The Molding of the American Character–Part Two
by Al Benson Jr.
Samuel Blumenfeld noted that after Horace Mann departed from orthodox Christianity he constructed his own peculiar theology. In fact, Mann, himself, said: "From that day, I began to construct the theory of Christian ethics and doctrine respecting virtue and vice, rewards and penalties, time and eternity, God and his providence which…I still retain." Mann’s statement here is a glowing example of man-centered religion. He doesn’t care for orthodox Christian theology so he goes about to construct his own theology. That fact, alone, should give you some indication as to the direction that public education took at its very foundations.
I have heard many people say over the years "If only we could get public schools back to what they were when I went, back to the good old days, then things would be alright." Horseradish! These folks, sincere though they may be, do not know history and they have no understanding of what public, or government schools were and are really all about. I have heard others say, even some in the Southern Heritage Movement, who should know better, rant and rave about how we need to "go in and take our public schools back." More horseradish–this time in spades! The government schools were never "ours" to begin with and we only delude ourselves if we think they were. And, as far as "reforming" government schools back to the "good old days" I have a question. If the foundation of those schools was apostate Unitarianism, then what, pray tell, do you "reform" them back to? No one ever wants to deal with that question. It’s much easier to lop off a few twigs here and there and to leave the rotten roots alone in the vain hope that, someday, somehow, they will start to produce good fruit. Unfortunately, scriptural truth says otherwise (Matthew 3:10).
Another man who was an avid supporter of government education was one few people today ever heard of. Thanks to our almost total lack of having been taught proper history, his name is familiar to only a few who have done historical research. He was Robert Owen, a social reformer who had an abiding passion to control other people’s lives. Mr. Owen has been labeled in some academic circles as the father of modern socialism. He became a convinced atheist at the tender age of ten, and, like Horace Mann, he reasoned out his own personal man-made theology, which dealt with such things as the reasons for man’s mostly miserable circumstances in life.
The Holy Scriptures teach that man’s misery is caused by sin. Owen strongly rejected this truth. In his mind, man was not at all responsible for his own character, but was, really, only the product of his environment. Before his pilgrimage to America, where he embarked on the infamous (and failed) experiment in socialist community living in New Harmony, Indiana in the late 1820s, Owen owned spinning mills in New Lanark, Scotland. There he had established a model community for his workers and a special school for their children. Such was a private endeavor and, had he left it at that, his efforts to improve the lives of his workers would have been commendable. But that wasn’t enogh for Owen.
He wrote in 1813: "It follows that every state, to be well governed, ought to direct its chief attention to the formation of character, and that the best governed state will be that which shall possess the best national system of education." Sound familiar? Compare that statement with the one from Senator Justin Morrill about it being the task of the national government to mold the character of the American people. One of Robert Owens’ favourite schemes was the idea that children should be separated from their parents at the earliest possible age so their characters could be molded by their "educators." More about this later.
Blumenfeld noted that, in 1817, Robert Owen gave a speech in which he openly stated that religion was the source of all human misery–not sin, but religion! At that point, the Unitarians started to shrink from mentioning Owen, or mentioning that he was the source of many of their ideas about public education. Had they let that cat out of the bag, they would have lost much support from Christians they had gulled into thinking that their new "educational" system was something special and would protect Protestant children from the growing "Catholic" influence. Still more horseradish!
Franes Wright, a really radical Anglo-American "social reformer" had worked closely with Robert Dale Owen, the son of Robert Owen. Wright’s concept was that the state had a major role to play in the formation of human character. Wright’s theology can be summed us thusly: "National, rational (education) Free for all at the expense of all; conducted under the guardianship of the state, and for the honor, the happiness, the virtue, the salvation of the state." Take a good look at what she said. Education for the "salvation" of the state! You can’t put it much plainer than that. Yet which history book did you last read her comments in? Can’t remember? Why do you suppose that is? Couldn’t be that you aren’t supposed to know this, could it?
I could go on and on, but you should have the idea by now. For those who want a little more documentation, with a bibliography, I have published a fifteen-page booklet entitled The Unitarian/socialist Foundations of Public Education which I sell for $3.00. You can write to me requesting that at P O Box 55, Sterlington, Louisiana 71280.