On the Role of Civil Government in the Education of Children . . .
Civil government does not have a legitimate role in the education of children. Scripturally speaking, the responsibility for the education of children falls to the parents of the children and/or to the clergy with whom the family is associated. It is in the Book of Deuteronomy where we discover that the parents must
. . .teach and impress them [the words of God’s Law] diligently upon the [minds and] hearts of your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and whey you rise up (Dt.6:9, (AMP))
During the same timeframe when God gave the ancient people of Israel His Law He also set aside one of the tribal groups to be the leaders of the people in all matters spiritual and religious.
The Tribe of Levi was given this unique task. To ensure all Levite boys were properly prepared to assume their station upon adulthood, Levitical schools were started. The primary curriculum was the canon of laws given to them through Moses while the People continued in the “wilderness” journey after leaving Egyptian captivity. The laws were much more than the famous Ten Commandments. The laws the boys studied were the intricacies of the complicated worship and sacrificial offering system they were given.
Additionally, there were special schools that prepared boys to become “scribes,” who were entrusted with the faithful copying of the sacred texts to increase the number of available texts as well as to ensure older texts were replaced with true newer ones.
Some of the Levites were musicians and worship dancers, some were scribes, some were the actual priests who officiated over the worship ceremonies and the historical festivals on the Hebrew calendar. Some were custodians of the Wilderness Tabernacle, and later the Great Temple in Jerusalem.
Still others became experts on the civil law God had given to His People to govern their behavior with each other. These “lawyers” became the ones who judged the legal cases between people in conflict.
When the people completed the conquest of the land of Canaan and settled their families there, the Tribe of Levi was the only group that did not receive a specific geographical territory to occupy, possess and make their own. Instead, the Levites were given six cities to occupy, called Levitical cities, which came to be known as centers of learning, worship, and justice. There were three cities to the east of the Jordan River and three to the west, and they were spread out so the people could access them without too much effort. The Levites, because of their unique calling and place of importance in the deeply religious culture, were not supposed to be engaged in the labors ordinarily associated with earning a living and supporting a family. Rather, the other tribes, through the regular worship practice, feasts and holy days, provided the support for them.
Still, while there was a scholarly class among the nation, each father was responsible to teach his children.
This is the model our Founding Fathers understood. None among them were educated in a “public,” taxpayer-supported school. Most were home-schooled or educated by a neighbor, more often than not a widow who lived nearby who needed to supplement her income.
Frequently, in the towns and cities, the parish clergyman was also engaged as a local educator.
It was only in the colony of Pennsylvania that a tax-supported college was founded to further the higher education of older youth. All of the other colleges and universities in the colonies and in the early national period were private.
During the period when the colonies were politically and legally transitioning from being colonies to independent States, the debate about taxpayer supported education arose. The general desire was to ensure every child would be able to read and write, especially to be able to read the Holy Bible.
In Virginia, George Mason and James Madison opposed an effort to raise a tax for the support of education in the new commonwealth of Virginia. None other than Patrick Henry himself proposed such a bill and it was very nearly made into law except for Madison’s famous Memorial and Remonstrance in which he argued that education is necessarily spiritual or religious in nature because it must deal with issue of our origins (the beginning of all things) and of values (of what is important and what is not).
These are issues on which a civil government has no authority to act.
Hearkening back to the Old Testament requirement that either the family or the church be solely responsible for the education of children, Madison successfully argued that a tax-supported system of education in Virginia was entirely inappropriate (Memorial and Remonstrance (1785)).
Some of his argument came from the writings several years earlier by George Mason in his Declaration of Rights (1776), in which he stated,
“That religion . . . can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence [civil government]; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience . . .” by George Mason in his Declaration of Rights (1776)
Public education is entrenched in our national way of life these days. Initially, public education in the United States was meant for only the families least able to financially support themselves.
Early American public educators had been influenced by European “enlightenment” thinkers who tended to be humanists and who sought ways to divorce religious instruction from the educational experience.
Today’s typical product of public education illustrates the success of the European model, as the Bible, prayer, and respect/veneration of God have all been expelled from the public classroom.
Indeed, public school students of Jewish or Christian conviction are finding their classrooms increasingly to be hostile to their values, concerns and personal religious practices.
This is also true in the institutions of higher learning where religiously-bigoted students and faculty seek to ostracize and demean students and other faculty with religious values.
Additionally, the public education curriculum has increasingly come under the direction of national groups and of the federal Department of Education. These groups and agencies are far removed from the classrooms and increasingly influenced by special interests with a goal to inculcate, even indoctrinate children to views often at great odds with the parents and communities of those children.
Furthermore, the curriculum in the modern public school classroom is devoid of character education. This is what happens when a government (tax-supported) school must decide who's values will be taught to the children.
Since the Bible and anything Christian has been banished from the classrooms, a supposedly values-neutral curriculum has been offered, which is a farce. The clear bias has been toward a "non-Christian/non-traditional values" emphasis that seems to encourage blame, victimhood, "tolerance" of often destructive or anti-social behaviors, and sex-role confusion, to mention just a few.
Those who promulgate “standards” and who write the curriculum seem to believe the children are the responsibility of the State, not of the parents. If this is the case, then the State is imposing itself as the parent, and even, perhaps, the deity, whose religion is secularism, or secular humanism.
In accordance with the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the federal government must return all authority and power to the States regarding the education of children. If public education is to continue, it must be because the citizens of each state demand it and empower their representatives to authorize and appropriate for it. Even in this case, the parents must take the ultimate responsibility to ensure their children are properly educated.
Wisely administered states will encourage the creation of a multitude of small, private schools and the creation of large private endowments to enable parents with limited means to opt to homeschool their children or send them to a local private school. School vouchers and tax credits have been implemented to great success although, in my opinion, tax credits are a better choice. Parents need more choices for their children's education. Parents and other concerned citizens must take an active role in local public school governance.