Reflecting on perhaps the most unpredictable and bizarre presidential elections in my entire lifetime brings a satisfied yet wary smile to my face. Certainly the political outcome represents a moment of reprieve for cherished religious liberties that have been increasingly threatened or subjected to governmental intimidation as of late. Still, I sense that Americans are not entirely free of the ever looming specter of overbearing “political correctness,” a phenomenon that has been quietly invading every private (and public) corner of American life for far too long now. My pessimism in this regard stems from the fact that millions of young high school and college age students continue to be systematically radicalized against their own culture, flag, and even religion by those very institutions to which they have been entrusted by parents and taxpayers. I refer to that juggernaut called public and higher education which continues to be dominated by left leaning academics who seem bent on imposing progressive social agendas instead of encouraging the development of genuine critical thinking skills among their students. In the process these pedagogical elites are willfully implementing a de facto secular “state religion” in direct contravention to the First Amendment.
Make no mistake, there is an umbilical linkage between religious faith and education, two things which, by their very nature, are inseparable in the same sense that automobiles and highways are inseparable. Cars create the need for highways just as highways direct the flow of cars, a symbiotic relationship. Likewise, religious faith creates the need for education which in turn directs the flow of those natural religious impulses. That is one reason why education in a truly free society is understood as both a fundamental right and responsibility of parents, not some centralized state.
Education is not just about math scores and grammar, it is also about values, specifically moral and religious values. Yet one would be rather naive today in presuming that a government made up of career bureaucrats would necessarily share the same values as ordinary parents. In fact, that dichotomy of values between everyday people and the class of “experts” who govern has never been more obviously stated than it was in the recent campaign. When the oligarchs of “progressive” values seem so intent on squeezing out or willfully suffocating those values that the people hold dear, there will be push-back. And the primary battering ram of the progressive attack on social and religious values has, for some time, been public education.
At the forefront of that progressive oligarchy stands an educational establishment completely out of touch with the values of the very people it ostensibly serves. Yet the dilemma is that if religious liberty is to be preserved for future generations this can only happen through the agency of education. The current educational establishment is committed almost entirely to the worldview known as philosophical naturalism, which in practical terms means agnosticism. This agnostic philosophy (which is undoubtedly a religious point of view itself) now under-girds the whole public educational superstructure. Of course, it is never openly referred to as agnostic or materialistic. Instead that deceptively semantic term “nature” is substituted to convey the message that God is entirely absent from the equation. But in teaching that nature alone is responsible for everything that exists, including ourselves, this narrative coyly omits the most important question. Who or what is responsible for nature? The question of any first cause is silently passed over as some irrelevant non sequitur in the classroom, which is precisely the agnostic’s point of view. Therefore the religion of irreligion is being actively promulgated by public educators under the foil of “natural” science.
So, in one sense, agnosticism has become the de facto state religion which is taught in every tax funded academy. And how did this virtual annexation of education by the Federal behemoth come about? After all, up until about 1962 education was a local enterprise governed by local school boards elected directly by the people they served, and thereby accountable to local constituencies. It was about that time that the people lost any real control of their schools when Federal courts first stepped in to outlaw school prayer and soon began dictating social engineering experiments like forced busing. These were only warning shots across the bow, however. Before the decade of the 70s had ended, the Carter administration had created a new “Department of Education” to regulate at the Federal level what had always been the province of individual states and school districts.
Once the Federal bureaucrats got involved, local school boards ceased to exercise any meaningful autonomy. The long held principle of subsidiarity gave way to an administrative chain of command entrenched in Washington. A Federal hierarchy replaced true educational democracy in the short span of a generation. Educators quickly learned that it was the new voice of “experts” on the Potomac rather than parents to whom they were now beholden. And those progressive bureaucrats well understand the axiom, “Whoever controls education controls the future,” an opportunity which they have been keenly exploiting for nearly 50 years now. The net result has been that a typical college graduates today enjoys a lower rate of literacy than most of my 1970 high school class. How is that for “progressive” education?
Many conservative Americans have pointed out that one of the more productive things this new administration could do would be abolishing the Department of Education. I wholly support that position as a small first step in getting education back into the hands from which it should never have been taken in the first place; namely the parents, taxpayers, and local elected school boards. I would go even further by stripping the Feds of student loan programs and even grants. The democratically hands-off way to help young people pursuing their education would be to grant parents of students generous tax credits to be applied towards their preferred educational choices.
The current system of direct funding (education) invariably attaches both schools and students to byzantine strings which are securely gripped by mostly invisible, and heavy-handed, bureaucrats. The beauty of individual tax credits is that they are not easily traced or manipulated from above and yet they allow individuals to make private, free-market decisions as to what kind of education, including religious values, best serves their needs or those of their children. Isn’t that really how educational freedom should look in a diverse society such as ours? Or perhaps that is the sort of “diversity” that terrifies the progressive oligarchs of public education. After all, nobody who enjoys a government sanctioned monopoly (in education) really wants to share, do they? Perhaps not, but I say that it is finally time for parents and taxpayers to “Turn the Corner” and reclaim the proper education of our future generations. Otherwise we will have won a small battle, but will eventually loose the war.
Fran Pierson a.m.d.g.