By Dr. Gary North
My interview by the Daily Bell appears here.
I was asked if I think public education is doomed. I said that it is. Here’s why: people do not want to pay for a tax-funded priesthood to preach an opposing religion at the expense of taxpayers. People do not want to pay tax money to have a priesthood undermine their children’s religious principles.
The Baptists in the American colonies understood this from an early period, and they opposed the use of tax money to support specific denominations. In New England, it was Congregationalism. In New York and Virginia, it was the Church of England.
Today, Baptists are overwhelmingly supportive of the public school system. This has been especially true in the American South. This commitment began in the late 19th century, and it only has begun to fade on the fringes of Southern Baptist ecclesiastical circles over the last 15 years.
What the Baptists do not understand, but what they understood in 1780, was this: there is no such thing as religious neutrality. They understood this in the case of ecclesiology, but they have not understood it with respect to pedagogy. They have not understood that the public school system is a rival religion: the religion of secular humanism. They do not perceive that forcing Baptists (and everybody else) who do not share the religion of secular humanism, ought to be opposed to tax-funding of education, as surely as tax support of denominations ought to be opposed. People should pay for their own ecclesiastical preferences, and they ought to be required to pay for their educational preferences.
If we could persuade all of the Baptists in the country of this principle, and then persuade all of the Pentecostals, charismatics, and independent Bible church members of the same position, the public schools would be out of business by the end of the academic year. If all of these families really did take steps to pull their kids out of the public schools, and enroll them in online programs, or book-based home education programs, the public schools in the South and the Midwest would find empty classrooms. They could not get anybody to vote for the bond issues. They could not get a majority to come up with the funding to support the teachers.
The public school systems around the world are based on a lie, namely, that education can be neutral, even though weekend preaching at churches cannot be neutral. In Europe, there is state funding of churches. But the churches are empty. Nobody pays any attention to them. They are liberal.
The schools are equally liberal, but they are filled. That is because in every nation, compulsory attendance laws mandate that parents send their children to schools of some sort. Only in the United States is there widespread homeschooling. So, to make established churches work, you would have to have mandatory attendance. They had this in New England in 1660, but it could not be enforced. They also had compulsory school attendance, but it couldn’t be enforced, either.
At some point, enough parents will have pulled their kids out of the public schools, so compulsory attendance laws will be revoked. At that point, the exodus will begin.
Over the next 10 years, there will be many programs online comparable to the Ron Paul Curriculum. They will be inexpensive. Some of them may be free. They will imitate the Khan Academy. They are going to provide good educations. Then we will see how many parents are committed to the principle of religious education. We will see then whether they finally figure out, based on personal self-interest, that they can afford to pull their kids out of tax-funded religious schools.
When the great default comes, and school budgets really crush local taxpayers, there will finally be an exodus from the public schools, because there will finally be a de-funding of the public schools. That will take a fiscal crisis, but this crisis is coming.
People say they act on principle, but it always seems that their wallets determine their principles. As long as brick-and-mortar private education is horrendously expensive, people will send their kids into the public schools. But the price revolution is coming. The Khan Academy points to the future. When parents can get better educations for their children in their own homes, free of charge or inexpensively, they will finally abandon the public schools. I think within 40 years, the exodus will begin. It may begin even earlier.
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