Archive for the ‘ Education ’ Category

Education's Historic Shift (Part V)

In a previous post, I pointed out a second group in the nineteenth century that was bent on setting up government-controlled education for its own ideological purposes. Led by Robert Owen, this group sought to educate Americans out of their belief in private property and free enterprise. They set up the Workingmen’s Party to achieve their goal.

One of the party’s adherents was Orestes Brownson. Later in life, he defected from the party and his old beliefs, and turned to the Catholic Church for his Christian foundations. He then wrote about why he and others had been so devoted to the party. His frankness lets us see into the philosophy and the motives of this group. Brownson confessed:

The purpose in the formation of this party was to get contol of the political power of the state, so as to be able to use it for establishing our system of schools.

What was the strategy used by him and by his comrades? He explains further:

We hoped, by linking our cause with the ultra-democratic sentiment of the country, which had an anti-Christian character, by professing ourselves the bold and uncompromising champions of equality, by expressing a great love for the people, and a deep sympathy with the laborer, whom we represented as defrauded and oppressed by his employer, by denouncing all proprietors as aristocrats . . .

Stop there for a minute. Does any of that sound familiar? Isn’t there a segment of our population today that is openly anti-Christian? Don’t they try to set themselves up as the champions of the little people, promoting equality and denouncing employers as out-of-touch aristocrats? You see, the circumstances may change over time, but the approach is remarkably similar.

Well, now that Brownson has disclosed the strategy, how does he continue?

. . . and by keeping the more unpopular features of our plan as far in the background as possible . . .

That’s another good stopping point. We see the same tactic today: some politicians always seek to hide what they are really attempting to do. They dress up their program with nice-sounding phrases [“public option” comes to mind], while concealing what they are actually intending. The hope is that they will be able to fool enough people to accomplish their purposes. That’s exactly what Brownson is saying here:

. . . to enlist the majority of the American people under the banner of the Working-Men’s Party; nothing doubting that, if we could once raise the party to power, we could use it to secure the adoption of our educational system.

There you have it, spelled out quite clearly—use government-controlled education to achieve ideological goals. Yet, as with the Unitarians, who also wanted to create a government system, there just weren’t enough communist-minded Americans at this time to make it happen.

It would require a third group—more numerous, more influential—to make it a reality. Who was this group? I’ll let you know in a future post.

Education's Historic Shift (Part IV)

The somewhat strange-looking man on the left is Robert Owen. He’s the next major figure in my retrospective on how education changed in America.

I’ve already noted that Unitarians sought to wrest control of education from orthodox Trinitarian Christians, but although they had some success in Massachusetts, they had little support in the rest of the nation.

Owen arrived in America from Britain as a believer in utopian communism. He was also a bitter foe of Christianity. Once here, he tried, in the 1820s, to set up his own little utopian community in Indiana, hopefully named New Harmony.

Well, it didn’t turn out to be very harmonious after all. Disputes arose, and the entire enterprise folded within two years. One of the problems Owens diagnosed with his attempt was that Americans were not too amenable with the idea that they couldn’t own private property.

What to do with this dilemma?

Owen’s answer was to set up a political party, dubbed the Workingmen’s Party, in an effort to gain political power so that his people might be able to establish government-controlled schools. In those schools, at least in theory, these Owenites would then train students into the communist worldview and rip the desire to own property from their impressionable minds. All of this, interestingly, was prior to Karl Marx’s activities in Europe. Marx simply provided his own unique type of communism.

Robert Owens never achieved his goal, but his Workingmen’s Party did make a dent politically, particularly in New York. One of his adherents later defected and became a Christian. He then penned some rather direct comments regarding the aims of this political party. I’ll relate those in the next education post.

Education's Historic Shift (Part III)

Unitarians wanted to remove education from the hands of the orthodox Christian churches. They sought to make all education the responsibility of the state; they were able to impose their will on Massachusetts by the 1830s. The first secretary of the state board of education was a man by the name of Mann.

Horace Mann was a Unitarian who was placed in control of Massachusetts state education in 1837. He exhibited all the beliefs of the Unitarians with respect to the efficacy of education—that it would be the cure for all of society’s ills. This is clearly revealed in one of his rapturous quotes, where he said:

The Common School is the greatest discovery ever made by man.

Stop and contemplate that for a moment. The greatest discovery? Out of all the discoveries of the centuries? Just exactly what did he think common schools would accomplish?

Let the Common School be expanded to its capabiliities, let it be worked with the efficiency of which it is susceptible, and nine-tenths of the crimes in the penal code would become obsolete; the long catalogue of human ills would be abridged; men would walk more safely by day; every pillow would be more inviolable by night; property, life, and character held by a stronger tenure; all rational hopes respecting the future brightened.

No, you didn’t misread that. He’s saying that if we would set up the common [public] schools, we would rid the nation of 9/10 of its crimes. You see, in his view, education was the key to all things. All we had to do was educate children, and they would then do whatever is right. That’s quite some faith. In the real world, as we experience it today, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that 9/10 of the crimes in society are being committed in the schools.

Horace Mann’s vision could not be achieved. The Unitarian belief that man can be educated into perfection was a fantasy. Yet Mann, in the common perspective on the history of public education, is a hero. Many schools [and even an insurance company for teachers] are named after him.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Unitarians were not exactly dominant in America. By themselves, they never could have spread a government-run system to all the other states. They needed some help. We’ll look at their helpers in future posts.

Education's Historic Shift (Part II)

In a previous post, I noted that Unitarians in early America wanted to take education away from the orthodox churches and place it in the hands of the government. Unitarianism was hardly the dominant theology of early America; the primary place where this view prevailed was in the Boston area and Harvard, so that’s where they tried to make the change first.

Early New England Schoolhouse

They decided to push for “common” schools in Boston for all elementary-age chidren. Convinced that many children were being denied a basic education, they conducted a survey in 1817. The results were not what they expected: fully 96% of all children were actually in school, and the other 4% could have attended if the parents wished, but chose to have the children work to help the family finances instead.

Now, that survey should have been the end of the push for a government-controlled hierarchy dictating how education was to be done. If they were really interested in the education of these children, they should have opted for scholarships to cover that 4% that were not in school. Yet they instead continued to demand common schools, and ultimately were successful. An educational hierarchy was set up regardless of the need. To me, this reveals the true motivation: control.

Their success in Boston was then duplicated in the state: Massachusetts later became the first state to create a state board of education. The first secretary of that board was a Unitarian. I’ll talk about him when this series on education continues in couple days. Come back and learn more.

Education's Historic Shift (Part I)

Almost all early American education was private. That which was paid for by taxes, particularly in New England, was still local and controlled by a committee that reflected the beliefs of the towns. Early Americans weren’t attracted to the idea of government-sponsored and/or -controlled education.

Why were they resistant to this idea?

Three reasons come to the forefront:

  1. They feared that a government-controlled education system would impose a uniformity of thoughts that would endanger liberty;
  2. They believed that education was the proper domain of parents, church, and locality, not the state;
  3. Further, they were concerned about the cost of such a system; they instinctively understood that the system would require more money than was currently being spent, and they were not willing to pay the taxes it would demand.

Yet the common school movement tried to change that perception. Proponents argued that the growing nation needed a more systematic approach to education that would ensure students learned the skills they needed for life, receive the ethical instruction essential for living in society, and be trained to be responsible citizens, since Americans had the privilege of choosing their own government.

Of course there’s an assumption here—that Americans were not getting these skills, ethical instruction, or knowledge of how to be good citizens. Hadn’t the history of America up to this point made it clear that the majority were skilled, ethical, and responsible citizens?

Regardless, there were certain groups determined to engineer this historic shift from private to public [government-controlled] education. One of those groups was the Unitarians.

Unitarians didn’t accept the divinity of Jesus, they didn’t believe the Bible was a revelation directly from God, and they denied the supernatural elements depicted in the Bible. They were concerned that education was dominated by the orthodox Christian churches. That needed to be changed because it was “too sectarian.”

Unitarians also maintained that man could be perfected through education and that if we just make education a priority, we could cure all the evils in society. Well, they definitely had faith of a certain type, but it was in a man-created, earthly utopia.

How did the Unitarians attempt to impose their agenda? I’ll cover that in a future post.

Education & Biblical Roots

The United States Constitution doesn’t say one word about education. That may surprise some people. The Founders didn’t consider government—at least at the federal level—to be the source of education. The 10th Amendment made it crystal clear [if only we would see the obvious intent of that amendment so clearly today] that whatever authority was not found in the Constitution was left to the states and to the people, respectively.

Educational authority is not found there.

Yet even if we recognize that, we then make the mistake of assuming that education should be sponsored by the state governments. Part of the reason we are willing to give them this authority is that we think education is the answer for all societial ills.

I’ve written about Noah Webster a couple of times before. He’s considered the Father of Early American Education, but he understood how enthusiasm for education can lead us into false assumptions. Webster noted,

In correcting public evils, great reliance is placed on schools. But schools no more make statesmen than human learning makes Christians. Literature and scientific attainments have never prevented the corruption of government.

The only thing that will prevent corruption in society is a people with the proper character. And the only way to ensure that kind of character is through faith in Christ. Webster understood this when he said,

In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed.

The Founding generation realized that we would not remain a free government without a solid Biblical basis in the people. Education without those Biblical roots would be worse than useless—it would be dangerous.

That explains why we are where we are today.

Religion, Morality, and Knowledge

As Americans began to move into new territories after the Revolution, the Congress set up rules for how those territories were to be governed and how they could become states. The Northwest Territory—which consisted of the current states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and part of Wisconsin—was the first region to be settled.

Even before the Constitution was written, the fledgling American Congress under the Articles of Confederation passed what was called the Northwest Ordinance. It was a very significant document not only in how territories could become states, but also in how we understood education. Here’s what the Ordinance stated:

Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

Notice that the role of the federal government was only to “encourage” education, not dictate how it was to be done. Notice also the linkage made in that statement: knowledge is indissolubly connected to religion and morality. Notice further that those three ingredients were absolutely essential if we expected to have good government and happiness.

Yet today we seek to disconnect religion and morality from education. We’re even told we can have value-neutral education. How is such a thing possible? A value of some kind will always be taught. If you say there shall be no religious input into education, aren’t you transmitting a value—that religion has no part to play in one’s education?

In fact, a lot of so-called value-neutral education is really just a mask for another agenda.

Don’t think I’m being out of bounds with this cartoon. It’s happening routinely now. How far we have fallen.