Pastor Howard Bess of Palmer, Alaska rises to the occasion once again to discuss the attack on public education by our new congress. It is calculated. It is deliberate. And it is serving the goals of the Dominionists in their quest to dismantle public education.
It is one of their 7 Mountains of secular institutions they have targeted to “take over”, and because their influence is a widespread cancer in in the halls of Congress, the result is this resurgent fight about voucher under the guise of “concern for quality education and choice for families”.
Yeah – right. That is such a load of bull-pucky! This is absolutely an attack on public education because government regulation will not allow for the favoring of any religious ceremony, prayer and singular theological teaching to be indoctrinated into our students to the exclusion of all other faiths.
These people – who are relentless in their push to crush public education (along with the unwitting help of characters like Ron Paul) – will not give up. They are furious that they cannot permanently adhere a marble version of the Ten Commandments in the foyers of every school across the nation. That they cannot demand reverence to the God of their Bible.
They are the same ones who scream for freedom to express their religion – but want all other faiths to be disavowed in America other than warning them that as visitors (this even to multi-generational Americans) should consider themselves damn lucky to be here.
This is a new “talking point” memo that has gone out from the pulpit AGAIN. I say again because we are seeing an increase in this “if you are not the right kind of Christian, you are here only because we are allowing you to stay” hate rhetoric. They want religious freedom alright – only it had better be their version of religion!!
Pastor Bess has this to say about their relentless attack through the back door on public education….
A NEW VERSE TO AN OLD SONG
By Howard Bess
The November, 2010, elections brought a significant shift in American politics. Election results took place in the context of economic uncertainty, a war weary population and an explosion of diversity in the American profile. There is no shortage of proposals to bring order to this seeming chaos. Basic American institutions are under attack. Public school education is an easy target.
The opening gavel of the new Congress had hardly fallen when House Speaker John Boehner and Senator Joe Lieberman introduced a bill to reestablish school vouchers in the Washington DC school district. Vouchers are not new. They are being disguised with a new name. They are being called scholarships for opportunity. Boehner and Lieberman are adding a new verse to an old song.
Vouchers are a tool to divert government funds from public schools and place them in the control of individual families. Families can leave public schools and then use the vouchers to purchase education for their children in the market place of private schools. Theoretically, children will attend better schools, pressure will be brought on the public schools to improve, and the overall result will be a dramatic improvement of education in America.
Vouchers are familiar because they have been used in a handful of states. Studies have been made to determine their effectiveness. Some studies show some improvements in outcomes. Other studies show a failure to produce growth of positive outcomes. Those who do the studies accuse one another of using flawed methods. Inconclusive would probably be a fair evaluation.
I would oppose the use of vouchers, even if they could be shown to produce significant positive outcomes. I would oppose the use of vouchers because I believe they are an intrusion of government into religion in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. This is the basis of what is popularly described as separation of church and state. To describe the intent of the First Amendment, I prefer to say that government is to be neutral in all matters of religion.
Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote that government was to practice benevolent neutrality in all matters of religion. In other words Justice Burger saw no place for animosity or even tension between government and religion. He saw them living side by side as good neighbors.
I am a public school person. Public schools will always be flawed. They employ imperfect teachers; they are run by imperfect principals; and school districts are run by imperfect administrators, who are hired by imperfect school boards made up of imperfect board members. Public schools can always be improved, and the public should demand the best possible outcomes. My children received very good educations in public schools.
Along side public schools, private schools have flourished in America. About 80 percent of all private schools in America are parochial schools established for religious reasons. A large part of the parochial schools in America are Roman Catholic. They not only teach religion, they attempt to indoctrinate their students. They use text books acceptable to the Catholic Church. Typically students and faculty observe religious holidays and participate in religious exercises.
In the last half of the 20th century American Evangelicals developed a large system of schools with religious intent and commitment. They not only teach religion, they indoctrinate their students. The Bible is a central textbook, and they intend to produce graduates with a commitment to their particular kind of Christian faith.
Parochial schools, be they Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Islamic, Buddhist, Seventh Day Adventist or Jewish, are established and operated with religious intent.
In the states in which education vouchers have been used, 75 percent of all vouchers have been used to purchase education in a parochial school.
I know of no one who advocates direct funding of parochial schools from a governmental body. When government money is passed through the hands of a family does it magically become sanitized to pass the requirements of the First Amendment?
am glad that private schools are a part of the American scene. I am glad that highly motivated people establish and operate schools for their own religious constituency. I prize our American diversity. Educational diversity in America should be cherished, but government should be benevolently neutral toward the operation of religiously motivated private schools.
Public education is a strong American heritage. Diverting any part of its funding to religiously motivated private schools that have no public or governmental supervision is not just unwise, it is a violation of the First Amendment.
Government neutrality toward religion has served our nation very well. Religion has thrived and public interests have been served. Education vouchers, no matter what they are called, are not a good idea for American education.
The Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister, who lives in Palmer, Alaska.
Under the guise out of concern for family choice and higher standards for children, all these people really want is to be able to control what is taught. These are the same folks who have worked diligently to cripple public education. For examples just look at what Walker in Wisconsin is doing, and Kasich in Ohio – they are just 2 among many.
This isn’t about choice! Or quality education. It is about beating critical thinking skills out of our curriculum and shielding children from information on the basis of a Christian Dominionist filter. They will not be satisfied until the Department if Education is dead and buried.