Education's Historic Shift (Part VII)

Protestant evangelicals, toward the middle of the nineteenth century, sought to set up state-controlled education because they thought they would be the ones to control it, and then be able to keep America fundamentally Protestant in spite of the new Catholic immigration.

They looked for a model for how to do this—and they found it. In order to find it, they had to travel to Europe to a country called Prussia, which forms the nucleus of modern-day Germany. Prussia, at that time, was a militaristic state. Its philosophy of government was antithetical to America’s, and its education system was part of its militaristic outlook. Yet American Protestants loved it; they saw in it an efficient method for how to control all education.

The Prussian model included the following elements:

  • The state/government was considered the absolute authority in society;
  • Individuals had value only as they contributed to the state; they lived to serve the state;
  • Compulsory attendance in class was required by the state;
  • A uniform curriculum was taught throughout the country;
  • To ensure that the curriculum was taught in accordance with the state’s wishes, all teachers were trained by the state—no one could teach who didn’t go through the state system;
  • Parents who disagreed with this system, or who tried to educate their children differently, would be punished.

There probably wasn’t an education system in existence anywhere at that time that could have been more at odds with the American spirit than this one. It also contradicted the freedom of the will that most of Protestant Christianity espoused. The family was subordinated to the state and parents had no say in how their children would be educated.

Yet the Protestant evangelicals adopted this system.

While it’s true that not every aspect was adopted, particularly the first two premises, all the rest were, and they obviously contributed to the idea, over time, that the state was paramount and that the individual should be serving the state.

Protestants were able to control this system for a few decades, but when the beliefs of the intelligentsia changed with the ascendance of evolutionary philosophy, Christian faith was no longer the dominant viewpoint. The structure then began to disseminate false ideology throughout the system, state by state.

You see, while most evangelicals today protest the public school’s lack of discipline or political correctness [both of which are valid complaints], I have to go one step deeper in my critique. What I oppose is the system itself. Once it was set up, all it took was for a new philosophy to gain the upper hand, and that new philosophy would then be promoted in all schools.

Who says the government should be telling us what to teach? Where did that idea come from? Well, certainly not the Scripture, which places responsibility for education squarely on the shoulders of the parents. When the state is in control, it can dictate what should be taught. It can even create a cult of personality around the leader of the state.