Public education has Christian roots
April 4, 2006
There’s a new book out about public education, written by my former boss.
It’s no stretch to say that the late Marlin Maddoux was a pioneer in Christian talk radio. And for nearly eight years I had the privilege of serving as co-host on his nationally syndicated current issues-based radio program, Point of View. The program is a forum where the hosts, guests and listeners dig into the issues that face the culture. Sometimes, Marlin would confront a subject, usually something that really disturbed him, and he would stay with it, wanting to know more. He would bring research and experts to the microphones day after day to talk about it.
As co-host and reporter I was assigned to do a lot of legwork on these issues — conducting interviews and producing stories that would illuminate the topic at hand. Anything that threatened national security or our societal institutions was fair game for these investigations. So, beginning in the early 80s, Marlin began making the case that America’s public school system was being used by social planners to change minds and hearts and that Christians, for the most part, were oblivious to what was going on.
Marlin did not set out to criticize the public schools. He was not one to just accept somebody’s theory. He talked to respected authorities, political figures, educators and his listeners. He asked good questions and did his own homework, before getting on board with the idea that there’s been a conscious “dumbing down” of public education since the 1920s. The curricular emphasis has shifted and continues to shift from a rigorous academic emphasis to a thoroughly embedded effort to move young minds away from the traditional values that predominated early in the 20th century. That process is the subject of this book, published posthumously, “Public Education Against America” (Whitaker House).
Marlin began to uncover reams of evidence to support the idea that there is a top-down agenda to dumb down the schools and change moral values through education. The schools are attempting and succeeding at the following: altering moral values; undermining patriotism; denigrating free enterprise and fostering dependence on government. A simple look at many public school textbooks proves the point.
The book points to the Christian roots of public education. As Christians retreated from the public arena, an atheist and socialist named John Dewey came on the scene, de-emphasizing traditional education and concentrating on beliefs and values. Some of his elite colleagues actually praised illiteracy as a method of making their desired changes. The rest is history, recounted in a compelling manner in Marlin’s book. Only the heartfelt pushback from Christians and conservatives has kept this agenda from taking hold more quickly.
During the Clinton years three pieces of legislation were enacted that seem designed as a move to greater federal control of public schools: Goals 2000, School-to-Work, and the National Investment Opportunity (or Careers) Act. All three parallel plans were set forth by Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, in a letter to Hillary Clinton that urged creating an American education system that is “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave.” This is coordinated by “a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum and “job matching” will be handled by counselors “accessing the integrated computer-based program.” The idea, which came from Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, is to use the schools to supply workers for estimated labor needs and to mold attitudes to create compliant workers. The idea is that the school serves the state, not the individual. Lawmakers also implemented a funding mechanism as a carrot to make sure these concepts ended up in laws of every state — and embedded in the curricula. And they are.
Is the system fulfilling the dreams of the elites in the education bureaucracies? Not completely. But their incremental success is bearing fruit. Just look at Barna studies that measure the rate at which Christian kids are losing their faith and their belief in moral absolutes. Check out American students’ dismal performance on international academic tests.
I am the last person to tell any family where to educate their children. My kids have been homeschooled, Christian schooled and public schooled. During our experience in public school, I have loved some teachers and challenged others. I have applauded certain concepts taught and cringed at others. But I know too much to have any sense of comfort that the public school system is serving the culture well. You may be thinking: “My kids are doing fine. (Penna Dexter is a board of trustee member with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.)