Christian FamilyArticles on the Family, Men, Women and Children
Gary North’s Introduction to the Children Trap
With Biblical Principles for Education by Robert Thoburn
And an EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION by Gary North
Meeting with a group of Christians in Austin [Texas] on May 19, 1986, [Attorney General James] Mattox revealed his true colors when asked, “Is it true that the State of Texas owns Our children? ” Mattox retorted, “Yes, it is true… and not only your children, but you, too”
Hard to believe, isn’t it? Yet this is an ancient view in the United States. John Swett served as California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1863 to 1868. In 1864, he published the First Biennial Report of his office. He cited favorably several judicial decisions in eastern states. Among them was this:
Parents have no remedy as against the teacher-As a general thing, the only persons who have a legal right to give orders to the teacher, are his employers–namely, the committee in some States, and in others the Director of Trustees. If his conduct is approved of by his employees, the parents have no remedy as against him or them …
“On March 28, 1874, the California Legislature made it a penal offense for parents to send their children to private schools without the consent of the local state school trustees.”
How did Christian parents allow themselves to be swept into supporting the public .school movement? Why do they still continue to support it financially and verbally? Why haven’t they risen up in political revenge against anyone who proposes tax financing of education, a public school monopoly, or state-imposed standards on Christian schools? I have three answers. First, because they have believed a lie, that the state is responsible for educating children. Second, because they are cheap, and foolishly seek to compel other people to pay for the education of Christian children. Third, because they have believed Satan’s number-one lie, the myth of neutrality.
Building the Pen
There is the story of a hunter who year after year kept bringing to market huge quantities of wild boar. Nobody could figure out how he did it. He never told his secret. Finally, on his deathbed, some of his friends asked him how he had done it.
“Well, it took a lot of planning. First, I set out troughs of food. The older hogs refuse to get near it at first, but the younger ones do come sniffing around, and they eventually start eating. I let them do this for about a month. Even the older boars start joining the younger ones at the trough. Then I build a fence behind the trough. This scares them at first, but they find it easier to eat here than forage for themselves, so they come back. Then I build a second fence at a 90-degree angle to the back fence. That takes them a while to get used to, but they eventually do. Then comes the third side, and then the back side. There’s a large gate in that final strip of fencing, and it’s always wide open. It’s on hinges. The hogs keep coming. After all, it’s free food for one and all. When enough of them come in for their free food, I just shut the gate. The rest is easy.”
This is precisely the strategy used by God-hating humanists against Christians. The free food is called “free education.” But the humanists are even smarter than that hunter. They make the adult Christian hogs pay for the fencing and the humanist slop in the trough. This system is called taxation. The short-sighted pigs pay for the slaughter of their own offspring. Pigs love their free slop, even when it isn’t free. Warn them that the slop in the trough is a trap for their piglets, and you will hear a lot of outraged squealing. You will make a lot of enemies.
Robert Thoburn will make a lot of enemies with this book.
The Myth of Neutrality
What has been the most successful lie in the history of Christianity? There can be no doubt: the myth of neutrality. This myth has kept Christians for two thousand years from developing explicitly and exclusively Biblical solutions to their problems. They have returned, generation after generation, to Greek, Roman, and modern philosophy and institutions, on the assumption that God and Satan, good and evil, Christians and non-Christians share certain fundamental beliefs, or at least share certain views of the world around them. But they don’t. Every fact is an interpreted fact. Satan interprets the world in his way, while God interprets it in another. Satan sees this world as rightfully his, not God’s; God sees it as rightfully his, not Satan’s. There can be no reconciliation between these two views. All attempts at reconciling them necessarily lead to Satan’s view: that God has no right to tell us how to interpret His world.
There is no neutrality. There may be indifference. A person may not care which athletic team wins a game, but he cannot be neutral about whose creation has made possible the game. Neutrality is the devil’s most successful myth. He used it on Eve. He persuaded her to become a neutral experimenter. She could test God’s word, to see whether or not she would die on the day she ate the fruit. “Just a neutral scientific experiment,” he implied. “What have you got to lose?” The answer: everything.
The modern institution that is most self-consciously built in terms of the myth of neutrality is the “public” school, meaning the government school, meaning the taxpayer-financed school. Its legal foundation is the myth of neutrality. No religious or sectarian views are supposed to be taught in a public school, because people of many different religious beliefs are required by law to support it financially. Expenditures of tax money are supposed to be neutral, non-religious expenditures.
All this talk of neutral education is sheer nonsense. You cannot teach without ultimate concepts of true and false. Label one idea false-the evolution of the universe out of random matter that exploded with a big bang 15 billion years ago-and you have attacked some taxpayer’s deeply held religious convictions. Label another idea true-the evolution of mankind from lower animals, for example-and you have attacked a different taxpayer’s deeply held religious view. You are using his money to indoctrinate his children with ideas that he despises. Without exception, the major victims today are conservative Christians whose children are under deliberate religious and intellectual attack by taxpayer-financed schools.
This has been going on at Christian taxpayers’ expense for over a century, with nary a squeal of protest from the victims, certainly not from the 1925 Scopes “monkey trial” in Dayton, Tennessee until the mid-1960’s, when the independent (non-parochial) Christian school movement began to revive.
Why have Christians gone along with this obvious confidence game? Three reasons. First and foremost, because they had already bought the myth of socialist education, namely, that it is the moral and financial responsibility of the state to educate children, not the moral and financial responsibility of parents.
Second, Christians want their religion, but they want it cheap. They refuse to tithe to the church, so they wind up tithing (and paying far more than ten percent) to the state. They have tithed their children to the state! “Free education! Free education!” The pigs have sent their offspring to the slaughter for well over a century.
Third, Christians have been afraid to deny the myth of neutrality in the fields of politics and civil law. They have feared becoming labeled “theocrats” by their God-hating enemies, so they have bought the party line regarding neutrality. The party line is the humanist party line. They bought it first with respect to civil law, so it was an easy step for the humanists to sell it to them in the field of education.
Every law is religious. Every law tells certain people that they are not allowed to do certain things, or that they must do other things. Every law is based on an idea of right vs. wrong. Right and wrong are therefore moral concepts, and all morality is religious. But the myth of so-called natural law-common law, common morality-has done its work in the field of civil law. Christians do not look to God’s revelation in the Bible to tell them what kinds of laws are legitimate and which kinds are not. So Christians have abandoned law and politics to their rivals, who also operate in terms of a religion-the religion of humanism, which is defended everywhere in terms of the myth of neutrality.
Is there neutrality between heaven and hell? Will those in hell have a vote in what happens in heaven? Will God give “equal time to Satan” throughout eternity? Should Christians be required to allow atheists to have equal time in the pulpit each Sunday? If Christians do not want the problem of ‘”equal time for Satan” to arise, they must start limiting the state. They must start voting to limit the money that the state can tax and spend on state-approved projects.
Everything on earth is a battle between the principles of the Bible and anti-Biblical principles. A war is in progress. But Christians have refused to face this’ fact for well over a century in the field of education. It would involve giving up “free” humanist slop in the trough.
Nowhere is this war more clearly in progress than in the battle for the minds of men. And the major battlefield is the field of taxpayer-financed education. Men are battling for the loyalty and obedience of the next generation. And for a hundred years, Christians have been losing the battle. Why? Because they have decided to grant to their rivals the fundamental point: the myth of neutrality. They have accepted as morally valid-indeed, morally preferable-the tax-supported compulsory school. Since the 1840’s in the United States, this institution has been the targeted prize of God-hating, humanist kidnappers, beginning with Massachusetts’ Horace Mann, who used the God-hating, man-deifying, evil school system of apostate Prussia as his model for the public schools.
Christians want their education, but they want it cheap. So it has cost them almost everything, just as it cost Eve.
Reforming the Public Schools
All is not lost, most Christians tell us. “We can and must reform the public schools!” (Have we seen anything but academic and moral decline since 1840?) “We can and must make them safe again.” (Teachers get mugged; over 70% of the students have experimented with drugs before graduation; Planned Parenthood is allowed on many campuses, teaching abortion as a legitimate alternative.) “We can force them to teach creationism.” (Does any school district in the United States teach it?) “The public school creationist view will not mention a Creator, of course; that would be illegal, a violation of the myth of neutrality.” (Creationism without a Creator?) “But we can teach a zero-God view of creationism.” And then Christians are asked to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars-money that could be building Christian schools-in attorney fees to fight these “Creation science” cases, not one of which has been won, and not one of which is likely to be won.
Or what about this one? “We’ll get prayer back into the schools!” The prayer can’t mention Jesus, of course. That would violate the myth of neutrality, and we all believe in the separation of church (whose God is decidedly unneutral) and state. But the prayer can at least mention the word “God.” Only it can’t. Not one school district in the nation legally can permit such prayer. Only silent prayer is allowed. So much for freedom of religion. What the U.S. Congress has every morning-prayer by a taxpayer-financed chaplain-children are not entitled to.
The Arguments for “Staying in the System”
You have heard lots of arguments for Christians sending their children to the public schools, and for running these schools on a Biblical, moral basis. Let me list a few:
1. We need to regulate the public schools.
2. We need to inspect them for health.
3. We need to make them safe from violence.
4. We need to require a prayer when they begin. (Illegal?)
5. Well, we need to have them allow voluntary prayer before they begin. (Illegal?)
6. Well, then, each student should be allowed to offer a silent prayer before he begins school. After all, this is a Christian nation!
7. Christian children need to attend. They need to be exposed early to the real world; they shouldn’t be kept in religious hothouses.
Let me try an analog on you. We are adults here. Substitute the word “whorehouses” for “public schools.” Now, let’s hear these same familiar arguments in favor of making the public schools decent for Christians:
1. We need to regulate the local whorehouses.
2. We need to inspect them for disease.
3. We need to make them safe from violence.
4. We need to require a prayer when they open for business. (Illegal?)
5. Well, we need to have them allow voluntary prayer before they open for business. (Illegal?)
6. Well, then, each customer should be allowed to offer a silent prayer before he conducts his business. After all, this is a Christian nation!
7. Christian children need to be exposed early to the real world; they shouldn’t be kept in religious hothouses. (“Cathouses, not hothouses!”)
Preposterous, aren’t they? But if the myth of neutrality is false, then equally preposterous are all the calls to “recapture our public schools.” They were never “ours” in the first place. They inherently violate Biblical principles: the family has the moral and financial responsibility for educating its children, not the state.
But is a public school the same as a whorehouse? It’s close enough! God calls worshipping false gods “whoring after false gods.” False worship is whoredom, and whoredom is the worship of false gods. The two are equated in the Bible. The Book of Hosea is built around this theme.
What is a school system that teaches mankind’s evolution out of meaningless slime, if not whoredom? What is a school system that makes it illegal to teach God’s law as the only valid moral standard for mankind, if not whoredom? What is a school system that the U.S. Supreme Court says is not even allowed to post the Ten Commandments on a wall in the classroom, if not whoredom? What is a school system that teaches that the Bible is not a God-inspired book, but at best “literature”-no better than Shakespeare’s plays, Hemingway’s novels, or for that matter, the Marquis de Sade’s novels? Everything is relative, after all, says the myth of neutrality.
All right, I am exaggerating. I admit it. Whorehouses really aren’t like public schools. There is a fundamental difference between whorehouses and public schools: whorehouses aren’t tax-supported. They aren’t compulsory, either. We don’t have elections for the State Superintendent of Public Brothels.
But, some tuition-avoiding Christian parents may protest, our children do not necessarily believe everything their public school teachers tell them for twelve years (or sixteen, or twenty), eight hours a day, five days a week, eight months a year, plus homework. No, our children will believe what we tell them (after they spend three hours a day watching television), and what they learn in church on Sunday. This is the equivalent of arguing that it is safe to send your children into a whorehouse for twelve years to learn music appreciation from the piano player. (After all, he’s a “professor”!) Are we to believe that moral atmosphere and moral temptations count for nothing? Of course they count. Then how can any Christian believe that the public school environment counts for nothing?
They don’t believe it; they just say they believe it. They are simply too cheap before God to pull their children out of the system. They prefer to send their children daily into an education system designed in the pits of hell rather than sacrifice their summer vacation trip or be forced to move into a smaller home. They prefer to talk endlessly about “cleaning up the public schools someday,” while sitting quietly, doing nothing except paying ever-higher property tax bills, and wailing about how great the schools used to be when they were in school. Like the ex-slaves wandering in the wilderness and fearful of entering Canaan, they delude themselves with false memories of the leeks and onions of Egypt.
They would prefer to dream about a mythical political program to “clean up Egypt” rather than conquering Canaan.
The Separation of School and State
This book is a detailed study of the Biblical view of education in contrast to the humanist view. The author concludes that we must insist on the separation of school and state. The state is not to be trusted with the shaping of the minds of the voters. Getting the state out of education at every level is the only way to achieve God-honoring education.
It is not the state’s function to support the educational establishment. If it does, this is the equivalent of state-supported religious worship. It is the re-establishment (compulsory tax-financing) of the church, with a new priesthood, the teachers.
The public schools have long been America’s only established church. This has been recognized by liberal church historian Sidney Mead and by conservative scholar R. J. Rushdoony. In 1963, Mead wrote this brilliant analysis of the Christian dilemma over public schools-a dilemma that has yet to be resolved, but which Christians need to resolve once and for all. There was a time in U.S. history when churches were established (paid for) by the state. This ended in the nineteenth century. But when the churches gave up state support in order to secure religious freedom, they lost something very important, Mead says: power over the schools.
Perhaps the most striking power that the churches surrendered under religious freedom was control over public education which traditionally had been considered an essential aspect of the work of an established church if it was to perform its proper function of disseminating and inculcating the necessary foundational religious beliefs ….
And who can deny that these beliefs are religious? Certainly this was dearly recognized by early leaders such as Horace Mann, who frankly stood for “nonsectarian” religious teaching in the public schools. But it was soon discovered that there could be no “nonsectarian” religious teaching in America, because religion had been poured into sectarian molds and had hardened into sectarian forms. Thus Horace Mann’s brand seemed to many evangelical Protestants to be suspiciously “Unitarian,” and at best what passed as “nonsectarian” religious teaching seemed to many Unitarians, Roman Catholics, and others to be evangelical Protestantism. Even the Bible was ruled out, for it could not be read in the public schools except in “sectarian” English translations.
Here are the roots of the dilemma posed by the acceptance of the practice of separation of church and state on the one hand, and the general acceptance of compulsory public education sponsored by the state on the other. Here is the nub of the matter that is all too often completely overlooked ….
In other words, the public schools in the United States took over one of the basic responsibilities that traditionally was always assumed by an established church. In this sense the public-school system of the United States is its established church. But the situation in America is such that none of the many religious sects can admit without jeopardizing its existence that the religion taught in the schools (or taught in any other sect for that matter) is “true” in the sense that it can legitimately claim supreme allegiance. This serves to accentuate the dichotomy between the religion of the nation inculcated by the state through public schools, and the religion of the denominations taught in the free churches.
In that same year, 1963, Rushdoony wrote:
The extensive emphasis on moralism and patriotism in state-supported schools was in fulfillment of this purpose in their creation, to become the “catholic” [universal] church of the people of America and the moral identity of the body politic. This aspect of educational history is in abundant evidence; it has been neglected only because, while latter-day Puritans helped powerfully to make state support a reality, the schools fell steadily into the hands of the anti-Puritans. As a result, the school continues today as the true established church of the United States, dedicated to a catholic faith which is no longer semi-Christian moralism but social morality and social democracy.
Christians who would not tolerate for a moment the idea of state-supported compulsory churches are strong supporters of state-supported compulsory education. They are intellectually schizophrenic.
What will drive Christians out of the public schools? Not heterosexual venereal disease, which is rampant on high school campuses. Not drugs; over 70% of all high school students have experimented with them. Not violence in the classroom, which is universally acknowledged by educators as a problem. Not interracial busing (though this drives out some parents, and not just Christians). What will it take? An outbreak of AIDS? Not even that, I suspect, though possibly.
In Texas, only one thing could do it: ten consecutive years of tie football scores, especially zero to zero. Then Christian parents would listen. This-and only this-would be seen as a true judgment of God.
If every Baptist family in the American South would refuse to put its children into the public schools this year, the whole public school system would collapse overnight. This is the power implicitly held by Christians. But they are pagans at heart, and furthermore, about half the time their local football teams win. The Christians stay put.
This book will anger them.
Which Kind of Structure
This book will also bother defenders of Christian schools. It shows that the most effective structure of Christian education is the profit-seeking, tax-paying, privately owned school. This system transfers the greatest sovereignty to parents, yet it also makes possible the division of labor.
This conclusion will upset the more vocal defenders of home schooling, whose schools rarely can make full use of the division of labor, especially at the high school level. It will also upset the defenders of non-profit, board-operated (“parent-controlled”) schools. Such schools are far more bureaucratic than profit-seeking schools, since the operators do not get to keep the profits personally. Such board-operated, “parent-run” schools eventually are run by parents of adult children who have long since graduated, not the parents of the presently enrolled students. So “parent-run boards” are a misnomer. The only absolutely parent-run school is a home school. There can be parent-influenced schools, but to call a non-profit bureaucracy a parent-run school prejudices the case.
This book finally challenges the idea of church-run schools, for these schools always seek indirect subsidies-financial or space- from church members whose children are not enrolled, or who have no children, or who have a rival approach to education. These schools generally place too much responsibility on pastors, who are not being paid to administer a school. Church-run schools bring dissension into the church. They invariably reduce the influence of the parents of enrolled students, to the extent of the indirect subsidies being paid by other people.
It would be far better to have a family-owned, profit-seeking school next door to a sponsoring church, with the church renting the school’s facilities in the evenings and on weekends. But then what happens if another family in the church wants to start a school (competition for the first school), but cannot get the same subsidy? Once again, you get avoidable dissension in the church.
The solution is freedom. The answer is free market competition. The answer is the principle of the market: something for something. The answer is: parents should pay the full costs of educating their own children, the same way they buy food, shelter, haircuts, Christmas presents, and just about everything else. The answer is: no more compulsory subsidies-either in God’s name or the state’s.
Perhaps some church members really cannot afford to send their children to private Christian schools. Let them request financial aid. Let the deacons examine the family’s finances. Let them suggest ways of cutting back on expenses. If the family still cannot afford it, let the deacons use church funds to finance a partial scholarship. Charity should go to those who need it, not to those who don’t (as is the case when the church runs the school and charges below-cost tuitions to every family).
Let the churches raise money for needy students through voluntary, tax-deductible donations to a church-operated scholarship fund. Then let the parents decide which Christian school to send their children to. The church should support parents directly and schools indirectly,’ not schools directly and parents indirectly. This maintains the Biblical principle of parental responsibility for education, with the church as a defender of families, not educators.
After you finish this book, you will understand this principle far better.
For Home School Curriculum:
Great Christian Books, 229 South Bridge Street, P.O. Box 8000, Elkton, MD
1 (800) 569-2481
American Vision, 10 Perimeter Way, Suite B175(S), Atlanta, GA 30339
1 (800) 628-9460
ACE School of Tomorrow, P.O. Box 1438, Dept. TH39, Lewisville, TX
1 (800) 925-7777 (ext. 404)
Pride, Mary. The Big Book of Home Learning: Getting Started (Crossway Books, A Division of Good News Publishers, 1990).
Magazines and More: Home School Legal Defense Association write: P.O. Box 159, Paeonian Springs, VA, USA 22129 (phone: (703) 338-5600)