State-run education is the "strongest political instrument of our time." During the twentieth century it has demonstrated that it has the power to make culture into its own image.
Without exaggeration, public, State-run education in America has evolved into an powerful machine, one that is based on a socialistic model. Is it any wonder that more and more politicians and media-types are now unapologetically in favor of socialism?
Take, for instance, MSNBC News Anchor Lawrence O'Donnell. He said, "... I am not a progressive. I am not a liberal who is so afraid of the word that I had to change my name to progressive. Liberals amuse me. I am a socialist." Anita Dunn, former Social Communications Director of the Obama administration, referred to Mao Tse-tung, former Communist leader of China, as one of her two “favorite political philosophers.” And Jesse Jackson took his admiration for the Cuban dictator a step further: “Viva Fidel! Viva Che! Castro is the most honest and courageous politician I've ever met." They are coming out of the closet. And why not? Our school system is pumping out students by the year who feel entitled to government handouts and who are, furthermore, increasingly favoring socialism; if not by name, certainly in principle.
As to the socialistic model of public education, for the most part, competition between schools does not exist. Most parents have no choice but to send their children to the nearest public school. State funds inevitably lead to State standards and no one else’s. And the exclusion of choices and ideas is but a natural outcome of its governmental standards.
For instance, public education, since the early 1960's, has grown hostile towards Christianity, constitutional principles, and towards the family itself. Yet relatively few people give this State sponsored discrimination the attention that it deserves.
If truth be told, politics and the ballot box is where most conservatives- and even most Christians -focus their attention for change. And for that reason, much their energy is invested in congressional, gubernatorial and presidential elections. However, political victories which lend themselves to the restoration of America are short lived so long as the State has a monopoly on education. The political winds which blow through Washington, D.C. are even more uncertain today because few and fewer U.S. citizens are being trained and formed by Christian principles which have always brought about greater stability.
In 1929 Hilaire Belloc wrote a book entitled Survivals and New Arrivals. Belloc provides an analysis on Catholicism and the emerging threats to Western Civilization. One of those threats is what he called "Compulsory Universal Instruction." To Americans, it is better known as public or State-run education. In any case, he briefly outlines why this kind of education undermines the family, democracy and the Christian religion. He said, "The inevitable conflict between the Catholic and the non-Catholic conceptions of human nature, life and destiny, cannot but make the elementary school their battlefield."
There are three decisive points which Belloc brings to our attention. Each one illustrates why Christians and conservatives alike should introduce a national debate on the lethal effects a State-run education has on a free society.
First of all, Belloc addressed the priority parents have over the State. He said, "The State is secondary to the family, and especially in the matter of forming a child's character by education. Now here the State of today flatly contradicts Catholic doctrine. It says to the parent, 'What you will for your child must yield to what I will. If our wills are coincident, well and good. If not, yours must suffer. I am master.' At least, so the State speaks to the poorer parent; to the richer it is more polite."
Now, the necessity of parents being the primary educator of children is perfectly consistent with the Second Vatican Council's document, Declaration On Christian Education, which says, "Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators."
Belloc's prophetic statement that the public school system sees itself as a "master" is no exaggeration. Public educators in the twenty-first century, especially when dealing with sensitive subjects like sex-ed., have been guilty of a superiority complex. Indeed, throughout the America, they have shown a disregard for parental rights and have put them in uncomfortable situations by having their children opt out of certain sex-ed. programs. Moreover, even though parents pay their fair share into the public school system, they have very few choices when their local elementary or high school fails their children academically.
Again, it has been a long standing teaching of the Church that the State is the servant of the family. Fathers and mothers, not public school teachers and administrators, are the primary educators of their children. Their authority over their own children in terms of education is second only to God. However, the State, as it exists today- in practice and in theory -no longer sees itself as the guarantor of parental authority but rather as its rival. This general philosophy is not only problematic in terms of parental choice and rights, but it has insidiously shaped the way children see the world. Elementary school children of today will be the policy-makers of tomorrow. The question is: Do we expect them to have any appreciation of the natural law or of God's rights? One such law is that the family precedes the State and for this reason "the State is secondary to the family." This is a fundamental pillar to Western Civilization. Without it, it ceases to be free and prosperous.
Although most parents have not consciously surrendered their authority and rights over their children to the State, the federal government, nevertheless, operates as though they did. The posture public education has assumed towards the family has left a deep impression upon the psyche of Americans. And with this, we are led to Belloc's second point.
Points 2 & 3 of The Strongest Political Instrument in next week’s column
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.