The Theology of the Public School System

December 5, 2011
Al Benson Jr.

The late theologian and author, R. J. Rushdoony noted in his book “The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum” that: “The function of education is thus to school persons in the ultimate values of a culture. This is inescapably a religious task. Education has always been a religious function of society and closely linked to its religion.” Rushdoony has thus told us that education finds its foundation in religion. Therefore, all education, whether its promoters will admit it or even realize it, is theological in nature. Men educate according to their beliefs, their theologies, if you will.

Awhile back Lawrence M. Ludlow wrote an article which appeared on the website called “State-Run Schools: The New Caesaropapism.” This term means basically a state-controlled religion. Mr. Ludlow wrote that: “In many ways, today’s state-controlled schools have replaced caesaropapism–or state-controlled religion–as a means by which rulers enforce their hegemony over citizen-subjects.” Ludlow briefly tells us how government schools came to dominate the American scene after 1850 and how they “helped to transform Americans into the passive and obedient beings they have become.”

If you have read any of the politically correct “history” books in recent decades you have been told that public schools were created so that illiteracy could be wiped out and that the average man would be able to read and write. You were told that only the wealthy had that option before the beneficent public school system came along. Sorry folks, but that’s not quite accurate. Mr. Ludlow has informed us that “…state-controlled schools are not a natural phenomenon. Instead they represent a government takeover of vibrant, private-sector initiatives that were voluntarily funded by parents…Furthermore, the state takeover of schooling, which began in Massachusetts during the 1850s, failed to improve the quality of learning. Even the late-lamented Senator Edward Kennedy admitted as much. In a paper released by his office, he acknowledged that the literacy rate in Massachusetts was 98% before compulsory education became law. Since that time the literacy rate has fallen, never to exceed 91% again. Quite interesting. So if government or public schools did not really have to educate the “ignorant masses” in New England, we might well ask just what their purpose was.

A large part of their purpose was, according to Rushdoony in “The Nature of the American System” to combat the influence of local church schools in Massachusetts and the influence they were having on the culture. Unfortunately, due to the ignorance, and in some cases, apostasy, of many Christians there who ended up supporting public education, they managed to do this. Having been successful in New England they began working on the rest of the country.

Their big impediment in the mid-1800s was the South, where no compulsory schooling laws existed and where education was still a parental responsibility. For that reason alone, the culture of the South had become notably different than that in the North. After the War of Northern Aggression that all changed and public schools came into the Southern states as in integral part of the Yankee “reconstruction” program.

Throughout all this, the true religion of the public school founders and movers remained mostly hidden from public view, except to a discerning few who vainly attempted to warn people what was happening to their children. Mostly, though, no one listened, and so public school theology was dispensed to the unsuspecting students via the curriculum.

In the 1900s the purveyors of public school religion became a little bolder. By now they had a few decades of practicing indoctrination under their belts and they were more secure. Charles Francis Potter, one of the signers of the first “Humanist Manifesto” stated quite plainly in 1930 that: “education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism and every American public school is a school of humanism. What can the theistic Sunday-schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?” Very good question–one I have asked myself. What indeed? Unfortunately, not much, but Christian parents, educated in public schools themselves, have yet to wake up to that fact.

Paul Blanchard, writing in the “Humanist” in the 1970s said: “I think that the most important factor moving us toward a secular society has been the educational factor. Our schools may not teach Johnny to read properly, but the fact that Johnny is in school until he reaches 16 tends to lead toward the elimination of religious superstition.” Right from the horse’s mouth (though some of these humanists might be more akin to the other end of the horse). They don’t give a rip whether they teach the kids to read or write–their main aim and object is to turn them away from the Christian faith. That is the real name of the game. The theology of the public (government) school system is anti-Christianity.

Those parents that send their kids to these humanist seminaries so they can be “a witness to the world” or so they can “take back our schools” (they were never “ours” to begin with) are deluding themselves. They have unknowingly reaped the fruit of the revolutionary, radical mindset they were no doubt educated in, so they think the same is alright for their kids. They have been brainwashed and don’t even realize it.

We would do well to remember that truth Rushdoony imparted to us–that all education is inescapably religious, and realizing that, we should remember that it is up to parents to make the decision as to whose religion they want their children taught in school, because, like it or not, they will be taught someone’s religion there. Were Hosea, the Old Testament prophet still around, he might well say again, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” and in all honesty, who could disagree with him.

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