Many Americans are opposed to vouchers for the education of children. The common objection is that vouchers harm public education while underwriting religious schools and, as such, mix Church and State. The objection belies the reality. It is the failure to provide educational vouchers that marriesthe Church to the State. Furthermore, exclusive government support for the public school system institutionalizes an educational ideology that contradicts the American commitment to pluralism.
Education never happens in an ideological vacuum. Children are educated by the inclusion of certain ideas…and the exclusion of other ideas. Facts are never unmoored from ideology, as if they were plastic bags tossed in the air on a windy day. Facts are presented in contexts; they are rooted in presuppositional soil.
One presupposition of public schooling is scientific materialism. Science is the study of the material world. Scientific materialism claims that there is no truth outside the physical world. Scientific materialism is not science. There is nothing in the study of the material world that teaches there is not a spiritual world. To the contrary, evidence is bountiful in the material world that there is a spiritual world. For example, the astonishing complexity and functionality found in the material world cannot be explained (rationally) by an accidental universe.
A recently published article stated that information is so tightly packed in DNA that all the information on today’s internet could be loaded onto DNA the size of a shoebox. I don’t know whether this is true but the information stored in one fertilized egg confirms the possibility. It takes a powerful prejudice to insist that this complexity, still well beyond what humans have been able to copy, accidentally transformed from inorganic to organic, and then by a process of long-term jostling, assembled itself.
This reminds me of the old canard that claimed that if you put an infinite number of monkeys in a room with enough typewriters for each monkey, and you provided an infinite amount of time, the monkeys would eventually produce Shakespeare’s Hamlet. (It’s an easy enough to claim to make since the set-up is impossible.) There was a group that wanted to test the theory, though, probably as a lark more than as a serious demonstration. They collected several hundred monkeys in a large room filled with typewriters. The monkeys were cared for but otherwise left alone for several months. Through the process the observers were able to collect numerous papers on which the monkeys had typed letters. There were even instances of words, such as “at” and “to”. But the monkeys didn’t do a lot of typing. Their primary interest in the typewriters seems to have been their usefulness as perches for defecating. The monkeys had no concept of the purpose of a typewriter; they had no concept of complex language; they had no concept of written language. Monkeys don’t randomly perform complex acts that are contrary to their nature. Inorganic material doesn’t organize itself into organic material. Simple organic material doesn’t organize itself into more complex organic material. The idea that DNA has assembled itself is a fine example of science fiction.
Apparently most scientists do not think it is a fiction. (So either I am completely out of my depth or the greater scientific community is a flock of sheep lead about by charlatan shepherds.) Putting this impasse aside, scientists do generally agree that there has not been enough time in Earth’s history for DNA to have come into being by itself. This is why, when Richard Dawkins was asked how life came to Earth his answer was, “Space aliens”. He was not joking. However, he did not make his claim based on a scientific observation. His statement was based on the presupposition that the universe is strictly material. Once a person commits to the presupposition, the evidence requires that life on earth has its origins from beyond the earth. I am tempted to point out how much this makes scientific materialism a kind of faith…but it is not that, either. Faith is not what one believes, contrary to physical facts and reason. Faith is expectation based on history. As such, scientific materialism’s beliefs about the origin of life on earth do not stem from faith—they stem from wishful thinking. Not only is there no scientific evidence that life was initiated by space aliens, there is no evidence of any sort that this happened. It is a proposition manufactured out of the need to prop up a system without enough legs.
You say, “Well, this isn’t being taught in the schools.” Really? The schools are teaching Darwinian evolution, which assumes scientific materialism. Christians (as well as others without any particular religious motivation) have made numerous attempts to include the ideas of Intelligent Design in the science curricula of public schools. This vantage of inquiry has been shot down as “unscientific”, even though it strictly employs scientific methods and does not rely on the unscientific presuppositions of scientific materialism. Consequently, the current public school systems do teach that humans are the accidental result of an indifferent universe. The effect on the meaning of personhood is disastrous. Public school students are being dehumanized by this nonsense.
Public schools are dominated by humanistic thought (because humanism is seen as religiously neutral). But humanism itself is internally conflicted. Schools must teach structure and even a certain morality. Let’s call it the Golden Rule. But humanism also teaches human independence, self-actualization, and the obligation of self-discovery and self-expression. Mutual care (the Golden Rule) must be defined by societal agreement. To independently define one’s self is to declare independence from society. It is to commit to the rules of the One. There is no means for binding together these contradictory principles.
This unresolved conflict is confusing for all students, though I’m inclined to believe that, other than a few tragic exceptions, students learn to ignore the implications of these teachings. In other words, humanism is taught, humanism is absorbed at some level, but, fundamentally, it is rejected. Students tutored under humanism become cynics (and/or committed to self-numbing medication). Unfortunately, this is not the worst of it. Humanism is a doctrine without hope. When students taught they are accidents of the universe, without purpose or meaning, destined for a short, degenerative life that concludes with death, we should not be surprised that they struggle with depression and despair.
But, as I said, most students do not embrace the logic of humanism. Rather, they learn to repress most of its implications. As desensitized thinkers, humanists superficially embrace the Golden Rule for the practical reason that if there is not fairness in a society the society crumbles. At the same time, humanism provides the intellectual opportunity for exploitation. Without real meaning or purpose or morality in the universe, students learn that the number one principle is to look out for Number One. And if Number One has to step on a few of the feeble, so what? In any case, it’s always possible to spin exploitation into looking like fair treatment.
Literature selection is another example. Literature in the public schools is heavily weighted in the direction of political correctness, as well as to whatever happens to be the trending social drama. Since the socio-economic and racial make-up of public schools tend to vary considerably, the literature selection tends to vary from school to school, in order to placate local prejudices. It is the same pattern as that found in today’s social media. Not only are current opposing views neglected, so are viewpoints from the past. This bias that presumes a kind of intellectual evolution has a devastating impact on students’ ability to think. What arrogance it is to imagine that the greatest minds in world history have all lived in the last 50 years. Liberal humanism projects itself as accepting of everything, but its practice of political correctness shelters it from all but the thoughts of the Tribe.
One obvious example of this is the absence of Biblical studies in the schools. Public schools are allowed to teach the Bible as literature but almost none do. The Bible has been the number one book produced every year for its entire existence (roughly 1600 years), and more dramatically so since the development of the printing press. It is the primary source of Western culture. It is widely accepted in every country of the world (though to a lesser degree in Islamic countries). Illiteracy with respect to the Bible makes it difficult to comprehend Western literature, political speeches, and almost any essay on a serious subject…not to mention the source of today’s best social commentary: the funny papers. Biblical illiteracy makes it difficult to understand the formation of American government and how that government was designed to work. The absence of the Bible in learning is resulting in the decay and loss of the fundamental principles on which Western culture has been built. This loss is a threat to the Christian Church, but it is a far greater threat to Western culture. The absence of this book in the public school curricula is clear evidence that ideology is of greater importance in public education than education itself.
Public schools are not neutral. There is no such thing as ideological neutrality. Humanism/scientific materialism, while not a formal religion, is an ideology that proclaims that humans are the highest beings, responsible only to themselves. The curricula of public schools is as faith-based as any religious school. It has no more right to public funding than any other school.
All Americans are currently required to support public schooling through tax contributions. They have to support it even if they feel, like I do, that the public school system is miseducating students in many important ways. The State is thereby forcing all citizens to conform to a particular ideology. We are all free to send our children to the schools of our own choice, of course, but people who choose something other than public education have to pay their taxes for others and then pay budget-challenging additional dollars for the privilege of freedom. Vouchers are the only way to put an end to the current system in which the State imposes a specific ideology on all students.
It is right that the State insist on certain educational standards for its citizens. This is all for the wellbeing of the State and, I think most agree, there is a core of education that every citizen needs in order to function as a citizen, as well as to simply survive. But this idea of educational core is nothing new—the government already insists on a core curriculum for all students. Private schools, religious schools, and home schoolers have always performed well in the core curriculum, and generally far better than the public schools.
Many argue that private schools do better because they can be selective with their students. While there is some truth to this, there are also many examples of private schools that have outperformed public schools even while serving students from the same demographics. A related issue that needs to be addressed within this discussion is that no school should have the responsibility to teach students who are not performing as students. Out-of-control students are not students. Their presence in schools is a waste of their time, is what makes educators miserable, and it severely impedes the educational progress of those children who are trying to learn. School is not an entitlement; it is a privilege. It should be relatively easy to expel incorrigible students (and it should also be relatively easy for students to be reinstated, even several times.) If the coddling stops, so will the misbehaving. The result will be that even public schools in the poorest neighborhoods will see dramatic improvement in student learning.
But, back to the main subject, our current public school system is not a “neutral” system that provides an American education. It is a humanistic, scientific materialist Indoctrination Holding Pen. It’s time the country stopped using its tax dollars to favor humanistic materialism. It’s time for the country to give back to its citizens the right to educate their children in ways that are consistent with their convictions. It’s time to stop punishing those who see the holes in the civic religion of public education. It’s time to really separate Church and State in American education.