It is usually during the month of August that concerned parents give a little more attention to one of their most important roles -- that of educating their children. There are a number of choices gradually developing now: home schooling, private schools, parochial schools, charter schools, as well as the public schools. The big question for each parent, however, might be, Do you really know what your child will be taught in the school of your choice? Does it square with your beliefs and values? Such questions were continually on the minds of parents in Colonial America.
The Ole' Deluder Satan Act
It was just a few years after settling Massachusetts Bay when the Puritans established schools for the education of their young. To them, teaching children to read was absolutely necessary in order to detect and avoid false doctrines and to escape the wiles of the devil.
So, in 1647, only seventeen years after arriving in the New World, the residents of Massachusetts passed a law that became known as the Ole' Deluder Satan Act. It read:
"It being one chief project of the old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures....
"It is therefore ordered, that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read....
"And it is further ordered, that when any town shall increase to the number of one hundred families or householders, they shall set up a grammar school, the master thereof being able to instruct youth so far as they may be fitted for the university..."
Harvard College had already been established some 11 years earlier by a Mr. John Harvard, who had given one half of his estate to the erecting of a College. The founders of Harvard wanted it plainly known what the purpose of education was and so pronounced:
"Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning."
Importance of Local School Boards
The success of this educational effort was due largely to the careful selection of highly conscientious people to serve on the school committees in each community and supervise the public schools. Historian John Fiske says these school committees were bodies of "great importance." Then he adds:
"The term of service of the members is three years, one third being chosen annually. The number of members must therefore be some multiple of three. The slow change in the membership of the board insures that a large proportion of the members shall always be familiar with the duties of the place. The school committee must visit all the public schools at least once a month, and make a report to the town every year. It is for them to decide what textbooks are to be used. They examine candidates for the position of teacher and issue certificates to those whom they select." (The Five Thousand Year Leap, p. 251)
Society's Right or Parental Right?
When Thomas Jefferson was helping to draft legislation for the establishment of elementary schools in Virginia, he addresses a question concerning whose right and duty it really is to see that young people are educated. Keeping in mind our modern situation with truancy laws, compulsory school attendance, government-mandated curriculum, and school-provided meals and child care, listen to Jefferson's counsel about a parent's place in educating his children:
"Is it a right or a duty of society to take care of their infant members in opposition to the will of the parent? ...Nor is it necessary in the present case. It is better to tolerate the rare instance of a parent refusing to let his child be educated than to shock the common feelings and ideas by the forcible asporation and education of the infant against the will of the father."
De Toqueville Amazed at the Education of Early Americans
Alexis de Toqueville observed in 1831that: "In New England every citizen receives the elementary notions of human knowledge; he is taught, moreover, the doctrines and the evidences of his religion, the history of his country, and the leading features of its Constitution. In the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts, it is extremely rare to find a man imperfectly acquainted with all these things, and a person wholly ignorant of them is a sort of phenomenon."
Twenty-third Principle of Liberty Produced Three-Pronged Formula
All of this is sufficient to draw a conclusion about the Founders' belief in education. It is recorded as the 23rd principle of liberty in The Five Thousand Year Leap, page 249: A free society cannot survive as a republic without a broad program of general education.
The Founders feelings on how an education system should be structured and operated can best be said in a three-fold formula:
- Locally supported - financial support should come only from the most local community which the schools service. No other jurisdiction was to involve itself with education.
- Parental directed - the prime responsibility for all decisions relating to schools and education policies lies with the parents.
- Professionally assisted - this recognizes that some have developed a special talent to teach, but career educators should work under the direction of parents.
From Traditional Education to "Progressive" Education
Around 1900, education in the United States still had many of the trademarks which produced outstanding students. But is wasn't long before that was to change. Dr. Skousen explains what happened:
"In 1916, John Dewey published his book Democracy and Education, in which he advocated an entirely new, revolutionary approach to child training. The American schools have never been the same since.
"John Dewey called his brainchild "progressive education," but even liberal educators such as Robert M. Hutchins called his whole conception regressive education.
"Dewey received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins where G. Stanley Hall, a disciple of the German socialist philosopher, Wilhelm Wundt, indoctrinated him with the vision of a welfare state with the schools serving as the change agent to bring it about in our generation.
"Democracy in Education turned out to be a planned pattern of anarchy in education. Something called "selfrealization" became the goal instead of "learning." Nothing but the most casual reference was made to English grammar, ancient history, U.S. history, geography, the classics of Western civilization, or even the basic sciences. School was to be just fun, with each student doing his own thing in a climate of permissive, unstructured confusion.
"Dewey looked upon the schools as a wonderful opportunity to indoctrinate the American youth in the virtues of a glorious age where private property, the free market, open competition, and profits would all be eliminated. He visited the Soviet Union in the late 1920s and, instead of recognizing the wasteland of revolutionary desolation and the widespread destruction of human values, he blissfully described it all as "a popular culture impregnated with esthetic quality."
"Long before, in 1904, he had joined the faculty of the Teachers College at Columbia University. He had then teamed up with James Earl Russell, the dean of the Teachers College, who was also a student of Wilhelm Wundt, and together they had worked for a quarter of a century diligently building this branch of Columbia University into the largest institution in the world for the training of teachers. By 1953, about onethird of all the presidents and deans of teacher training schools in America were graduates of Columbia's Teachers College."
Fortunately, there are still many teachers in the public schools who do not buy into these so-called progressive theories. It is not their professional training but their own values and instincts that tell them these new theories are failure formulas.
A Battle for the Minds of Our Young People
Parents of the rising generation must come to the realization that a real war is being waged for the minds of our young people. There are many casualties. While churches and other kinds of schools can provide support for the teaching of traditional values, there in no better soldiers to fight the war for their children than the parents themselves. My experience tells me that almost any parent, even ones not "trained", can, with a little effort, detect the kind of training their children are getting. It may take a few visits to school and getting acquainted with teachers and with subject material. Our critical situation today demands that parents constantly monitor what their children are being exposed to and even begin to supplement at home what is lacking at school.
A Specific Suggestion for Parents
Two years ago NCCS made available an outline for the study of our two best-selling books, The Five Thousand Year Leap and The Making of America. The outline was originally intended for a monthly class where neighbors meet to discuss pre-assigned material and questions. The study outline is called "An Evening A Month for America". However, the outline may be used by parents as a guide to supplement the teaching of their children. It contains 677 questions designed to emphasize concepts within short reading assignments. If parents would use this on a regular basis even if it took two or three years to complete, it would provide training in values and concepts of liberty which are never obtained any more from school. How else will the rising generation learn the truth?
NCCS Commitment to a More Useable History Curriculum
We continue to receive numerous inquiries about curriculum which would be applicable to high school students. Dr. Skousen's writings as well as other NCCS publications are filled with interesting and exciting material in three main area: American Constitution and Government, United States History, and World History. We are committed to make this material usable as study packages which will appeal to young and old alike. A good starting point for any family is to use "An Evening a Month for America" as a daily or weekly family study schedule.
Teachers and Students Must Be Motivated By Vision of Future
To paraphrase an idea from the Apostle Paul, "If in this generation only we have hope, we are of all Americans most miserable." King Solomon recognized people must have a vision of the future when he wrote, Where there is no vision, the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18)
The addition of The Majesty of God's Law with its subtitle "It's Coming to America" will help any serious student maintain a positive faith that the future will be glorious and bright in America. It helps the student confirm in their heart the belief of the Founders that Christ is the Author of our liberty. The successful student will, as the founders of Harvard admonished, "lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning." True principles accelerate learning.
Our task is to tell America's complete story, both past and future. The youth of the rising generation seem to be the ones who will see America's great destiny come to pass. Are we, as parents, up to the task of preparing them?
Looking Forward to Constitution Week
We are pleased to hear from a few of you that you are helping your communities to celebrate Constitution Week during September 17-23. It is not too late for many others to do the same in your area. You will find it relatively easy to get your mayor or county official to proclaim the days as Constitution Week. Let us know if you need suggested formats. Then follow up such proclamations with suggestions that the local schools have drawing or essay contests, Constitution quizzes, (one community even arranges airline tickets to the nations capital for the winner!), parades, flag-waving talent shows, etc., all designed to heighten awareness of our great founding document. Call us if you need more suggestions.
We express gratitude to those of you who are so faithful in helping us each month with a contribution, small or large. We have some very important seminars coming up, some involving some elected officials and every dollar you give will help in this effort. We know few things on the political horizon are encouraging, but when we see individuals light up with the truth, we think it is always worthwhile. Thanks for all you can do!
Earl Taylor, Jr.