Public Schools as Government Religion!?

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John Locke, philosopher of politics and education, was a major influence on the Framers.

“Americans would revolt if the government forced them to join a state-established church. They guard too fiercely their liberty of conscience, guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Yet when some parents choose not to submit their children to the government-operated school system – whose curriculum and culture embody beliefs and values with which they disagree – they still must pay taxes to support the system. Even then, they often face opposition.”

This is the introduction to a great article written by Thomas Hun and James Carper and published by the CS Monitor last fall. It draws heavily from themes of Locke’s Second Treatise and Letter Concerning Toleration.

Hun and Carper go on to argue that in practice, parents have very little role in the conduct of public schooling and point out how US history is littered with oppressive government limitations on religious freedom in the form of anti-religious schooling laws. They also see fault with oppressive tax burdens shouldered by families that homeschool their children as a great injustice. These homeschool children regularly achieve higher test scores then their public school peers, but this cost is not born by the taxpayers. Limitations on free speech in public schools, usually narrowly targeted at quelling religious expression, is another a trend that many parents find offensive, and this has caused countless families to withdrawal their children from neighborhood public schools.

Wrapping up their common sense position, Hun and Carper note:

“The role of government in a democracy should be to see that the public is educated, not to mandate, directly or indirectly through financial policies, one particular form of education. When the government privileges a specific set of propositions of knowledge and dispositions of value and belief, it has established the educational equivalent of a state church. Such an arrangement is just as incompatible with liberty of conscience, as were the established churches of America’s early history.”

Recognition of this pervasive financial, social, and authoritarian power of the government in the educational field is all the more disturbing when we consider the shocking instructional ineptitude of public schools in South Carolina.

From the nation’s lowest test scores to the highest drop out rates in the entire country, big government education has failed parents (and their children) in South Carolina for decades. And the failure has been painfully expensive.

Any attempt to minimize the injury that is being done to thousands of children in this state by inadequate education is shameful, and should be exposed and condemned by every concerned citizen of South Carolina. Leaving the young children, who represent the future of the state, to face a competitive world armed with only a “non Proficient” understanding of how to read and write, is unfair and inexcusable. Denying taxpaying parents the corresponding freedom to choose the instructional environment of their preference is equally repugnant.

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