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Do You Really Want Pat Robertson Deciding What Your Children Learn at School?

For well over a decade now (July 1999), the "Christian right" (which is neither) has maintained a constant attack on public education.  Much of their nonsense has been adopted as truth or near-truth by an undiscerning public.  Some of their foolishness has even found its way into legislation -- both attempted and successful legislation.  I believe that we should all be concerned -- alarmed even -- and we should all confront this attack on public education.

My family has a deep involvement in education.  My father graduated from Delta State (Mississippi) Teachers' College in 1936.  His first job was teaching school in the tiny Mississippi Delta town of Houlka, Mississippi, for $45.00 a month -- paid for nine months a year.  He left teaching in the early 1950s; his last assignment was as principal and football coach at Bolton Consolidated School, Bolton, Mississippi.  My wife has taught high school English since 1965.  My daughter has been a high school social studies teacher (and volleyball and soccer coach) since 1996.  My BS degree is in secondary education.  Not a member of my family -- immediate or extended -- has attended private schools; we are all graduates of public schools.

Thus, when I hear the attacks mounted against the public school systems by the "Christian right," I ask myself if any of these clowns have been near a public school lately.  Their attacks on the public schools have nothing to do with quality, curriculum, or any other substantive matter.  The crux of the "Christian right's" attacks on public education is this:  Public schools are inclusive -- they admit students of all races, all incomes, all creeds, with ability or disability -- everyone is admitted and the public schools go to great lengths to accommodate all.  The "Christian right" is exclusive.  They seek to exclude from education, from politics, from public life, from any position of influence and opportunity anyone who does not fit their narrow mold.  Basically, if you do not agree with their narrow view of the world, they want you excluded.  Public schools do not exclude anyone and the "Christian right" foams at the mouth at the thought of a diverse, inclusive population.

I believe, too, that there is a darker reason behind their drive to destroy the public school system.  They fear an educated population.  Just as the slave states passed laws making it illegal to educate slaves for fear of a slave rebellion once they learned to read, so the ayatollahs of the "Christian right" know that educated people who can see through their nonsense will not write the checks on which they depend. 

The "right" speaks

Don't think that I know what I am talking about?  Consider the following quotes.

  • "The public education movement has also been an anti-Christian movement...We can change education in America if you put Christian principles in and Christian pedagogy in. In three years, you would totally revolutionize education in America."
             --Pat Robertson,"The 700 Club," September 27, 1993.

  • "The state is steadily attempting to do something that a few states other than the Soviets and the Nazis have attempted to do, namely, to take the children away from the parents and educate them in a philosophy that is amoral, anti-Christian and humanistic and to show them a collectivist philosophy that will ultimately lead to Marxism, socialism, and a communistic type of ideology. Satan has established certain strongholds...He has gone after education and has been very successful in capturing it. Abolish the public schools. You know they're just getting so bad. We need private schools. We need choice."
            --Pat Robertson

And reason responds

I commend to all a study done by People for The American Way entitled: A Right Wing and a Prayer:  The Religious Right in Your Public Schools.

The following are the two lead paragraphs from the executive summary of that report.


Religious Right political groups are waging a long and bitter battle against public education. Their goals are twofold: to redirect substantial public funds into an industry of private sectarian schools that serves a core constituency of the right; and to use whatever public education system that remains to impose a set of beliefs and ideas on America's next generation. After years of refining their tactics, Religious Right leaders and their political allies are poised to achieve their plans to redefine and undermine public education in America.

This attack on public education is but one element of the Right's political assault on the fundamental institutions and values of American society. The movement is also engaged in restricting freedom of expression and sees its attack on public education as a means to tear down the wall separating church from state. The movement has even launched an attack on the notion of separation of powers, attacking the third branch of government - the independent judiciary - whenever judges strike down right-wing backed laws that violate the Constitution. Right-wing leaders continue their passionate efforts to restrict reproductive freedom and to use the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans as an emotional organizing tool. These efforts all hold dangers for the future of our democratic society, and all require a determined response. But among these threats, the Right's campaign against public education stands out as the movement's primary focus. The political power the Right has built steadily over recent years is now being wielded to demolish the ideal that we as a society are committed to giving all our children an education that will enable them to become full participants in our national life.


So, what can you do?

Do not think that you are powerless in the face of this well-organized, heavily-funded attack on public schools.  There is plenty that you can do.

  • Attend your school board meetings.  When you hear speakers or board members espousing the nonsense of the "Christian right," get up and challenge them.   Use the material you have collected from such organizations
  • Write letters to your local newspapers, especially when you learn of attacks on your local public schools.

Folks, this is far to important for any of us to sit still and do nothing.  Remember that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

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