Comparing Political Platforms (7) Education

education serving the public goodChoices, choices. Jump ahead or skip and go back? No, this is not the latest dance craze. I’m going to jump ahead and group a couple of the Libertarian Platform planks under a single heading so that I can actually do a comparison with the Democrat and Republican Platforms. Thinking of parental rights and education, these platforms are actually talking about choices in education–their focus, their range, their limits, their authority, and their content–and how best to serve the public good and serve the public well.

As you read, kindly think about the roles of government, parents, and the relationship of both authorities to the children being educated. The DNC and RNC Platforms are highly detailed in their views which I have tried to summarize to their core beliefs (in their own words). The DNC Platform spends considerable time discussing free college and universal preschool (pages 30-32) and the RNC Platform uses its document to emphasize local control and parental choice (pp.33-36). Please consult these linked pages for those details I cannot include for the sake of space.

DNC Democrats know that every child, no matter who they are, how much their families earn, or where they live, should have access to a high-quality education, from preschool through high school and beyond. But the United States still lags behind other advanced economies in providing high-quality, universal preschool programs to help all of our kids get a strong start to their educations. (p.28) Democrats are committed to making good public schools available to every child, no matter what zip code they live in, and at last making debt-free college a reality for all Americans. (p.30) We will continue to crack down on for-profit schools that take millions in federal financial aid— often as their principal source of revenue—and then exploit students and burden them with debt rather than educating them… We will also exercise our responsibility in oversight over the Department of Education to carry out their obligation to close down those for-profit schools that consistently engage in fraudulent and illegal conduct. (p.32) The Democratic Party is committed to eliminating opportunity gaps… This means advocating for labor and public assistance laws that ensure poor parents can spend time with their children. This means raising household incomes in poor communities. It means ensuring children have health care, stable housing free of contaminants, and a community free of violence in order to minimize the likelihood of cognitive delays. … It means supporting equitable and adequate state funding for public education, and expanding Title I funding for schools that serve a large number or high concentration of children in poverty (p.33) We believe that high-quality public charter schools should provide options for parents, but should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools. (p. 34)
LP 1.6 Parents, or other guardians, have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs. This statement shall not be construed to condone child abuse or neglect.

2.9 Education is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality, accountability and efficiency with more diversity of choice. Recognizing that the education of children is a parental responsibility, we would restore authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government. Parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children’s education.

RNC We will continue our fight for school choice until all parents can find good, safe schools for their children. (p.32) Education is much more than schooling. It is the whole range of activities by which families and communities transmit to a younger generation, not just knowledge and skills, but ethical and behavioral norms and traditions. It is the handing over of a cultural identity. That is why American education has, for the last several decades, been the focus of constant controversy, as centralizing forces from outside the family and community have sought to remake education in order to remake America. (p 33) Parents are a child’s first and foremost educators, and have primary responsibility for the education of their children. Parents have a right to direct their children’s education, care, and upbringing. … We reject a one size-fits-all approach to education and support a broad range of choices for parents and children at the state and local level. We likewise repeat our longstanding opposition to the imposition of national standards and assessments, encourage the parents and educators who are implementing alternatives to Common Core, and congratulate the states which have successfully repealed it. Their education reform movement calls for choice-based, parent-driven accountability at every stage of schooling. It affirms higher expectations for all students and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations. It recognizes the wisdom of local control of our schools and it wisely sees consumer rights in education — choice — as the most important driving force for renewing education. (p.33) We support options for learning, including home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, and early-college high schools. We especially support the innovative financing mechanisms that make options available to all children: education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers, and tuition tax credits. (p.34)


The federal government’s influence over education that we accept as commonplace today began in the 1960s.

Prior to that, schools were “public” even as early as 1635 when the Boston Latin School opened as a public “exam school” for the purpose of educating the sons from Boston’s elite. Latin was one of the subjects most desired in formal education because it opened the world of history and religion. The Puritans emphasized education for their children, beginning in the home, primarily for the purpose of reading the Bible. Why? They believed that spiritual and moral instruction was foundational to the intellectual and moral development of children.

In the earliest years, however, public schools were not funded by tax dollars, but rather by donations, parent-funded teacher salaries, and land rentals.

Dedham, MA is home to the first tax supported public school and was run by Reverend Ralph Wheelock. This school was supported by town taxes (i.e. local control). In 1647, recognizing the value of education, the General Court established that every town of 50 or more families should build a school supported by town taxes.

All this is interesting history on education you might say, but what does the Bible say about teaching children?
  • Education teaches culture and instills values, such as this, regarding the Passover, Exodus 12: 25 When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'”
  • To keep the Israelites from forgetting the Lord, God commanded education, Deuteronomy 6:1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you. 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up…10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you– a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant– then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
  • Remembering history was considered a very important function of education. Joshua 4:1 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, 2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” 4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” 8 So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them.
  • Early education establishes a pattern for the child’s whole life Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
  • Other verses about education’s content include Deuteronomy 4:9–10; Deuteronomy 11:18–20; Proverbs 1:7-8Proverbs 19:27; Ezekiel 44:23; Matthew 5:191 Timothy 6:3–5.
  • Hinting or directly identifying the authority conducting education includes verses such as those above as well as Deuteronomy 32:46Psalm 34:11; Psalm 78:1–7Isaiah 38:19; Joel 1:3Luke 6:39–40; Ephesians 6:4.
  • The bottom line is that parents and the religious community (e.g the Church, for Christians) teach the ways of God and have the responsibility for transmitting culture and knowledge from one generation to the next.
There is a fine line between education and indoctrination.
Between inculcation and indoctrination.
That fine line divides along authority: who is doing it.

The word indoctrinate used to mean to teach a doctrine, knowledge, and/or a set of principles which would guide future actions. These days, it takes on a political overtone whereas in the original meaning, it was more like our word inculcate (to educate, stress by persistence and repetition the cultural values and attitudes of virtue from parents to children) but was broadened to include literacy and science.

Why does indoctrination in the modern meaning present such a problem?

Indoctrination is what created Nazi youth. It is what presently trains young jihadists and convinces Chinese children that communism is their best way to economic and personal prosperity. It is indoctrination (e.g. brainwashing, propagandizing) that alters the civilization with a goal of control. Indoctrination makes independent, critical, and rational thought undesirable—with varying degrees of consequence/ punishment for noncompliance to the regime’s desired pattern.

Indoctrination is well known to be one of the most effective ways of strengthening a government’s control which explains why it is widely used in totalitarian regimes. Independent, critical thought is less valued. Each person becoming a conditioned part of community becomes the goal and in the process, individual expression, free speech, and dissent are pushed down in favor of an exalted group thought, a politically correct (or incorrect) way of living and thinking.

Consider all the ways biblical thought is chastised by our culture and Christians are bullied into silence, especially in our public schools. It’s easy to see how far we’ve headed down the road of indoctrination.   The Church, remaining largely silent as this has happened, bears a huge responsibility for the current amoral and immoral attitudes of the United States.

All that said, allow me to state–unequivocally–that educators I know want no part of indoctrination. (Please read it again so you do not misunderstand what I say.)

Educators I know are good people who carry a heavy burden, made heavier

  • by the abnegation of parental responsibility,
  • the absence of partnership with the home,
  • the attitude of resenting authority by today’s youth,
  • the abrogation of local control of schools to the federal government’s heavy hand of unfunded mandates, testing requirements, curriculum control, and the ongoing threat of losing funding,
  • and a union which represents their interests in contract negotiations but extracts a high price of union dues so that money can fund candidates whose values may be antithetical to the consciences of their own membership.

As you ponder the political platforms, consider how America has slowly transferred authority from parents.  We are now forcing… increasingly nationalized educators… and an increasingly nationalized and militarized police force… to do the job that parents and the Church once did. There are cultural ramifications to placing our babies, our children, our youths, our college students into a national system of learning and thinking.  Each of us whether parents or educators who consider ourselves Christian need to take a step back and gain wisdom on this issue,

For the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world” (William Ross Wallace).



Categories Articles, Articles and Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on August 6, 2016

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