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John Knight johnknight at
Sun Aug 11 19:18:24 EST 2002

A Case for Abandoning Government Schools

A Case for Abandoning Government Schools
Aug 11, 2002

Let My Children Go:
A New Case for Abandoning Government Schools

by Steven Yates

E. Ray Moore, Jr., Let My Children Go (Columbia, S.C.: Gilead Media, 2002).
Pp. 352. $14.95.

On March 28 of this year, Rev. James Dobson, President of Focus on the
Family, issued one of the strongest warnings to date about government
schools today. "In the state of California," he said, "and in places that
have moved with the direction that they've gone with the schools, if I had a
child there, I wouldn't put that youngster in public schools. Theyâ?Tre
being taught homosexual propaganda and these other politically correct,
postmodern views. I think it's time to get our kids out. We cannot sacrifice
our kids on the altar of some kind of public school's ideal." On July 8 he
expanded on that indictment. "What I was saying was that this godless and
immoral curriculum and influence in the public schools is gaining momentum
across the nation in ways that were unheard of just one year ago. It's as
though the dam has now broken and activists representing various causes,
including homosexuality, are rushing through the breach in ways that are
shocking." He singled out Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota,
New Jersey, Washington, Wisconsin, Vermont, Washington, D.C., and also
targeted Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, and Alaska as promoting
homosexuality in government schools as a normal, alternative lifestyle
choice. "It isn't just California that has drifted into this dangerous
stuff," he said. "This is where we are, especially on both coasts, but to
some degree throughout the nation."

Last year on this site I reported in detail on the Exodus Mandate Project,
Rev. E. Ray Mooreâ?Ts name for his working strategy aimed at persuading as
many Christian parents as possible to remove their children from what he
frequently calls Pharaohâ?Ts school system, and either home school them or
send them to private Christian schools. Shortly after that interview Rev.
Moore began discussing a book he had started to write. He wanted to produce
a Christian education manifesto setting out the case against government
schools and for Bible-based education in one concise package. He was looking
to provide a kind of tool that could be used to encourage pastors and other
denominational leaders to support both home schooling in their areas and the
founding of church-based Christian schools at their churches. Extremely busy
with his Frontline Ministries as well as building up Exodus Mandateâ?Ts
nationwide network (and given that we were living less than ten miles apart
at the time), Rev. Moore eventually came to me for assistance in editing the
manuscript, assistance I was more than willing to provide.

The book is now here. It is a tour-de-force that should be very accessible
to the lay reader, and it could not have come along at a better time.

Let My Children Go begins on familiar territory, distinguishing Christian
from secular humanist worldviews. The first chapter describes how Rev. Moore
and his wife Gail sought to provide a Christian education for their four
children, how they became one of the pioneering home schooling families in
the country, and how their oldest son went on to become Valedictorian and
Regimental Commander at The Citadel, in Charleston, S.C. â?" having been
well ahead of other young people in his age bracket. Rev. Moore contrasts
these results with the dominant agendas in government schools over the past
couple of decades: Outcome Based Education, Goals 2000, and School-To-Work.
These movements are not just anti-Christian, he tells us. By assuming or
promoting the idea that the only valid goal of education is workforce
training for the global economy, these movements are virulently
anti-academic and anti-intellectual as well.

Rev. Moore develops three lines of argument for abandoning government
schools. Interestingly, these lines of argument are mostly independent of
one another, so one should not have to be a convinced Christian to recognize
their aggregate impact. The first is mostly historical, the second is mainly
economic, and the third is Scriptural and theological. It is sometimes said
that the vast majority of those in the home schooling movement are
Evangelical Christians. The actual figure is around 70 percent; to this
extent, Christians have indeed taken the lead. There is nothing stopping
libertarians from getting involved. To my mind, libertarians can learn from
Christians on this issue; many might even become Christians as a result of
their involvement. There are reasons for thinking that Christian and
libertarian thought are compatible.

In the first line of argument, presented mainly in Chapter Two (colorfully
entitled "Get Behind Me, Horace Mann: The Rise and Fall of State-Sponsored
Education), Rev. Moore shows how state-sponsored schools, as he frequently
calls them, were never a part of the Framersâ?T original vision. It is
common to point out that the Constitution never mentions education. The
assumption of the time was that education would be private, and any
government involvement would be strictly local. It is important to realize
that in the early history of the United States, literacy was over 90
percent. The Federalist Papers were published in the New York newspapers of
the time, and read by an educated public. Then state-sponsored education was
imported from Europe â?" specifically, Prussia â?" with the first true
state-sponsored schools set up in Massachusetts by Horace Mann and the
Unitarians in the 1840s. Mann and his colleagues set down three principles:
(1) compulsory attendance; (2) teacher certification from a state teachers
college â?" showing that teachers have been taught what to teach; (3)
ownership and administration of schools by the state. Rev. Moore notes how
19th century theologians such as R.L. Dabney warned against the new system.
But almost no one sensed danger. Then came John Deweyâ?Ts Progressive
Education. Little by little, state-sponsored schools became places intended
to produce a certain type of human being: compliant, group-focused, and
above all, obedient to governmental authority â?" as opposed to
independent-minded, capable of individual critical discernment, and
skeptical of centralized authority (the mindset that characterized the
pioneers in every field who built this country). In short, state-sponsored
schools slowly became hotbeds of social engineering.

The second argument for abandoning state-sponsored schools appears mainly in
Chapter Four. It, as we said, focuses on economics, and employs the
arguments of key figures of the twentieth century Austrian school such as
Ludwig Von Mises and Murray Rothbard. Our country was founded on the idea of
private property rights. Goods and services should be delivered by the free
market and not by the state. Rev. Moore shows how both home schooling and
private Christian schools would exemplify the operation of a free market in
education. Government schools, on the other hand, exemplify our countryâ?Ts
drift toward socialism, and it is to be expected that Progressive Educators
dispense education for a socialist society. One of the most important points
here is whether they are starting up new, private schools or dispensing
materials (e.g., curriculums) for home schooling parents, those
participating in a free market in education must deliver the goods at what
their customers consider a fair price or they will not be able to stay in
business. In a free market, if your customers are unhappy they will go
elsewhere. This will ensure a return to the quality education that
government schools can no longer deliver; it has already fostered an
environment in which home schooled children are years ahead of their
government-schooled counterparts, having won national spelling bees and
other contests and being accepted into top-rated universities.

The third argument is theological and ought to impact on Christians
especially: Rev. Moore presents the Scriptural passages where God directly
commands parents to take charge of their childrenâ?Ts education. These
include Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Psalms 127:3-5 and 78:5, Proverbs 22:6, Matthew
28:18-20, and others. As Rev. Moore expresses this, "A major proposition of
the Exodus Mandate Project is that God gave education to the family with
assistance from the church." The command is to the family â?" more
specifically, to parents â?" and not any governmental entity. Rev. Moore
sees a profound need to reach out to pastors and denominational leaders,
seeking to inspire them to take seriously the need to address educational
issues. These range from supporting home schooling groups in their
congregations and communities to overseeing start-up church-based schools
affordable for those parents who cannot home school (which, today, is
probably the majority). To supplement this critical point, Rev. Moore draws
on the Nehemiah Instituteâ?Ts detailed documentation of how youth raised in
Christian homes but attending state-sponsored schools tend to abandon their
faith and stop attending church after they get to college. He cites the
observation of Brig. Gen. T.C. Pinckney (USAF ret.), former Second Vice
President of the Southern Baptist Convention, in a speech before the SBCâ?Ts
Executive Committee last September: "We are losing our children. Research
indicates that 70 percent of teens who are involved in a church youth group
will stop attending church within two years of their high school
graduation." Government schools change their worldview at a fundamental
level â?" and then university education makes matters worse. The PEERS test
developed by the Nehemiah Institute (PEERS stands for Politics, Education,
Economics, Religion, Social Issues) documents how a secularist worldview
comes to dominate teenagersâ?T thinking and utterly overwhelms their one-day
exposure to Christian education (often limited to Sunday school). Let My
Children Go, in this case, is a tool for reversing this process. There is no
need to fear that schools set up to promote a Christian worldview will be
anti-intellectual. The Bible contains many passages endorsing the pursuit of
knowledge (Hosea 4:6, Psalms 94:10, Proverbs 1:5, 10:14, 15:7, 18:15, and so
on). It is secular humanism that has turned anti-intellectual, ranging from
its acceptance of postmodernism to its promotion of job-skills training in
place of academics (the School-To-Work model).

>From all this Rev. Moore infers that Christians need a new paradigm for
education, one that takes as its point of departure the realization that
state-sponsored education is a "renegade school system" that was
fundamentally alien to American founding principles and hostile to Christian
belief from the start. So abandoning state-sponsored education is the
logical thing to do; it was never anything more than a snare for the unwary.

One of the key chapters in Let My Children Go focuses on "Minefields on the
Road to the Promised Land." A large chapter (almost 40 pages), it presents
the case Rev. Moore had assembled against educational vouchers before the
recent Zelman decision, arguing that a voucher system would eventually rob
private religious schools of their autonomy and sabotage their distinct
mission. As I argued recently, there is abundant evidence that this is
already happening. Rev. Moore also considers both charter schools and
accrediting agencies. All have the same problem: wherever you have
government money, you have a slowly encircling web of government controls â?
" with the watchword being "accountability." The separations clause in the
First Amendment becomes a secularist weapon against religious identity
(something that would have horrified its authors who wanted to prevent the
establishment of a state-sponsored church, such as the Church of England,
not erase Christianity from public life).

Rev. Mooreâ?Ts final target in this chapter is an unexpected one: character
education. Unexpected, because a substantial literature presents character
education as an alternative to relativism, situation ethics and values
clarification. Moreover, many character education supporters see themselves
as Christians. Clearly there are character educators who mean well.
Character education spells trouble, however, because although it may avoid
the blatant relativism of values clarification it still attempts to place
ethics on a secular footing, relying on such work as that of Lawrence
Kohlberg and his "six stages" of moral development. Rev. Moore shows, with
citations, that character education in practice is unable to avoid
reinstating current fashionable dogmas about multiculturalism, universal
tolerance, and so on â?" because these agendas control the mainstream, and
secular ethicists have no significant defenses against them.

The entire issue of reforming state-sponsored schools turns on a single
question: can reform work? The evidence is abundant and growing that it
cannot. If we pay close attention to the three lines of argumentation seen
above, we see why. State-sponsored schools not having been a part of the
original vision for the country, their dismal performance is not a deviation
but a product of the secularist and statist agenda that has driven (and
funded) them from the start. A secularist mindset controls the institutions
through which any reform must be administered.

The better strategy, therefore, is a new Exodus from Pharaohâ?Ts schools.
There is abundant evidence that government schools (1) have become
laboratories of behavior modification techniques, including the use of legal
(because govern ment-approved) mind-altering drugs such as Ritalin, (2)
teach politically correct but historically false views of history and
government including groupthink which prepares them to live in a socialist
society, (3) promote tolerance of everything except Christianity, (4) are
therefore places where youth from Christian homes lose their faith, (5) have
been the scene of declining levels of literacy, the oft-referred-to dumbing
down of the country, so that graduates donâ?Tt understand economics and
wouldnâ?Tt know socialism if they saw it; and (6) have become physically
dangerous to both students and teachers.

Each of these could be explored in great detail â?" some have been explored
in depth by other authors. Beverly Eakman, for example, explores the role
behavior modification has played in state-sponsored education in her The
Cloning of the American Mind. John Taylor Gatto documents how the basic
philosophy of state-sponsored schools was lavishly funded by power elites in
huge tax-exempt foundations (especially the Rockefeller Foundation and the
Carnegie Corporation) and came to service their interests in The Underground
History of American Education. Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt weaves both threads
together in her monumental compendium The Deliberate Dumbing Down of

These works are not superficial treatments. They are meticulously
documented; both Eakman and Iserbyt have worked in government and "know the
ropes," so to speak. They show that the point of state-sponsored education
is to produce a "mass man" (and "mass woman"), calling for mass workforce
training for a global economy micromanaged by a global government (otherwise
known as the New World Order), respectful of a "diversity" which in turn
respects everyone except independent-minded, straight white Christian males.
There is thus no incentive to teach real history, for example â?" or
necessarily to teach history at all. Such subjects have been ratcheted down
in importance since School-To-Work education became the fad of the 1990s
(its successor is George W. Bushâ?Ts No Child Left Behind.) Children can
then be induced to accept politically correct ideas, having no means of
evaluating them for themselves and nothing to compare them with. They can be
taught one form or another of ethical relativism â?" or simply to accept
what has become the prevailing secularist view of education in modern life,
that its only aim is training for a supposedly high paying job â?" a job
that might not be there if by some chance the U.S. economy continues on its
present course towards what could become a new depression.

Finally, the evidence that state-sponsored schools are no longer physically
safe is abundantly supported by the rash of school shootings that has
occurred over the past ten or so years, the most dramatic being the
Columbine killings in April, 1999. In this case and in at least one other it
is clear that Christian students were deliberately targeted because of their
Christianity. That government schools arenâ?Tt considered physically safe
even by the state and local governments running them is demonstrated by the
metal detectors on the doors, the presence of security patrols in the halls,
especially of inner-city government schools, the regulations banning gang
insignia, and since Columbine, new rules calling for backpacks to be
transparent. Even with all these regulations, weapons continue to find their
way into state-sponsored schools. Statisticians will argue that the number
of violent incidents actually declined during the 1990s. However, no one can
dispute that of those incidents that did occur, they increased in their
intensity and level of violence, and that they occurred among progressively
younger age brackets â?" occasionally even among elementary school children!

The argument is that Christians had better become cognizant of all this
before it is too late, remove their children from these schools and build up
substantial alternatives in the form of home schooling and private,
Christian schools, church-based or otherwise. Rev. Moore does not deal with
every issue we face. Many Christians who would home school do not have the
time because of firm work obligations, and cannot send their children to
private religions schools because they cannot afford it. Those are the
people who will find vouchers very hard to resist. Even if that problem were
solved, Rev. Moore is conscious of what all of us supportive of or involved
with this might eventually be up against. Decisions to home school or to
place oneâ?Ts child in a private, church-affiliated school do not mean that
we are out of the woods, not by a long shot. If anything, I fear Rev. Moore
understates the danger. Home schooling is the largest and fastest growing
independent educational movement in the country. The total number of
children being home schooled in America is now greater than the number of
children in government schools in New Jersey. It is well on its way to
becoming the biggest threat the dominant educational institutions (and the
power elites behind them) have ever faced.

The point is, the home schooling movement in particular and the secular
educational establishment are on collision course. Let My Children Go thus
presents a Biblical view of the civil disobedience that might someday be
necessary if Christians have to choose between obedience to government and
obedience to God. It is important to be clear: Rev. Moore is no anarchist
who would abolish government or encourage people to break the law. The Bible
makes a place for governmental authorities who are themselves subservient to
Godâ?Ts law. But when these authorities abandon Godâ?Ts law and set
themselves up in Godâ?Ts place, Christians have to choose who to obey:
government or God. Thus, other things remaining equal, I foresee an eventual
collision between two opposed philosophies, the Christian one that places
God in the center and the secular humanist one that substitutes government
for God. This is essentially the same collision coming between the political
and economic philosophies that stress independence in this world and thus
support decentralization in one form or another and those leading to more
and more centralization. In the former, the individual depends upon and
places his trust in God, not society or an employer or government.
Government is limited to a few, carefully delineated functions. The latter
has set out to make human beings dependent on a massive welfare system with
a globalist orientation: global government and global economics (which,
despite all the hype about "global markets" is not a free market system or
anything close). This, naturally, calls for concentration of power in a
centralized, au thoritarian apparatus and an educational system controlled
by those capable of turning out "massified" people who can expected to be
obedient to and even worshipful of their rulers.

Rev. Mooreâ?Ts book contains or implies all this, and much more. One of its
merits is that it is short; unlike Eakman, Gatto or Iserbyt, he did not set
out to produce an encyclopedic treatment but a call to arms. Let My Children
Go should alert Christians to the full range of dangers of the renegade
school system. It calls on them to remove their children from it. It call on
pastors and denominational leaders to become informed about the situation in
government schools and act in ways that support alternatives, including
setting up schools in church facilities that are practically unused six days
of the week. Home schooling has become one of the more significant parallel
institutions of our time â?" parallel in having become a spontaneously
developing alternative to dominant institutions seen as corrupt, corrupting
and irredeemably hostile to Christiansâ?T interests â?" for that matter, to
anyone who wishes to live a life free from the clutches of centralized
power. Exodus Mandate has begun to receive national attention, as Rev. Moore
has now done numerous radio interviews explaining these ideas and received a
favorable mentions in such forums as Christianity Today, World and The
Washington Times. A momentum is developing. As Rev. Moore says repeatedly,
"God gave education to the family with assistance from the church." The time
has come, in the memorable phrase given currency by both Sheldon Richmon and
Marshall Fritz, to "separate school and state."

August 10, 2002

Steven Yates [send him mail] has a PhD in philosophy and is a Margaret "Peg"
Rowley Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Civil
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (ICS Press, 1994), and
numerous articles and reviews. At any given time he is at work on any number
of articles and book projects, including a science fiction novel.

Copyright © 2002

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