools Cannot Be Reformed." Crisis (February 1998): 46.

Reprinted by permission of the Morley Institute a non-profit education organization. To subscribe to Crisis magazine call 1-

Marshall Fritz is the founder of the Alliance for the Separation of School & State, a non-profit grass-roots educational organization based in Fresno, CA.

Copyright © 1998 Crisis

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