by Tina Olesen
Imagine for a moment that your church became a “public” church, where everyone’s beliefs had to be accommodated. Imagine that your church agreed to compromise the teaching of the Bible in exchange for a steady stream of financial support from the government. Now imagine that you had no option but to support this public church with your tax dollars. You would never let this happen to your church, you say? Then why have we let it happen to our schools?
To understand where we are now, let’s look back at some North American history. Puritans fleeing religious persecution in England established schools in America, with the main purpose being to teach their children how to read the Bible so they wouldn’t be deluded by Satan (see The Old Deluder Satan Act, Massachusetts, 1647). With the growth of immigration and industrialism in the 1700s, commercial subjects began to be emphasized over religious instruction in the schools. At the same time, Catholics and Protestants were fighting it out for the right to have their children trained in their own religion. Many Protestants advocated for non-sectarian schools, as they mistakenly assumed that the religious default position would be Protestantism. Wanting to access the government coffers, schools agreed to secularize their curriculum further, in exchange for government funding. They effectively sold control over their schools to the state.
There were similar battles for control fought here in Canada. English Protestants who were concerned about French Catholic domination sought government protection for the right to educate their children according to their beliefs, and fought against a nondenominational common school system. Parallel school systems emerged, with the Anglican Protestants forming what we now know as the “public” school system, and the Catholics retaining their own separate schools. In some provinces, heated battles were fought by parents to retain government funding for Catholic schools. Sometimes this was also tied to French language and culture rights (e.g. The Manitoba Schools Question). Protestant public schools gradually came under scrutiny for having a denominational bias, so biblical teaching was watered down to the lowest common denominator, and eventually done away with in most schools altogether. In order to receive state aid, schools would have to demonstrate that they were serving the aims of the state, at the cost of curricular independence. State funding could only be had with state control.
One of the main differences between the American and Canadian school systems is in how they are governed. In America, a U. S. Department of Education exists, but in Canada, we have no such federal governing body; education comes under the responsibility of provincial governments. American President Andrew Johnson established the first national Department of Education in the USA in 1867, with the stated purpose of collecting information and statistics. By 1868 the “Department” was demoted to an “Office of Education” over concerns that it would exercise too much control. But in the 1970s, the Department of Education was re-established to oversee federal education funding, collect data and do research, and ensure that laws which prohibit discrimination would be followed. What started in the 1800s with four employees and a budget of $15,000 grew to nearly 4,300 employees and a budget of about $60 billion by 2010, according to the department’s website.
One of the things the U. S. Department of Education does not do, according to its website, is exercise control over the curriculum or standards. So, what are the Common Core State Standards? These are a set of educational standards said to be developed in a state-led initiative, without federal involvement; but the Obama administration has apparently provided certain federal financial incentives to those states willing to adopt the Common Core. Nearly all the states have now signed on. Critics of the Common Core are concerned about an overemphasis on standardized testing and the collection of private student data. Others warn of the potential danger that the Common Core might allow the United Nations to influence the curriculum (see links below).
North American parents currently enjoy the freedom of having the option to educate their children in privately funded schools or at home. This is not the case in some other nations. In Germany, the state controls the education system to the degree that homeschooling is outlawed. Hitler introduced compulsory school attendance during the Nazi era. One German family who recently attempted to homeschool had their children removed by state authorities, and were not reunited with them until they agreed to send the children to a state school.
As history teaches us, the more we have allowed the state to take over the responsibility of educating our children in exchange for securing government funding, the less control we have retained over the curriculum. It was the word of God which was sacrificed on the altar of compromise.
The Lord Jesus has given us the privilege and responsibility of teaching our children to follow Him. We are to teach them to fear Him (Deut. 4:10, Ps. 34:11) and to know His law (Ps. 78:5). We are to love Him with all our hearts, and lay up His words in our heart and soul, teaching them to our children in our homes and all throughout our days (Deut. 6:5-9, 11:18-19). We ought not to sell that privilege for anything.
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Article: Common Core: UN Takeover of Education in America, by Lynn Teger, May 23rd, 2013.
Paper: The Core Problem: Preventing the United Nations Takeover of K-12 Education in America, by Jim Kelly, April 26, 2013.
Paper: Controlling Education From the Top – Why Common Core Is Bad for America, A Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project White Paper by Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins, May 2012.